Kershaw’s big debut

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

A lot’s been made of Kershaw’s debut today. First came the news about how he was limited to one inning in his last appearance at Jacksonville (the Dodgers’ AA affiliate), then the speculation that he’d get the call-up, then the speculation that he’d be starting as the No. 5 starter (from numerous sources), then he got called up, then came the announcement that he’d start today.

Then they announced it after last night’s game (at the stadium), before the game, during the game, etc. Vin Scully was practically live-blogging the whole thing, talking about how Kershaw was doing, how he may have been nervous in the first inning, how his mother and girlfriend and girlfriend’s mother were all there …

Obviously this was big news for a fan base that idolizes kids brought up through the system, especially one this highly touted (he was named the best pitching prospect in all of the minors by Baseball Prospectus before the season started). Even moreso because of what the scouting department has brought up in the last two or three years: Martin, Kemp, Ethier, Billingsley and now Dewitt. Laroche is on his way, Hu is performing ably and may stay in the organization if Furcal becomes too expensive and Delwyn Young is looking like a pretty solid utility guy.

So with that in mind, let’s look at how he did.

Kershaw: 6 IP, 2 ER, 2 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K

This was a pretty damn good outing for a number of reasons; one being that it’s a quality start (by definition, a quality start is at least six innings pitched and at most three earned runs). There’s also the seven strike outs and the 1.00 WHIP to brag about against a heavy-hitting team.

About that heavy-hitting team: the Cardinals’ offense has been spectacular this year, tied for second in the league in EqA. Surprising, right? The big surprise has been the revamped heart of the lineup that looks like a lesser version than their 2004 team of Edmonds-Pujols-Rolen (ya know, when those two on the end were playing well). Pujols has been his usual self, which is amazing since he was supposed to get TJ surgery at the start of the year. His OPS has been 1.068, about average for him, but the big surprise is his OBA: .475. He’s getting on base almost half the time he’s at the plate. That’s also about 50 points higher than his career. (His VORP is at about 30, also).

Ryan Ludwick has pulled the most weight, outside of Pujols, with stats of .346 BA/.424 OBA/.750 SLG … that’s a 1.124 OPS. The reason why: 12 doubles, 13 home runs and two triples. The cherry on top: his VORP is 27.3. Ankiel has been doing well also, with an .877 OPS.

The rest of the lineup is pretty strong, everyone hitting (including the bench) an .811 OPS against lefties.

Back to the point: Kershaw is a lefty. The match-up didn’t seem favorable.

Scully had it right: Kershaw was probably nervous in the first inning. He walked Brian Barton on four straight. The curveball that Pujols hit on the next at-bat wasn’t a bad pitch, but Pujols is Pujols and it was actually a ground ball that, had Dewitt been in front of, would have been a ground out.

He came back right after that with two strikeouts, with an amazing curve to Glaus that just tailed right into the strike zone.

I don’t have official numbers on it yet, but he pitched something like 30-35 pitches in the first inning and 66-71 pitches in the other five. (He pitched 101, with 69 strikes, and that’s a little better than a 66% strikes-to-balls rate).

In case you didn’t come to this conclusion, he only gave up three runs on five hits in six innings against a team that kills left-handed hitting in a Sunday day game. That’s pretty awesome.

There’s more to talk about this, namely that watching his curveball in the majors was a thing of beauty, but this will suffice. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this kid in person.

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