- Mark Saxon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The most refined numbers suggested he was pitching as well as always. The crudest numbers said he was in a slump. The intermediary numbers were a little confused.
People who look at win-loss record and ERA saw Clayton Kershaw stuck on mediocre. Those who prefer metrics that isolate a player’s value, such as fielding independent pitching, thought he was just about as dominant as he was in 2014 -- which is to say, Cy Young and MVP-level dominant.
Kershaw said he doesn’t care what any of them thought.
He said he didn’t read it, and he never does. He only cared that, after he left the mound, the Dodgers weren’t winning as often as he felt they should have been. With the team paying him more than $32 million this season, the second of a seven-year deal, that part was beginning to gnaw at him.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were 3-4 in Kershaw’s first seven starts before he picked up career win No. 100 in Friday night’s 6-4 win over the Colorado Rockies. Yeah, he was awfully good. He struck out 10 Rockies and went 17 straight batters without letting a ball leave the infield before he began to wear down in the seventh, and then the Dodgers’ bullpen nearly imploded again.
Afterward, he said the 100th win was something to celebrate and he hopes he is just getting started. That was a far cry from his recent post-start news conferences, when the atmosphere was tense, with Kershaw sometimes refusing to analyze his outings for public consumption.
“I think the only thing is I feel an obligation to this team and the organization and everybody to pitch well, and I feel they put a huge investment in me to do that,” Kershaw said. “That’s really the only thing I feel. I feel somewhat bad at times, but I’m trying, so hopefully tonight gets us back going.”
If Kershaw thinks the Dodgers are expecting him to win the MVP every year, he is probably putting more pressure on himself than he needs to. Outings such as Friday’s will probably be sufficient, though getting through the seventh or eighth inning one of these days wouldn’t hurt, given that the back of the Dodgers’ bullpen suddenly feels a little unsettled.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he thought all the stories about what was wrong with Kershaw, who had a 1-2 record and 4.23 ERA coming in, were growing tiresome.
“His year is going to be good, and he’s going to be fine," Mattingly said. "I think it’s just silly talking about it. He has thrown the ball well. I learned a long time ago you can’t compare year to year.”
The media wasn’t the only segment of the population that had noticed that it took Kershw five starts to get that 100th win. Jimmy Rollins said he teased Kershaw about it on one of the bus rides during the team’s recent trip to Denver. Getting Kershaw’s milestone out of the way felt like a significant moment for Rollins, who helped Kershaw get there by busting out of a slump with four hits.
“It meant a lot," Rollins said. "He’s Cy Young. He’s MVP. He’s the man, simply put.”
Here’s where Kershaw’s numbers stand now: He is 2-2 with a 4.24 ERA (it actually went up after Paco Rodriguez gave up a bases-clearing double and runners inherited from Kershaw scored), but he leads the major leagues with 66 strikeouts, and his xFIP is in the top three.
Baseball’s most maligned number nowadays is the win-loss record because factors beyond a pitcher’s control impact it so significantly, but players aren’t quite as cutting edge as some of the analytical community. Kershaw’s feelings about his record are evolving.
“I guess if you have a good win-loss record, you count it, and if you don’t, you say that it doesn’t matter,” Kershaw said. “Right now, I’m neutral. I’ll let you know.”
The numbers suggested Clayton Kershaw, the reigning NL MVP and Cy Young winner, was stuck on mediocre. He was far from that Friday vs. the Rockies.