You’ll recall in the linked article about smokeless tobacco earlier today that the reason Stephen Strasburg is quitting the stuff is because of Tony Gwynn’s recent cancer diagnosis. Gwynn, it is noted, has blamed his years of smokeless tobacco use for the current state of his health.
Following that post, I received an email from a pathologist who says something worth bearing in mind:
I am ambivalent about what MLB and the players do about chewing tobacco, though I admit it probably be nice if they all just quit. And I am happy that Strasburg quit, for whatever reason.
But in the linked article, and in every article I have seen that mentioned Gwynn and his cancer, there is mention that Gwynn believes strongly that his cancer was caused by tobacco use. I would think a good reporter might mention, tactfully, that current evidence does not show such a link with the cancer I think Gwynn has (carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma). Tobacco has been linked to a certain benign parotid tumor, but not the one I think he originally had (I say “I think” because they never actually say, but I deduce it from the reports). Anyway, it may not be important, but I just am always irked by untruths is news reports (and here, note that I am not referring to you), however trivial. Tobacco has risk enough – there is no need it be exaggerated.
Good point. One of the things that bugs me about steroids stuff is the hysteria that surrounds it. I don’t care if Strasburg is quitting tobacco because his neighbor’s dog told him too — quitting is good regardless — but policy decisions should be based on the facts, not on hysteria, sympathy or misinformation.
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.