I tend to think Clayton Kershaw doesn’t get enough attention in discussions about baseball’s best young pitchers and so his brilliant complete-game, 1-0 shutout of the Giants last night provides a perfect opportunity to heap praise on the Dodgers southpaw.
Kershaw has followed up his 2.79 ERA in 30 starts as a 21-year-old last season with a 2.85 ERA in 30 starts this season, and during that time he’s the only starting pitcher in baseball to allow fewer than 7.0 hits per nine innings.
As you might expect from someone who’s that tough to hit Kershaw has shown an exceptional ability to miss bats with 486 strikeouts in 471 career innings, including 201 in 192.1 frames this season.
Here’s a list of all the pitchers in baseball history who’ve started at least 75 games through age 22 while striking out more than a batter per inning:
Sam McDowell 9.52
Clayton Kershaw 9.29
That’s it. That’s the entire list. Kershaw and “Sudden” Sam McDowell, who’s one of the great flamethrowers of all time and led the league in strikeouts five times in six seasons during the 1960s. If you want to lower the threshold to 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings you can also add Dwight Gooden and Felix Hernandez to the list.
In addition to racking up strikeouts Kershaw has also made great strides with his control this season, cutting his walks by 25 percent from 4.8 to 3.6 per nine innings. If he can maintain the missed bats and make more progress in walk rate next season–say, to somewhere in the 2.5-3.0 range–Kershaw has a shot to emerge as one of the truly elite pitchers in all of baseball before many of the guys in that class were even in the majors.
Despite already having three seasons and nearly 500 innings of 3.15 ERA work under his belt Kershaw is still the youngest pitcher in baseball to make at least 25 starts this season. He has a chance to be scary good.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.