Changing of the guard at third base

For more photos from Saturday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Alex Guerrero, 3B
Kiké Hernandez, LF
Austin Barnes, C
Carlos Frias, P

By Jon Weisman

Don Mattingly never came out and said that Juan Uribe had been benched at third base after being the starter there for the past two seasons, but the lineups this month have indicated as much.

With a week to go in May, Uribe has four total bases this month (on four singles) plus a walk. Since making back-to-back starts May 7-8, Uribe has made two starts in the past 16 days.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Mattingly said his intention to keep putting the guys out there who are playing well, and for now that means Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero. On the horizon, of course, is Hector Olivera, who could be on the Major League roster before June is over.

Turner, who has started 11 games at third base this month, has a .421 on-base percentage and .617 slugging percentage in May. As a Dodger, Turner has a .397 OBP while slugging .505. Among players with at least 400 plate appearances, Turner has the fifth-best adjusted OPS in Dodger history, behind Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Mike Piazza and Jack Fournier.

Guerrero has cooled since his Rookie of the Month performance in April. This month, Guerrero has a .283 OBP while slugging .380. He is making his fourth start of the month today at third base and eighth at the position this year, to go with 11 starts in left field.

Today, Kiké Hernandez is making his first start as a Dodger in left field, while Austin Barnes is making his MLB debut at catcher.

Bol-slinger!

MB

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

He’s the man, the man with the golden pitch.

Taking a promising start to the next level, Mike Bolsinger — designated for assignment by Arizona after the 2014 season — retired 23 batters in a row after allowing a leadoff single, facing the minimum 24 hitters over eight innings in a 2-1 Dodger victory.

Bolsinger struck out a career-high eight and got 10 outs via the ground ball (including a first-inning double play and a diving stop off the mound in the eighth), using only 92 pitches. He’s the first Dodger to complete eight innings this year, and his Game Score of 88 is 10 higher than the previous top Dodger performance of the year, by Zack Greinke on May 5.

“I was just locating on the offspeed pitches, getting ahead of batters, and it was really working for me,” Bolsinger said on the field after the game. “Getting ahead of guys — that’s been the most important thing.”

The 27-year-old righty, acquired for cash considerations six months and one day ago, lowered his ERA to 0.71 in 25 1/3 innings this year, with 22 strikeouts and a 0.79 WHIP. A year ago, he had a 5.50 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 52 1/3 innings for Arizona.

“People have been asking me (what the difference is this year),” Bolsinger told reporters in the clubhouse. “I don’t know, something just clicked in my head. People ask me how (I) feel, and it’s just, I’m locked in. That’s the best way to describe it — just locked in.”

Said catcher A.J. Ellis: “He was executing all night long. He had a great mix going. Just really keeping them off-balance by using different sequences, different ways of attacking guys. He just does a really nice job of keeping (his curveball) around the strike zone. It’s just enough of a pitch that teases you, and just when you’re ready to hit one that you think is a strike, it breaks out of the zone, and just when you think one is gonna be a ball, it drops in.”

“To be honest with you, this was a guy we saw last year with Arizona who had a tough go of it,” Ellis said. “He came over, and just seeing the way he went about his business … he’s got a great demeanor, great mound presence, never gets too up, never gets too down. He’s a really fun guy to catch.”

Joc Pederson’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the first (his 12th of the season and technically, his second game-winning homer in a row) and Justin Turner’s RBI double in the sixth accounted for the Dodger runs. Kenley Jansen extended his hitless streak to 13 batters in picking up the save, ending the game in 131 minutes (the shortest nine-inning Dodger game since August 23, 2013).

This was the Dodgers’ first one-hitter since June 30, when Dan Haren, Brian Wilson and Jansen combined to lift the Dodgers into first place. And, it’s the first Dodger one-hitter in less than 100 pitches since Hiroki Kuroda’s complete-game, 91-pitch effort on July 7, 2008.

Previously on Dodger Insider: “Opponents in high school, Mike Bolsinger and Clayton Kershaw are now teammates”

Derrel Thomas, true emergency catcher extraordinaire

Though he caught only six games in a 15-year career, Derrel Thomas embraces the opportunity to go behind the plate, such as at the Dodgers' Old-Timers Game on May 16. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Though he caught in only six games of a 15-season MLB career, Derrel Thomas embraces the opportunity to go behind the plate, such as at the Dodgers’ Old-Timers Game on May 16. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Though it’s doubtful he’ll ever be called upon for this, especially with Austin Barnes on his way to Los Angeles, Kiké Hernandez has become the Dodgers’ emergency catcher. Just in case, Hernandez caught a bullpen session from Brett Anderson this afternoon.

The last non-catcher the Dodgers have really needed to use behind the plate was Derrel Thomas in 1980. This has always been one of my favorite Dodger stories, not only because it was so unlikely for even a proven utility player like Thomas to go behind the plate, but because it wasn’t a one-time thing.

With Steve Yeager nursing an infected elbow and Triple-A starting catcher Mike Scioscia recovering from a broken finger, Joe Ferguson had to leave in the fourth inning of an April 15, 1980 game at San Diego with a back problem. Thomas went behind the plate for the first time in a game at any level — with knuckleballer Charlie Hough on the mound, no less — and stayed there for the next 31 innings.

“He weighs 150 pounds,” wrote Mike Littwin of the Times that week. “A catcher’s gear weighs almost that much.”

Using Yeager’s glove, Thomas was behind the plate for 137 batters and had four passed balls. No one tried to steal against him on April 15 or April 16, but on April 17, with the slow delivery of Don Sutton 60-and-a-half feet away, Houston stole seven bases, two shy of the Dodger record at the time by a Dodger opponent. However, Thomas did throw out Enos Cabell trying to steal second in the sixth inning, for the only caught stealing of Thomas’ backstop career.

Despite his objective struggles behind the plate, the Dodgers adored Thomas’ effort.

“Show me another guy who could do what he did today,” Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda told Littwin. “I’ve been in baseball nearly all my life, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m so grateful to him. He’s a great athlete, but more than that, he’s courageous.”

Said Yeager: “You have to handle pitchers and you have to keep the ball in front of you. I told Derrel a couple of things last night and he remembered. He’s a fast learner, and he’s got a lot of guts. All things considered, he did a great job back there. Hey, I weigh 215 pounds. When’s the last time you saw a 150-pound catcher?”

Here’s more from Littwin:

As Thomas, his uniform caked with dirt, sweat dripping from his brow, limped into the clubhouse, someone asked him how he felt. “I feel, he said, like I should be dead.”

His legs might have been. At that point, he couldn’t have jumped over a chalk baseline.

“I didn’t sleep last night,” he said. “I was too nervous. There are so many things to remember. When they got those guys on base, I just tried to stay relaxed and remember what Yang (Yeager) had told me to do.

“I didn’t care if they stole 30 bases, as long as we won.”

The Dodgers won two of Thomas’ three starts at catcher. Yeager, who had been sidelined since April 13, returned to the starting lineup April 19. Scioscia would then be called up April 20 to make his Major League debut.

After catching the ninth inning of a 2-0, one-hit loss to J.R. Richard of the Astros on April 19 (Yeager had gone out for a pinch-hitter), the Dodgers never needed to use Thomas behind the plate again. But it wasn’t the last time the Dodgers saw him with the tools of ignorance.

In the last season of his 15-year Major League career, as a 34-year-old with Philadelphia, Thomas entered the game behind the plate after Phillies catcher Ozzie Virgil left in the top of the eighth inning of an August 21, 1985 game against visiting Los Angeles with a bruised wrist. In the bottom of that same inning, Thomas hit a three-run homer off Fernando Valenzuela — the 43rd and final home run of Thomas’ big-league career.

It also meant that after previously homering as a first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, left fielder, center fielder, right fielder and pinch-hitter, Derrel Thomas had also hit one out as, yes, a catcher.

With Grandal sidelined, Dodgers call up Austin Barnes

Austin Barnes in action during Spring Training (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Austin Barnes in action during Spring Training (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Mike Bolsinger, P

By Jon Weisman

Yasmani Grandal has become the first Dodger to be placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list since Major League Baseball created the option in 2011.

In another first, 25-year-old Austin Barnes has been called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City and will be making his Major League debut as soon as he enters a game. For starters, however, A.J. Ellis is behind the plate in tonight’s lineup.

Barnes has pro experience at second and third base, as we discussed in February, but the Dodgers have used him exclusively at catcher in 2015. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has three passed balls in 248 innings while throwing out nine of 23 attempting to steal.

At the plate for Oklahoma City, Barnes has a .390 on-base percentage and .430 slugging percentage, continuing a career long trend of walking more than striking out. In a current eight-game hitting streak, he is 11-for-30 (.367) and has struck out one time in his past 50 plate appearances.

 

In case you missed it: New stat places A.J. Ellis No. 1 in game-calling

San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers

For more photos from Friday, visit LA Photog Blog.

By Jon Weisman

Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis — who was thrust into action midway through Friday’s 2-1 victory over San Diego after Yasmani Grandal was injured — has taken some grief in recent times for not being a strong pitch framer. However, according to a report by Harry Pavlidis for ESPN.com, Ellis ranks No. 1 in Major League Baseball in a new statistic measuring game calling: game-calling runs above average (GCAA).

Here’s a fun task: Try quantifying something as ephemeral as game-calling. Well, after a decade of research, that’s just what we’ve managed to do — by crafting a statistical model that attempts to quantify the value of everything from stolen-base prevention and directing pace of play to identifying hitter tendencies like swing behavior in various game situations and knowing which batters expand hit zones in RBI opportunities. Sound complicated? Oh, it is. But based on these factors, and controlling for others, we can now quantify, in runs saved, how well catchers manage their pitchers. …

… Ellis is the best game caller in the business, and now we can actually prove it. His game-calling alone saved the Dodgers 38 runs from 2012 to 2014, though he gave back 19 of those runs with everything else he did behind the plate (see below). Does it hurt to be Ellis? At times, perhaps. But at least now, when that ninth foul tip slaps his once-unheralded (but now-appreciated) inner thigh, it might not sting quite so much.

There’s not a whole lot of detail in describing the methodology behind GCAA, so we’ll see how it stands up to scrutiny. Update: On his Twitter feed, Pavlidis has been adding to the discussion.

Grandal, meanwhile, is uncertain for tonight’s game after being hit in the face in consecutive innings Friday by Yangervis Solarte’s bat and a Matt Kemp foul ball. Triple-A catcher Austin Barnes was removed midway through Oklahoma City’s game Friday in case he needs to be called up. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more details.

In other developments …

  • Hyun-Jin Ryu spoke to reporters post-surgery Friday, and revealed that there was knowledge about his labrum tear two years and 344 innings of 3.17 ERA ago. ” Ryu, his left arm in a sling during a Dodger Stadium news conference, said he was always able to pitch with it and figured he’d be able to again after it flared up in Spring Training,” wrote Gurnick.
  • Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford are not much closer to returning to the Dodger outfield, Don Mattingly told reporters Friday. Puig, who has an .845 OPS in 50 plate appearances, has felt tightness trying to even jog.
  • Double-A Tulsa righty pitcher (and converted outfielder) Blake Smith was traded by the Dodgers to the White Sox for right-handed pitcher Eric Surkamp. Both are 27 years old. In 53 2/3 career MLB innings, Surkamp has a 6.20 ERA with 33 strikeouts against 98 baserunners. For Triple-A Charlotte this year, Surkamp has a 2.81 ERA with 30 strikeouts against 28 baserunners in 25 2/3 innings.
  • Carlos Frias’ ongoing adjustments are the subject of Daniel Brim’s piece on Carlos Frias today at Dodgers Digest.
  • The Dodgers’ offensive scoreless-inning streak ended at a record-tying 35 innings with Andre Ethier’s RBI double in the fifth, though they didn’t score an earned run until Joc Pederson’s game-winning homer three innings later.
  • Chris Hatcher, who threw 1/105th of the pitches that Zack Greinke threw, was credited with his first career Dodger victory.
  • Kenley Jansen struck out two in his perfect ninth inning. His K/9 dropped to 21.0.
  • Pederson has struck out four times in his past 39 plate appearances (10.3 percent). Prior to that in 2015, he had struck out 43 times in 127 plate appearances (33.9 percent).

Zero celebration for 1962 scoreless streak

Walter Alston with Duke Snider, whose Dodger career ended in 1962.

Walter Alston with Duke Snider, whose Dodger career ended with the fateful conclusion to the 1962 season.

Padres at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Justin Turner, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Zack Greinke, P

By Mark Langill

My middle school math teacher is retiring in June after 40 years in the South Pasadena school district. But while Doug Buhler (I can type his first name, but it remains “Mister Buhler” when spoken) made a career out of solving math problems, he never deciphered a string of traumatic zeroes during his childhood.

While rooting for his Dodgers in 1962, Buhler watched the joyride to the National League pennant derailed by a late-season swoon that included a still-standing Los Angeles franchise record for futility – 35 scoreless innings – during the final homestand of the season.

Ahead by three games with six remaining, the Dodgers went 1-5 against the expansion Houston Colt .45s and the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing San Francisco to tie L.A. at the end of 162 games. The Dodgers blew a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning of the third playoff game, and the Giants’ four-run rally and 6-4 victory ruined the home team’s first season at Dodger Stadium.

The 1962 scoreless streak suddenly became topical because of the 2015 Dodgers’ three consecutive shutout losses at San Francisco and current string of 31 scoreless innings.

But it’s easier to forget about a scoreless streak in May. It if happens in October, one forever wallows in misery.

The 1962 scoreless streak included three consecutive shutout losses – by scores of 2-0 and 1-0 against St. Louis and 8-0 in the first playoff game at San Francisco. The first shutout loss on September 29 began with the Dodgers leaving two runners on base in both the first and second innings, wasted opportunities as St. Louis pitcher Ernie Broglio (pre-Lou Brock trade in 1964) didn’t allow a hit over the final seven innings for the victory.

The Dodgers still had a chance on a Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals, but veteran Curt Simmons pitched a five-hit shutout. The only run off L.A.’s Johnny Podres was an eighth-inning home run by Gene Oliver, who would receive a trip to the World Series in San Francisco, courtesy of a group of grateful Giants fans.

The three-game playoff with San Francisco was considered an extension of the regular season.  Billy Pierce pitched a three-hit shutout in an 8-0 victory at Candlestick Park, and it looked like L.A. was finished when it fell behind 5-0 at home in the sixth inning.

But the Dodgers ended the scoreless streak with a seven-run outburst in the sixth inning, highlighted by Lee Walls’ bases-loaded double off reliever Billy O’Dell. The Giants eventually tied the game at 7-7, but L.A. pushed across the winning run in the ninth on three walks and a sacrifice fly.

Tommy Davis

Tommy Davis

I called one of Doug Buhler’s favorite players from 1962 and asked what he remembered about the final week of the season.

“Why would you call me about that crap?” asked an incredulous yet dutifully cooperative Tommy Davis, the 1962 National League batting champion (.346) whose 230 hits and 153 RBI remain Los Angeles single-season records. The normally good-natured Davis listed a series of bad memories, his voice rising with each recollection. “Houston won one of those games on a home run by Al Spangler. And didn’t Gene Oliver get some sort of trip to San Francisco with his home run against us? I remember we couldn’t do anything right … it was unbelievable.”

The math teacher was more succinct when e-mailing his memories of the 1962 scoreless streak:

“Ugh, awful.”

In case you missed it: Bobblesplash

By Jon Weisman

These bobblehead ads just get better and better — with more special effects! Which mini-Dodger will get the Emmy?

Here are a few quick items that popped up recently …

  • Hyun-Jin Ryu had his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder Thursday, and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has the update.

    … The degree of Ryu’s tear (and presumably any accompanying damage) is being portrayed by the club as relatively minor. By comparison to the high rate of return to success for Tommy John patients, the record of pitchers returning from shoulder labrum operations to reclaim their prior form is checkered.

    The injury was once considered career-ending, but recent medical advances have improved the chances.

    Comeback stories range from successes Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling to unfortunate endings like Jason Schmidt, Mark Prior and Mark Mulder. The most recent successful return from the operation is Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda. …

  • On the anniversary of his initial callup to the Major Leagues, shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena was suspended by the Dodgers for the remainder of the 2015 season due to repeated failures to comply with his contract. More from Gurnick here.
  • The Dodgers’ 31-inning scoreless streak is put into historical context by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
  • Hey, we could use some positive news. Here’s one: Joc Pederson’s swing gets an analytical love note from Ryan Parker of Baseball Prospectus.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot looks at the relative strengths and weakness of the Giants and Dodgers going forward.
  • Bill Shaikin of the Times looks at the fortunes and misfortunes of the Dodgers’ next opponent, San Diego.
  • Here’s a history of the eephus pitch, from Jonah Keri at Grantland.
  • At age 38, twice former Dodger lefty Randy Wolf is pitching for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, and he tells John Lott of the National Post (via MLB Trade Rumors) that he’s just “enjoying the moment,” regardless of whether he returns to the Majors. “When you retire you can do a lot of things in your life,” Wolf said. “But as far as the baseball aspect, it’s like death. You’re going to be dead a lot longer than you live.”

Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and a twisted, twisted game

By Jon Weisman

On April 1, 2013, Clayton Kershaw homered in a 4-0 victory over the Giants, in a year he would beat them three times with a 1.38 ERA.

On May 21, 2015, Madison Bumgarner homered in a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers, in a year he has beaten them three times* with a 1.31 ERA.

*OK, one of those was a no-decision in a Giants victory, but allow me my symmetry.

I can’t help but find the most interesting thing about Thursday’s game in San Francisco is not the state of the Dodger offense — please, you can’t be blind to understanding that the freakish scoreless streak will soon become a memory — but just that baseball never ceases to be baseball.

Frankly, that’s true as far as analyzing Thursday’s game goes. Baseball was so baseball yesterday.

Let’s take the ongoing drama “CSI: Kershaw.” For seven innings, Kershaw outpitched Bumgarner. Despite leaving with a 2-0 lead, Bumgarner was in trouble all day, allowing 10 baserunners in six innings, but he got another great catch from outfielder Angel Pagan and was bailed out at one critical point by Alex Guerrero’s remarkable baserunning blunder. The Giants lefty got one out in the seventh and then was done.

Kershaw made one gruesome pitch to Bumgarner in the third, then allowed three batters to reach base in a one-run fourth. The rest of those seven innings, Kershaw allowed two hits and two walks while striking out seven, all in an efficient 91 pitches.

Then, in an eighth inning Bumgarner was long gone from, Kershaw allowed two baserunners whom the Dodger defense and bullpen let score, and once again, instead of going down, Kershaw’s ERA went up.

But we can also say this: For seven innings, Bumgarner outpitched Kershaw. I’m not oblivious to the fact that nothing matters more than keeping zeroes on the scoreboard, and that Bumgarner deserves the lion’s share of credit, not to mention the share of almost every other animal, for the Dodgers’ 0-for-7 performance with runners in scoring position. Bumgarner was the winner Thursday, and deservedly so.

To that apparent contradiction, I offer this reasoning that erstwhile “Simpsons” voice actor Harry Shearer presented to Marc Maron earlier this year.

I have to say about this something that I learned from my six years of analysis, of psychoanalysis. Which is, one mark of adulthood is you can hold two conflicting emotions about the same thing at the same time. Two things can be true at the same time. So it is true that as an actor on an insanely successful TV series, I am by any standards of the human species obscenely overpaid. It is also true that as an actor on one of the most insanely successful television series of all time, I am getting royally screwed. Both things are true.

In other words: baseball.

Dodger minor league report No. 6: The dominant De Leon

Jose De Leon (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Jose De Leon (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Cary Osborne

Friday should mark the Double-A debut of one Jose De Leon. The Tulsa Drillers have listed as De Leon as their starter for their game at Northwest Arkansas, and all we’re waiting for is the 22-year-old right-hander’s promotion becoming official — after a quick and dominant run through what is considered a hitter’s league in the California League.

De Leon’s last outing with High-A Rancho Cucamonga saw him go 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, two walks, an unearned run and eight strikeouts on Sunday.

Since he truly jumped on the radar last season, De Leon has been magnificent. Let’s start in Rancho, where he averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings and had a 7.3 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Since the start of 2014, he’s had a 13.9 K/9 and 6.1 K/BB ratio. He’s not only avoiding walks, he’s not giving up many hits. In 114 2/3 innings since the start of 2014, he has given up just 84 hits — just four of them have left the yard.

We got to know De Leon in January. Here’s a reminder.

Now here’s the rest of the show …

(more…)

How Clayton Kershaw became underrated

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Colorado Rockies
By Jon Weisman

Here are the earned runs by innings against Clayton Kershaw over his past six starts:

000 100 xxx (six innings on April 17 vs. Colorado, left for pinch-hitter)
002 000 xxx (six innings on April 22 at San Francisco, left for pinch-hitter)
100 100 0xx (seven innings on April 28 vs. San Francisco, left for pinch-hitter)
000 001 03x (7 1/3 innings on May 4 at Milwaukee)
000 500 xxx (5 2/3 innings on May 10 at Colorado)
000 000 3xx (6 2/3 innings on May 15 vs. Colorado)

In the past 40 innings that he has taken the mound, Kershaw has allowed earned runs in eight of them.

Dodgers at Giants, 12:45 p.m.
Kershaw CCXVIII: The Kershow with David Letterman
Joc Pederson, CF
Kiké Hernandez, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Alex Guerrero, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

For a 26-inning stretch from April 17 through the seventh inning May 4 in Milwaukee, Kershaw had a 2.08 ERA with two walks against 37 strikeouts, and the only thing that could stop him was the Dodgers’ need for a pinch-hitter. And all people did was complain about how ineffective he was.

Since then, he has had three rough innings out of 12 — not his finest cumulative hour. Several analysts online have written “what’s wrong with Kershaw” pieces, and what it seems to come to down to is pitch selection, a slightly less effective slider and — particularly in that lone Coors Field inning, which accounts for 31 percent of the runs Kershaw has allowed over his past 38 2/3 innings — some bleeding rotten fortune.

Here are two things that stick out to me:

  • Opponents have swung at the first pitch in 39 percent of their plate appearances against Kershaw this year, and are hitting .308/.341/.564/.906. Last year, they swung at the first pitch 41 percent of the time, but hit .199/.204/.321/.525.
  • With runners in scoring position, opponents are hitting .347/.396/.469/.866 with a .485 batting average on balls in play. Last year, they hit .190/.233/.355/.588 in RISP situations with a .276 BABIP.

The first problem is certainly fixable; the second might fix itself.

One thing I suspected Kershaw might be having trouble with didn’t turn out to be true. Of his 14 walks (that’s all) in eight starts this year, half have come with the bases empty — but that’s actually a far better percentage than last year, when 22 of his 31 walks came with the bases empty. And yet hitters are only OPSing .654 against him with nobody on. Since April 17, only one player (D.J. LeMahieu) has scored off Kershaw after drawing a bases-empty walk. So the start of innings hasn’t been the problem.

The upshot of all remains that for all that Kershaw might be doing wrong, he is doing so much that is right. Perhaps most importantly, based on his velocity, there is no indication that there’s anything physically amiss. This is still a pitcher who leads Major League Baseball in xFIP (2.15).

Our concerns about Kershaw probably say more about us than they do about him. No one’s been unhappier about his performance than Kershaw himself, but he has managed to do what should have been unthinkable — become an underrated pitcher.

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