Remember when we were all wondering what was wrong with Clayton Kershaw?

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May and June was fun. It was back when everyone was wondering what was wrong with Clayton Kershaw. Here’s a screencap from a Google search:

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Multiply that by about a gabillion, as everyone seemed to want to ask that question. I feel like, with hindsight, we can definitively say that nothing was wrong with Clayton Kershaw. At least nothing that a couple of starts couldn’t fix.

Last night he was damn nigh untouchable, striking out eight, walking none and allowing only three hits in eight shutout innings. And that’s not some anomaly.

Kershaw hasn’t allowed a run in five of his last six starts and has lowered his ERA from 3.08 to 2.39 during that time. In those starts he has 48 innings, has allowed two earned runs, walked three guys and struck out 61. Heck, in his last 12 starts he’s got a 1.09 ERA, has issued 12 walks and has struck out 119. He’s on pace for 296Ks on the season. No one has struck out 300 since Randy Johnson did it in 2002.

I don’t begrudge people who ask the “what’s wrong with [great player]” question when [great player] is not doing so great. It’s something people want to talk about. But I’m starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, the only thing worthy of analysis in those situations is whether or not the guy is hurt. If yes, that’s what’s wrong with him. If no, he’s gonna be just fine, because he’s a great player.

Maybe we’ll guess wrong on the occasional Dale Murphy mystery falloff now and again, but most of the time all that one needs is, well, time.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.