Ladies and gentlemen, baseball fans all over the worlda��I’m about to drop a bombshell: I am not Clayton Kershaw.
Are we at the point where this is way past uncomfortable?
Alright, if you all have finished picking up the pieces of your mind after that startling confession, allow me to continue. Yes, I am not Clayton Kershaw. I do not know how his body works. I do not know how well his body is going to hold up over the next several years. Hell, I don’t even know if saying a�?several yearsa�? is assuming too much.
Which is why I want to know: when will it be okay to worry?
For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you. I’d like to stress that I’m not necessarily worrying now. I would just like to live in a world where athletes don’t get injured. But that’s not the reality of this situation. The reality is Clayton Kershaw is hurt again. The reality is that for the second time in as many seasons, Kershaw’s back is acting up. And the reality is that once again, for a prolonged period of time, baseball will be without the best pitcher on the planet.
But let’s be clear: this is not last season’s back injury. This is not the herniated disk that kept Kershaw out for almost three months. The most optimistic timetable puts him out for 4-6 weeks, but Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts would rather not offer up a specific time frame, choosing instead to say that Kershaw returning this season is a�?a very safe bet.a�?
For fans who don’t have to worry about Kershaw mowing down their favorite ballclub, they yearn for his return. Of course, they have every reason to. Believe it or not, this is Kershaw’s 10th season in the majors. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that he’s still just 29 years old. He doesn’t turn 30 until next March. And since 2009, he’s been the best.
Yet in back-to-back years, injuries have taken him away from us. In back-to-back years, injuries have hindered would-be Cy Young seasons. It’s probably a safe assumption that last year’s herniated disk genuinely did cost him said award. *whispers* They could have probably given it to him anyway. Sure he’s already got three of them to his namea��with an MVP to boota��but if not for R.A. Darn Dickey in 2012 along with these back issues, we could genuinely be talking about Kershaw as a six-time Cy Young Award winner… in six consecutive seasons.
He’s led the NL in ERA on four separate occasions (and was doing so again this year). He’s led the NL in WHIP on four separate occasions, and in strikeouts thricea��which included notching 301 punch-outs two seasons ago. Since 2014, Kershaw has struck out 32.1 percent of the batters he’s faced. He’s walked only 3.8 percent of them. And for those who have actually managed to put their bat on the ball in that span, they’re still managing to only hit .191 against him.
The decade of Kershaw has given us a 2.34 ERA to go along with a 2.57 FIP and 2.67 DRA, all while striking out 27.9 percent of hitters and walking just 6.8 percent of them. Over this 10-year span, we have yet to see another pitcher as dominant. Max Scherzer is the only other pitcher that’s even near the conversation, and he’s going to be 33 years old on Thursday. Plus, he hasn’t been that good for 10 years. Though, Scherzer’s now going on roughly a half-decade of sheer dominance.
In regards to Kershaw, though, one positive we can (hopefully) take away from this particular injury is that it isn’t elbow-related. It isn’t shoulder-related either. But back injuries can be a real pain in thea��well, you know. Recurring injuries of any kind are never ideal. But as far as Kershaw’s velocity goes, he’s still resting comfortably between 93-94 miles per hour. He’s still getting tons of swinging strikes on his off-speed stuff.
He’s still Clayton Kershaw.
But every injury becomes a setback. Every injury chips away. Every injury takes its toll. And every postseason the Dodgers reach takes that much more. That’s not a criticism of his postseason performance by any stretch, it’s just an observation of how much the Dodgers rely on him come October. Eventually the body will break down. This is especially true for pitchers, and guess what? Clayton Kershaw is going to be no different.
But for the longest time, he has been different. And while it is too early to worrya��especially if we’re looking solely at his productiona��we have to come to terms with the fact that Clayton Kershaw is not invincible.
We knew this, of course. But accepting the reality is an entirely different story.