Thursday, July 9, 2015
"What's an All-Star Game without Clayton?"
That's the rhetorical question posed by A.J. Ellis after Wednesday night's game.
Considering Clayton Kershaw just got done polishing off the Phillies with a complete game, 13-strikeout, shutout performance in a 5-0 win, it's one plenty of people around the game are asking too.
Left off the roster by both the players' vote and manager Bruce Bochy, Kershaw also saw his name in fourth place out of five in the Final Vote before toeing the rubber at Dodger Stadium. What followed was his best performance of the season, and even more encouraging was how he rose to the occasion with runners on base, as the Phillies did get eight hits. That's what's been crushing him earlier this season.
With his final start before the All-Star break in the books, Kershaw finds himself first in the National League in strikeouts (160) and second in innings pitched (123). Digging a little deeper, he's tied for third in all of baseball at a 3.7 Pitcher's WAR with Chris Sale.
Yet, he still finds himself on the outside looking in, and as of now, it's going to stay that way. Keep in mind that as we get closer to the actual game in Cincinnati next Tuesday, there will need to be injury/rest replacements. Any pitcher scheduled to throw this Sunday can either be replaced, or choose to throw just one inning. The rules are a little petty, but also understandable in a way as they're meant to protect the arms.
Ignoring the 6-6 record because of the Dodgers' awful runs support (Zack Greinke only has seven wins, which is criminal), Kershaw has lowered his ERA a full run from 3.86 at the end of May to 2.85 right now. One thing he's been constantly mentioning as something he wants to improve upon is how deep he pitches into the game (we all are, considering how terrible the bullpen is). Last night he went the distance for the first time, and since the start of June, he's hurled at least seven innings in six of his eight starts. Not bad.
But, once again, it might not mean anything as far as the All-Star Game goes. And you know what? Maybe that's not a bad thing. I heard John Smoltz, soon to be enshrined into Cooperstown this summer, say on MLB Network that Kershaw should just enjoy the rest and get ready for the second half. The more I thought about it, the more I liked that idea.
While everyone wants the honor of being an All-Star, it's not like he hasn't been there before, as he's made the previous four. He's actually scoreless in those games, pitching an inning apiece. In 2012, he loaded the bases but wiggled out of it, and other than that, has barely been touched. So, he's proven that he can get it done on that stage.
Don't get me wrong, I would be thrilled if he does get in, as he's proven since June that he most certainly deserves it. I'm just saying that if he doesn't, taking over a week off from starts isn't a bad thing at all. He's been going nonstop the last couple of seasons between the regular season, All-Star Game, and postseason, without a breather. This could be a rare chance to get one.