The Los Angeles Dodgers head into the 2017 MLB Postseason in pursuit of their first title since 1988. Their performance may rely on the ace, Clayton Kershaw.
There are few things in this world as exciting as playoff baseball. Every pitch matters, every at-bat is bigger than the at-bat before and every game outweighs the 162+ prior. The MLB playoffs are not for the faint of heart, only 10 of the MLB’s 30 franchises get a chance for supremacy every October. For many, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites to reign supreme.
The Dodgers finished with an MLB best 104-58 record. For several months of the season, they seemed nearly unbeatable. The month of September was not very kind to the Dodgers, as they embarked on an 11-game losing streak – losing 16 of 17.
However, on a positive note, the team finished somewhat strong. Los Angeles took series’ against both the Nationals and Rockies late in the season, two potential opponents in the postseason. While the team’s six losses to the Arizona Diamondbacks are scary, all of that is pushed aside come October.
If the Dodgers want to finally cash in on being a super team and finally win that coveted World Series, the play of Clayton Kershaw is critical. As fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers know, Kershaw has battled playoff demons before. However, for the first time in their five-straight postseason appearances, the cards are stacked on Kershaw’s side.
The most important factor on Kershaw’s side? Depth. Kershaw and his staff have never held this kind of depth before, which in turn, has led to Kershaw’s struggles on short rest. Even with Zack Greinke on the team, the three-man rotation has been a staple of the Dodgers postseason the last five years. Last season, the Dodgers third man was a struggling Kenta Maeda.
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This year is completely different. Los Angeles has four very, very solid starting pitchers with Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill. Each puts the team in a position to win, so there is no need to pitch Kershaw on short rest. The Dodgers can be completely comfortable starting him in games one and five, if need be.
Second, Kershaw’s workload is much smaller than it has been in past seasons. Much like last year, Kershaw missed a decent chunk of time due to injury. The difference between 175 innings and 232 innings is huge on your body and Kershaw is going to directly benefit.
In the few starts that Kershaw has had the stars aligned he has thrived. He thrived against the Braves in 2013, pitched solid against the Mets in 2015 and had moments of dominance last season. The pressure of leading a team is no longer on Kershaw’s shoulders, instead, he has three more great arms to back him up.
Kershaw’s postseason career has been a real-life story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, with the pawns aligned for the king of the mound, this postseason will be a bright spot on the legacy of Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers.