This is the second part of the two-part series where the greatness of Clayton Kershaw will be discussed. Now we have already determined that he is the greatest active pitcher in the regular season. He is atop many statistical lists including Earned Run Average and ERA+, which is park adjusted earned run average, amongst active players. He did this by throwing a four pitch mix highlighted by his knee bending curveball and wipeout slider. Many people who watched him believed he could throw a no-hitter any night. With an MVP award and three Cy Young awards, he raised expectations to a level only he could reach.
Now when talking about Clayton Kershaw’s greatness many people like to discuss his October numbers. He has a career 4.43 ERA in the postseason in 32 games pitched with 25 starts and 158.1 innings. That is a large sample size over many seasons. Now another problem is he gets worse as he goes deeper into the postseason. Now while fatigue is most certainly a factor, his 5.40 era in 26 World Series innings is very concerning. It is a very strange occurrence since during the regular season he is one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball from start to finish. One factor that may also be influencing these postseason numbers could be that he has been forced to pitch on short rest a total of ten times in the postseason. It has been historically known that the Dodgers in recent history have not trusted their bullpen and depth starters in the postseason. Instead they have used Kershaw on short rest to pitch important postseason innings which have hurt his numbers. When comparing him to all-time greats Kershaw’s postseason ERA is over three full runs higher than Sandy Koufax’s and almost a full run higher than Pedro Martinez’s. Kershaw’s inability to pitch well when the lights shine the brightest versus other pitchers ability to win big games is what lowers Kershaw’s status for me. Yes, pitchers were built differently once upon a time, but Koufax pitched complete games in both game 5 and 7 in the 1965 World Series. He did this on just three days rest. Now it is hard to compare pitchers of different Eras, but Koufax put together 6 seasons unlike anything we have ever seen in baseball and while Kershaw may have better stats then Koufax during the regular season, Koufax’s ability to dominate in the postseason those years as well puts him above Kershaw in my eyes and many other peoples. I will agree Kershaw may be the greatest regular season pitcher ever but when postseason numbers are put into play Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnsons and others pass him on the list. The greatest pitcher ever has to be able to pitch in every situation and produce at least adequate stats regardless of circumstance. Now that back injuries have crept in on Kershaw in the back half of his career, Kershaw will need to make October success happen otherwise he will continue to fall just short of being the greatest pitcher of all time.