2. We see a lot fewer home runs off of Kershaw
For the most part, even last season, Clayton Kershaw was still a great pitcher. He did not allow many base hits, kept his walk totals down and seemingly did everything it would take to have a year as he would in the past.
Sure, he was not completely dominating guys and throwing nine scoreless innings like he would six years ago, but he was battling, working counts and keeping himself out of trouble.
The one Achilles’ Heel for Kershaw was the home run ball. Kershaw allowed 28 home runs last season, averaging just over one per start, which would often turn a fantastic start into just a great start.
Whether it be a bases-empty home run or a home run with a man on first, a lot of these blasts came in situations where Kershaw was not necessarily in trouble, so if he could cut the home run rate down, then, of course, he will finish with a sub-3 ERA.
Last season may end up being his worst in terms of allowing home runs, and while it is silly to overreact to one Spring Training outing, Kershaw has shown us some great signs.
First of all, Kershaw’s fastball was sitting at 91 MPH in his one and two-thirds innings of work on Friday and reportedly even topped out at 93 MPH. His average velocity last season was under 91 MPH, so if that is the bottom end of the spectrum, in his first spring start, that is huge.
As much as fans want to see Kershaw develop a change-up, and it would help him, he is always going to be someone who relies on his fastball. It has excellent spin and rising action and when he has the velocity on it, a 93 MPH fastball looks like it is a 96 MPH fastball.
While we do not want to get ahead of ourselves, everything we are hearing out of the Dodgers’ camp about Kershaw is positive, that his offseason work has made him feel better than he has in quite some time.
And hey, it is probably worth mentioning that maybe the Dodgers losing in the NLDS helped Kershaw. That is four more starts that Kershaw did not have to make last year and another three weeks of work he could put into the offseason. It sounds silly, but it absolutely may have helped.