Remember how Kirk Gibson is selling a bunch of memorabilia, including the bat from the home run in the 1988 World Series? Today he tells the Detroit News why he’s doing it. Part of it is charitable. Some of it seems like he would just like the money. But one part of it all resonates with me, and that’s his comment about how he has the memories locked in his head, so why keep the memorabilia?
I’ve always been that way. I’m not someone who casts aside everything, but I’m not a big totem keeper. Trophies or awards or keepsakes or what have you just don’t play a big role in my life. I have some things in boxes, but if you came into Chez Calcaterra you’d see an acceptable number of family pictures a couple of sentimental knicknacks and that’s really about it. The baseball cards and sports memorabilia I keep around is more a matter of being too lazy to do anything with it than actually desiring to keep most of it. It was all in my parents’ house until they dumped it at my house when they moved. If it wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg I’d ship it all to my brother tomorrow.
I understand I’m in the minority here. I wrote about autographs a couple of years ago and just about everyone disagreed with me then. I just think that you remember the truly memorable things anyway. And while it’s nice to have your memory jogged a bit by a souvenir or memento of the occasion, keeping around too much of the past can prevent a person from keeping their eyes on the future.
For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.
Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).
Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.
In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.
According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.