Tag Archives: Clayton Kershaw

Interview: Clayton Kershaw Talking Pitches and Their Order

Found my tape recorder with some old interviews on it. Discovered one with Clayton Kershaw from this game here.


What was your best sequence of the game?

I don’t know. I threw a couple change-ups [to Soto] to get back to 1 ball, 2 strikes. The third curveball, you know, he took for strike 3. That was the best sequence, I guess, using all of my pitches.

Do you feel the curveball broke particularly well, or did it fool him, or was he not looking for it?

Yeah, he wasn’t expecting it, especially for a strike, so um. Any time I can throw off-speed for strikes that gives me something else to throw.

Sorry to ask about this, but that home run to Soriano, what was the sequence? Slider, fastball, fastball?

Yeah, he hit a 2-0 fastball out of the park. I’d rather give up a home run than walk him. That’s just the way it is.

Was it mislocated?

[smiling wryly] I dunno, I’ll look up the film and let you know tomorrow. A homer’s a homer.




Funny how different he sounds in his interviews today. Good kid.

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Picking Mattingly’s Brain About Kershaw’s Ability [From a Hitter’s Perspective]

Everyone knows who Don Mattingly is; not many know, I guess, that he’s a very intelligent baseball guy. I was taken aback when he just opened up this conversation with me about what makes Kershaw so effective.

Here’s what he had to say about Clayton Kershaw’s performance, and skill set, tonight and for his career since coming up.

[Clayton] can use his breaking ball, he used his change up tonight, and his curveball is always there.

How much of Kershaw’s efficiency tonight was because of the line-up he faced?

These guys were pretty aggressive, but you still gotta throw the ball in the strike zone. That’s really the biggest difference, is establishing fastball counts all the time and now Kershaw is at the point as much as he throws a slider for a strike, he throws a slider for a chase (when the batter swings at a ball); he throws a breaking ball for a strike, he throws a breaking ball for a chase. He works both sides of the plate and to me that’s the evolution for him. Coming up, watching him as a young kid, he was one side of the plate and now he’s both.

He went from being a fastball-curveball guy to being a fastball-curveball-slider-change. When you’re [on the receiving end] of four weapons as a hitter, you have to start picking sides of the plate, you’re gonna try to eliminate pitches, but with Kershaw, you can’t do it.

I wish I asked more questions, guess I’ll have to settle for this and wait ’til my next interview.

More from Kershaw coming tomorrow.

Here’s some more comments from Donnie Baseball:

Seems like usually with good pitchers you have to get to them early. If you don’t, they get settled. The Cubs had their chance and Kershaw was able to get the big out in that first and then basically stopped them from there.

When you get to [their pitcher] early with Kershaw it helps too. You know, they get the run early and from there he pretty much stopped them. We were able to get back in the game. Ivan’s hit down the line with two outs … he gets that hit and then Jerry’s big hit there too so it kind of opened it up.

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Clayton Kershaw’s Opening Day Pitch Sequencing

A friend, William, is keeping a cool blog on pitch sequencing and broke down Clayton Kershaw’s opening day start.


Positive Results

Andres Torres

1) FB, FB, SL, SL, SL, FB- K (swinging)

2) FB, SL, CU- K (swinging)

3) SL, FB, SL- Groundout (SS)

Comments:  Kershaw started by hinting at working away, then began working inside with the slider and went way low and inside with the fastball for the punchout.  The second time around, though a little high on the first two pitches, Kershaw did start working away more and got Torres to chase a curve low and out of the zone.  The final time, Kershaw worked the sliders inside to induce a weak groundout.  Torres swung at every single pitch from the last slider of the first AB.  To say the least, he was way too aggressive and Kershaw ate him up.

Aubrey Huff

1) SL, FB, FB, SL- K (swinging)

2) SL- Popup (CF)

3) FB, FB- Groundout (2B)

Comments:  The first AB to Huff was a classic “work the crappy LHB away” with the odd 0-2 fastball up and in for a waster.  Kershaw runs a 1-2 slider out of the zone and Huff waved over it.  Huff comes back the next time and jumped on a slider that caught too much of the strike zone but only lifted it to Kemp.  Kershaw missed spots on both fastballs the third time around, but Huff got impatient and chased high.

You can read more of his stuff here.


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Congrats, D-Backs! Now Get to 1,500 Ks!

I forgot to run this, but the Diamondbacks broke the record for most strike outs in a single season by a team on Tuesday and are still rolling. Ubaldo Jimenez struck out Chris Young swinging to tie the record and Kelly Johnson looking to break it in the first inning Tuesday night. Johnson’s K set the record at 1,400 exactly–yes, they’re the first team in history to record 1,400 strike outs.

They have 1,420 Ks now and nine games left to play. With their pace at about 9.20 all season, it looks like they’ll land at about the low 1500s. Clayton Kershaw takes the mound tonight and Chad Billingsley will pitch Sunday. Bills set a season high with 11 strikeouts against the D-Backs on May 31. Unfortunately, John Ely is pitching between them, so who knows.

Good luck, D-Backs, and Godspeed.

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Looking Back on the Sherrill-Bell 2009 Deadline Trade

Jordan at OrioleProspects.com and I have been sharing thoughts on the 2009 trade deadline trade between the Dodgers and Orioles that sent George Sherrill to Los Angeles for prospects Josh Bell and Steven Johnson.

Here are my thoughts.  You can read his thoughts here.

Outcome Bias.  It’s a real thing.  It happens all the time.  Your perspective of something changes because of the end result.  Player A, who is not good, is traded for Player B, who is bad.  Player B performs inexplicably well and Player A continues to perform not good.  The fans of Player B’s new team gloat about the trade and the fans of Player A’s new team scowl and curse the trade and all management involved.

Thoughts at the time of the trade

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Maybe the sky isn’t falling? Dodgers’ pitching delivers three wins

There’s that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when they’re attempting to bring their ship back from the world of the dead and they figure out they have to capsize at exactly sundown.  They’re wet for a few seconds, but when the Black Pearl makes the flip, they come out back into their world right-side up, everyone alive and breathing air.

The Dodgers’ pitching ship was flipped early this season.  The bullpen, which was such a source of strength over the previous three years, was inept.  Chad Billingsley struggled with consistency and Kershaw wasn’t able to wrangle in the walk rate, throwing 110 pitches per game through five innings.  Then Padilla and Haeger imploded.

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Can Dodgers afford to be patient with Loney?

I’m not gonna put a pretty picture on this.  James Loney put up a sub-.400 slugging percentage last season.

To put that into perspective, there have been 216 seasons of first basemen with more than 502 plate appearances between 2000 and 2009.  The median slugging percentage is .500.  Ryan Garko, despite being such a sub-par hitter for the position, has put up a better SLG% every year of his career than Loney put up last year. Only 16 first basemen since 2000 have had a sub-.400 slugging that (min. 502 AB), Loney and Aubrey Huff were the two to do it in 2009.  Loney did it in the second-most plate appearances (651), with Darin Erstad’s horrendous .371 slugging in 663 plate appearances in 2005 beating him.

Yes, Loney was above average compared to the rest of the league last year  But he was very bad given his position.  In fact, he was the second-worst offensive 1B last year, only ahead of Huff.  Even though he had an above-average on-base percentage for the league, 14 every day starting first basemen (out of 23) had a better on-base percentage.  Even in the one thing that gives him offensive value, he’s below league average for the position.

His one saving grace, and the one reason why fans haven’t turned on him, is that he has potential. Also that the team is winning, but that’s a blanketing statement.

Meanwhile, the core of the Dodgers is getting older and more expensive and this may be their best opportunity for a serious run before the major 2012-2015 crash from the lack of prospects in the minors.

Fangraphs had a very good post about Loney.  I don’t see what other people see in Loney’s swing.  It’s very smooth, but it doesn’t look like he’s loading power.  It looks like he’s deliberately not swinging for power most times.  As the Fangraphs article points out, he’s actually very good at spraying the ball to the opposite field, but he’s not swinging for pull as much as he should be–that’s where his power is.

I always try to keep things in perspective.  Big Klu didn’t come around immediately either.  That’s how it works with prospects.  It’s up to them to reach their potential.

Ted Kluszewski, however, had one above-average power year before his age 28 season. At first base, no less.

Now I’m not saying Loney will turn into Klu. Klu is a comparable, but he didn’t have Loney’s patience and patience is associated with a lot of good things in hitting.  The problem is, if Loney’s best years are still ahead of him, or even three years ahead of him, can the Dodgers afford to wait for that?

First base is a premiere hitter’s position.  Basically you want your best power hitters with no redeeming defensive qualities in these positions, by order: LF, 1B, RF, 3B, 2B, CF, C/SS.  That’s kind of old school theory, but it’s correct. Maybe you’d rather have your worst fielder in RF because fewer balls go there (now there’s a cool study), but 1B is a great position because it doesn’t require much fielding and throwing.

The Dodgers right now are fortunate enough to have the best center fielder hitter in the game.  Take his production and put it at 1B and it’s still valuable. They also have solid to above-average hitting (compared to other players in position) from third base, second base right field, left field and catcher.

Originally I thought maybe moving Ethier to first base and signing a free agent outfielder would be the best, since Ethier is such an awful outfielder. But Manny leaving next year means there’s already going to be one hole in the outfield and there is, right now, no outfielder in the minors that’s prepared to jump to the majors.

There’s a number of decent free agents available in the 2011 free agency pool at 1B and OF: Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Lyle Overbay and the potentially awesome return to Los Angeles of Jayson Werth.  (There’s also the potential of the Cardinals not paying Pujols’ option, and same with the Astros and Berkman, but both ideas are laughable).

The team will also have a number of their players going through huge arbitration hearings over the next three years and will need to value their money properly.  This goes for Kemp, Kershaw, Martin, Billingsley, Broxton and Sherrill, in addition to Loney.

Assuming the core of young talent becomes expensive, a cheap alternative wherever it can be found is necessary.  So Loney, even though he’s not that great offensively, becomes remarkably valuable in dollar terms.

The OF market won’t be so strong that the Dodgers can pick up two valuable outfielders for reasonable prices. The only reasonable solution would be to sign both Crawford and Werth or maybe sign Dunn to play 1B and Crawford or Werth, with Ethier remaining in the outfield.  In that latter one, you’re giving up A LOT on defense.  And that’s assuming the bidding war for those players’ services doesn’t exceed the Dodgers’ budget.

Long story short, the drop in the level of production from

Ethier OF-Loney 1B-replacement OF
Ethier 1B-replacement OF-replacement OF

would be too great, and that’s made even worse if the Dodgers’ money woes continue into next year.  The Dodgers would then have to trade Loney, and they’d have to give up more than they get in that.  The only suitable replacement would have to be someone so great, he supercedes Loney and the replacement outfielder’s production–and that’s basically just Pujols.

Alternatively, every free agent 1B on the market has had serious injury issues or just isn’t that good.  The only one I would consider a bigger gain than loss over Loney would be either Carlos Pena or Adam Dunn, though those two aren’t so great to warrant replacing Loney.  (Dunn, fyi, is such a bad outfielder that he almost literally negates his offensive value).

So yeah.  Maybe Loney’s not the best offensive 1B, but he’s the Dodgers’ 1B.  Hopefully he develops into his full potential, but if he doesn’t, he’s still a valuable asset to the Dodgers.

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