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Despite finish, Clayton Kershaw should come first for Dodgers this winter

Oct 19, 2013, 1:00 AM EDT

NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals Getty Images

After 36 starts and 255 stellar innings, Clayton Kershaw finally let the Dodgers down on Friday, giving up seven runs in three-plus innings in Game 6 loss to the Cardinals. The defense played a role, but Kershaw was the first to admit afterwards that he just wasn’t his usual self. Maybe it was a bad day. Perhaps that first ever start on three days’ last week played a role. Regardless, it simply wasn’t meant to be tonight. At least he can take some solace in the likelihood that the end result would have been the same had he merely allowed two or three runs.

Now, the free-spending Dodgers enter a winter with question marks at two infield spots. They have to sort out what they’re going to do with their four starting outfielders in Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier. They’ll also have to decide whether to spend the money to add to a rotation that is sure to include Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and is due to get back Josh Beckett (shoulder) for the opener and Chad Billingsley (elbow) in May.

But, most of all, the Dodgers need to make a deal with Kershaw, who is entering his final year of arbitration and who will be eligible for free agency next winter.

It shouldn’t be overly difficult, even though the deal will almost surely be the biggest ever for a pitcher. The market is already set after the Tigers gave Justin Verlander what amounted to a five-year, $140 million extension in March. It just remains to be seen whether Kershaw will hold out for $30 million per season or if he’ll settle for something in the $28 million range with an extra guaranteed season or two. Frankly, there’s no reason for him to take less than $30 million.

It will get done. The Dodgers have too much money to risk letting a $20 million-$30 million gap stand in the way of a deal. They’ll almost certainly have to pay more if they wait until he’s a free agent; both the Yankees and Red Sox should have plenty of flexibility next winter and they wouldn’t be the only ones willing to go $30 million and beyond.

  1. peterjohnjoseph - Oct 19, 2013 at 1:19 AM

    Why do I have a feeling the Red Sox wouldn’t give that kind of money to anyone, and I mean, anyone within the foreseeable future? Even to arguably the best pitcher in the World. And why shouldn’t they? They’ve completely made a point of stepping away from high priced, long term deals, save for Pedroia, which is an exception, not a rule (and still a relatively good deal). Look what has happened as a result of spending less on big names, and investing in smaller terms deals with reliable veterans.

    Still, there is no doubting he should be double, triple locked away from the other 28 teams that would salivate over their chances at signing him. I just don’t think he’ll be going that far East.

    • dan1111 - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:34 AM

      It’s a little early to say the Sox are avoiding all long-term deals. They’re only one season removed from trading away their previous big contracts, and they’ve already made one big deal with Pedroia, as you pointed out. They are always going to have money to spend, so I would be surprised if they don’t make some big signings from time to time.

      On the other hand, yeah, I have a hard time imagining them paying 30 million a year for a pitcher. There is just too much risk involved, no matter how good the pitcher is.

      • mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        If Kershaw allow only one run per game all year long, and the offense could not score, what benefit is that?
        You can’t win with defense with a poor offense.
        Even in war, it’s not enough to stop the bombs.
        Someone has to do the killing to win……

    • dickclydesdale - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      Kershaw’s a loser! Can’t win the big game & his team never plays hard for him. 16 wins for 30 million is to much. You can get 16 wins from any 4-5th starter. An ace should win 24 games minimum. I’d trade him because his production is about to fall off. Once a dodger gets a big contract they slack on production. Look at that loser Matt Lemp & Andre Ethier a combined $245 million in salary in return for human excrement.

      • s0krat3s - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        Its 2013. Still judging a pitcher by wins is foolish. All a pitcher can do is pitch. He can pitch 9 innings giving up no runs, but if his offense does not score he doesn’t get a win. Which is why wins are the worst metric you could use to evaluate a pitcher.
        Kershaw is, without a doubt, the best pitcher in the NL.
        $11 million for the best pitcher in baseball is an incredible bargain.

      • dickclydesdale - Oct 19, 2013 at 12:06 PM

        Francisco Liriano is better then Kershaw. He wins big playoff games & has a no hitter to his credit. Fran 16-8 3.02/Ker 16-9 1.83. Fran lost 1 fewer game & made only $1 million. Ker made $11 million. Pirates saved $10 million and got 1 more win.
        Kershaw’s 3 era titles are offset by the dodgers never scoring for him.
        Fran is getting 6 mill. next yr, If Ker gets signed to the biggest contract for a pitcher he gets $30 mill. Dodgers would be pissing away $24 million for a lesser pitcher that can’t win meaningful playoff games.

      • s0krat3s - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        “W” and “L” is a stat the pitcher has literally zero control over. A pitcher can pitch 9 innings, give up 1 run, and get a loss because his offense didn’t score at all. Does that mean he is a terrible pitcher? No. Not even close.

        People need to stop attributing the quality of a pitcher to just his win total. Its the worst possible comparison you can make for a pitcher.

      • jwbiii - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:36 PM

        You can get 16 wins from any 4-5th starter.

        Please provide a list. I’m assuming that you are ranking pitchers by wins. Has that happened since the ’71 Orioles?

        An ace should win 24 games minimum.

        So there have been two minimal ace pitchers in the last 25 years?

  2. losanginsight - Oct 19, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    The inning was over at Adams…too bad replay challenges won’t include strike 3′s.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 19, 2013 at 4:24 AM

      TBS Pitchtrax had it as low. I don’t know exactly how accurate it is, but you can’t really claim it was anything better than borderline.

      • Anoesis - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        Gibson was consistent: Consistently biased for Wacha and against Kershaw. Gibson didn’t like Dodger batters questioning his large strike zone for Wacha so he took it out on Kershaw.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 20, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        PITCH FX showed that Wacha had three balls in the strike zone that were called balls and two balls out of the zone called for strikes.

        Clayton Kershaw had….wait for it…
        …3 balls in the strike zone called balls and two out of the zone that were called strikes.

        Or is Pitch FX also just lying to because they hate the Dodgers?

    • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      Yeah, Pitch FX (which is very accurate), had it as low as well.

      http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/location.php-pitchSel=477132&game=gid_2013_10_18_lanmlb_slnmlb_1&batterX=24&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3&league=mlb.gif

    • cohnjusack - Oct 20, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Pitch FX also shows that the ball was low. So please, stop bitching.

      http://brooksbaseball.baseballprospectus.com/pfxVB/pfx.php?s_type=3&sp_type=1&year=2013&month=10&day=18&pitchSel=477132&game=gid_2013_10_18_lanmlb_slnmlb_1/&prevGame=gid_2013_10_18_lanmlb_slnmlb_1/&prevDate=1018&batterX=24

  3. jhaegs - Oct 19, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    Too bad (but not really) the coaches blew the game by not pulling Kershaw after he was OBVIOUSLY struggling. You want that strike 3 call? Have it, Cards win 5-0. Here, I’ll give you guys 4 runs because I’m a super nice guy.

    Cards win Game 6 of NLCS 5-4!!!! They’re STILL going to the WS!!!!!!

    • dan1111 - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:34 AM

      This might not be the best way of showing everyone you are a super nice guy.

  4. nandeezy33 - Oct 19, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    Cards fan here! The dodgers did get snubbed in that at bat. I was screaming at the tv because Adams didn’t swing at those borderline calls.

    Indeed the game was essentially over at that point. But that was a crucial point that shouldn’t have gone the way it went

  5. smoothaswilkes - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:00 AM

    Looks like Cardinals fans are, in fact, the best fans in all of baseball. Their grit and will to win can’t be challenged.

    • rasta028 - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:39 AM

      Best fans in sports, lol too funny, the Dodgers have had loyal fans and huge crowds Win or lose, it’s easy to say you have the best fans in baseball when you won 2 W.S. The last 4 yrs and been to the show 4 of the last 10 but try rooting for a team that sucks year after year then we’ll talk, NO FANS ARE BETTER THEN THE DODGERS FAN’S, just front runners.

      • jpstyles314 - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:31 AM

        We have the Rams for that.

      • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        So……you missed the dripping sarcasm then?

    • mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      Born and raised Dodgers fan.
      I still think to be a Cubs fan is the most challenging, loyal thing in all of sport.

  6. km9000 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:00 AM

    Wonderful, I was starting to miss the good ol’ days when speculation about potential free agents was always narrowed down to the “Yankees and Red Sox.”

    • peterjohnjoseph - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:33 AM

      Don’t blame the Sox for that. They’ve done pretty much all they can to get away from that label.

      Hell, even the Yankees claim they’re trying to go that rout… Their words, not mine.

      • km9000 - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:42 PM

        No, just blaming the media.

  7. nandeezy33 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    But, on the flipside, I’d like to reiterate this…..Puig.

    You want to play blame? Here is the culprit

    • mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      Mattingly made bad decisions this whole post season.
      Puig got the this far.

  8. riverace19 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:18 AM

    When Puig made the bonehead throw and allowed Beltran second base, you could feel the Dodgers BLUE, and it snowballed from there. They assumed Kershaw would take care of everything and didn’t come to play. Mark Ellis was terrible and I have no idea why he was hitting second.

    • rasta028 - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:41 AM

      Yeah sure, blame Puig for the 2 hits the Dodgers had also you people seem good at that.

      • jeffbbf - Oct 19, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        Actually, my theory was that it was Puig’s fault. The umpires were clearly pissed at his antics in the previous game, and the umpires knew that the league wasn’t all that happy about it, either. Interestingly, all close calls at the plate seemed to go in STL favor last night. Coincidence? maybe. The calls weren’t Eric Gregg awful – they could have gone either way. They just all seemed to be in favor of STL.

      • Anoesis - Oct 19, 2013 at 10:32 AM

        Agree, jeff. The game started with Wacha’s borderline pitches being called strikes and Kershaw’s being called balls. It went downhill from there. Cards should be requesting Gibson for the WS in case any batters on the AL team have the temerity to play the game the wrong way.

      • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:09 AM

        If you look at the strikezone maps for the game, the Dodgers received more favorable calls outside the zone that the Cardinals did (5 to 4), but they also threw 49 more pitches. Where the Dodgers did get hosed was in the zone, with 4 strikes being called balls. The difference in the calls wasn’t umpire-related as much as missing location though. On most of the calls Kershaw didn’t get, he missed his location badly forcing Ellis to move or lunge to catch the ball, which always makes a pitch look worse than it was.

  9. riverace19 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    They will sign Kershaw, give the Reds a long reliever for Brandon Phillips, sign one more starter and get some infield depth.

  10. rasta028 - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    Dodgers better not lose Kershaw

  11. crusty14 - Oct 19, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    A long reliever for Brandon Phillips ……. Sounds like a fair trade!

    • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      If they are taking on all of that contract, it’s about right. Not sure that acquiring more declining expensive IFs is really the way they should go.

  12. Anoesis - Oct 19, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Cards are Kershaw’s kryptonite. Oh-fer in last five starts. Dodgers should be able to reduce that fat contract by a chunk just for that.

    Cards should send Greg Gibson a dozen roses and a thank-you card. Sign it Most Appreciate Fans in Baseball.

    • paperlions - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      Gibson’s zone was actually pretty good last night. There wasn’t near the bias or the number of missed pitches that the Pitch trax version portrayed. Add in the fact that Kershaw was badly missing location causing the catcher to move/lunge to catch the ball and that explains most of the missed strike calls. I don’t know if you look at strike zone maps very often, but that is fewer missed calls than average.

      http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/zoneTrack.php?month=10&day=18&year=2013&game=gid_2013_10_18_lanmlb_slnmlb_1/&prevDate=1018

  13. s0krat3s - Oct 19, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Kershaw didn’t let the Dodgers down. He did exactly what happens when you overuse and misuse a pitcher. One good playoff start, then 3 days after a 124 pitch outing comes back for what the Dodgers knew would only be 6 innings, gets neutralized by a 37 year old soft-tosser in Freddy Garcia, and then blows this start.

    Mattingly has made the worst decisions of anyone in this post-season by far.

    • fatheruburu - Oct 19, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. Didn’t need Kershaw in NLDS game 4 to beat Freddy Garcia and the Braves (an Atlanta fan typing this). Give Nolasco the start with a short leash if need be and allow the rotation to reset for the NLCS.

    • mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      You got that right.

  14. fatheruburu - Oct 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Take care of him with the contract and start considering how you will control his innings a little bit. Verlander’s rocky (by his standards) regular season this year was no doubt a by-product of his overwhelming workloads in the years leading up to this.

    • s0krat3s - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:09 PM

      same with Lincecum (tho his terrible pitching motion also factored in).

  15. mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Harvey Haddix had a perfect game through 12 innings with the Pitates in the 60′s.
    Guess what happened?
    He lost.
    Because the Pirates could not support him with one single run.
    The Dodgers have “Harvey Haddix Syndrome.”

  16. mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    I love my Dodgers, but sadly, hey lost.
    Let’s hope the National League represents and takes it all from the American League.
    Go Cards!!! (because it’s all we’ve got left)

  17. mkprz - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    Hey, here’a a new idea….
    Maybe it’s a simple as this?…..THE CARDINALS SIMPLY BEAT THE DODGERS.

  18. jkaflagg - Oct 19, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Not a Dodger fan, but was disappointed that Kershaw faltered in the playoffs…..don’t know of a classier guy in all of professional sports. With Greinke getting $25 million plus a year, $30 million a year for Kershaw is very reasonable.

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