Giving Thanks: The National League East

7 Comments

Admit it: you’d rather read this stuff than watch the Lions or the Cowboys today, right? I mean, they’re awful.

Anyway: that for which teams and their fans should give thanks on this most gluttonous of days:

Philadelphia Phillies: Finding the Blue Jays and the Astros when they were in a transition period. Really, if things didn’t break just right in those cases, the Phillies could be entering this winter with Cliff Lee leaving via free agency and a rotation full of Blantons and Kendricks and stuff.  Ick.

Atlanta Braves: Jeff Loria’s seeming aversion to competitive baseball. If the Marlins cared, they could have done a few relatively minor things over the past couple of years to have put them in a better position to have finished ahead of the Braves. But they didn’t. If the Marlins cared, the Braves wouldn’t have their new manager or their new second baseman, each of whom they acquired basically painlessly. But they didn’t. Thanks Feesh!

Florida Marlins: This is a stretch, because really, there’s nothing great about being a Marlins fan at the moment, but let’s try this: thanks to Jeff Loria for bringing back Edwin Rodriguez to manage on a one year contract next year. Yes, it will almost certainly lead to an unceremonious and likely unfair firing of Rodriguez next winter, but it will likely be to bring in Loria man-crush Ozzie Guillen, who wants desperately to manage in Florida.  I’m not sure that will make the baseball any better because Loria will still be a skinflint, but Guillen is great fun, ain’t he?

New York Mets: Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. Alderson. Alderson.  There is finally an adult in charge.

Washington Nationals: The anticipation. Remember all that fun you had waiting for Stephen Strasburg to make the team? Now you can do it again with Bryce Harper! And once he’s up and established, you can wait for Strasburg to come back! And if Harper figures out a way to injure himself, the process can start all over again. Really, we’re one bad slip on a wet sidewalk away from the Nats being in the process of waiting for superstars until both superstars are old enough to be thinking about how to get the hell out of Washington.

The “Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative should be dead

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
3 Comments

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.