High expectations go beyond Kershaw

Anyone who has ever been around Dodgers ace and soon-to-be four-time NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw after what he perceives as a bad outing knows that it can be a bit … uncomfortable. In fact, there is a humorous term affectionately used among media types about a poor, unsuspecting reporter or beat writer who asks a question of the proverbial best pitcher on the planet that he deems less than intelligent (aka: stupid), to which he usually answer rather harshly. That term is that the unsuspecting reporter or beat writer just got “Kershawed”

When Kershaw has what he perceives as a bad outing (even if it wasn’t) postgame interviews can sometimes get a bit ‘uncomfortable’ for unsuspecting members of the media. (Photo courtesy of LA Dodgers)

Now this certainly is not to say that Kershaw does not give a great interview regardless of the situation, he most certainly does. It is merely to say that there is no one, absolutely no one, more critical of Clayton Kershaw than Clayton Kershaw. Simply put, the 29-year-old Dallas, Texas native and Dodgers 2006 first round draft pick out of Highland Park High School in University Park, Texas expects perfection from himself every time he steps onto the mound, even though such an expectation is both unreasonable and impossible regardless of who it is or how great they are.

Where things get a bit dicey is when Dodger fans always place incredibly high expectations on the 6′-4″ / 228-pound hard-throwing left-hander and always expect him to be the guy to bail the Dodgers out of rough situations, which is yet again both unreasonable and impossible. As much as we want to believe that Clayton Kershaw has superhero powers, he is every bit as mortal as everyone else.

If you are wondering where this is going, here you go. To expect Clayton Kershaw to single-handedly lead the Dodgers to their first World Series title in nearly three decades is both absurd and unreasonable. In order to get to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it will require exceptional pitching from the entire Dodgers pitching staff throughout the Division Series, the Championship Series and the World Series – period.

On Tuesday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told the media (via conference call) that after Kershaw, games two and three of the Division Series will be started by left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Yu Darvish respectively.

“Rich threw the ball well and faced some hitters (during a simulated game on Monday) and he came out of it well,” Roberts said. “So if it goes right, as it has been, we look forward to him pitching game two.”

In order for the Dodgers to reach and win the 2017 World Series, they absolutely positively need stellar pitching performances from Rich Hill and Yu Darvish, not to mention the entire Dodgers bullpen.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

As for Darvish, the Dodger skipper had equal praise.

“I think for us it’s more of, motive withstanding, we feel good with Rich just pitching at home,” said Roberts. “I think that he feels comfortable, has had a lot of success here, and Yu feels comfortable pitching either at home or on the road.”

Game three of the Division Series will, as we now know, be played on Monday evening, October 9, against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. And even though Darvish has faced the Dbacks only three times in his five-year MLB career and only once this season, that one game was at Chase Field on August 10 and the 6′-5″ / 220-pound Habikino, Japan native won. In that game, the hard-throwing right-hander allowed only two runs on five hits (including a solo home run by Dbacks slugger J.D. Martinez), while walking two and striking out 10 in his five innings of work.

Comfortable indeed.

As for Rich Hill, he has faced the Dbacks a total of nine times over his 13-year MLB career with a less-than-stellar 1-5 record and 4.78 ERA against them. This season, the veteran lefty made four starts against the Dbacks (three at Dodger Stadium), posting an 0-3 record and 5.03 ERA. In those four games, Hill walked four while striking out an impressive 24 over his combined 19.2 innings pitched. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he also gave up four home runs during those four games, one each to Chris Iannetta, Jake Lamb, A.J. Pollock and Martinez.

And then there’s Clayton Kershaw.

Over his 10-year MLB career, Kershaw has faced the Dbacks 26 times and is 14-8 against them with an insane 2.55 ERA. This season he made only two starts against Arizona, winning both games. In his combined 15.1 innings pitched against the Dbacks this season, he allowed only one run on six hits while walking three and striking out 19. And even though Kershaw allowed a career-high 23 home runs this season, none were by the Dbacks.

So yeah, it’s easy to see why Dodger fans always place incredibly high expectations on Clayton Kershaw. But the cold  hard truth is that he simply cannot do it alone, regardless of how great he has been and undoubtedly will continue to be over his eventual Hall of Fame career. It will be incumbent upon Rich Hill and Yu Darvish, and the entire Dodgers pitching staff to also do their jobs to their highest abilities to get to that ever-elusive pot of gold.

 

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