Stats & Info: Los Angeles Dodgers

Postseason Kernels

October, 30, 2014

AP Photo/David J. PhillipThere were plenty of standout performances this postseason en route to the Giants' championship.
Just 221 days, 18 hours and 21 minutes after the first pitch in Sydney, the 2014 MLB season has come to its inevitable end. But there's still time for a look back at some of the postseason's best oddities. We invite you to tell us which of these games was your favorite ...

AL Wild Card
It seems so long ago now (a month, in fact) but it gave us "Yostball," after the skipper's habit of bunting and running in unexpected situations. Kansas City had seven different players steal a bag, one shy of the record for any major league game (the Oakland Athletics had eight thieves against Minnesota on Aug. 1, 1976). They tied the postseason record of seven steals as a team, set by the 1907 Cubs and matched only by the Big Red Machine in the 1975 NLCS.

Cardinals-Dodgers, Game 1
Clayton Kershaw's disastrous seventh inning made him the first pitcher in postseason history to allow eight runs while also recording 10 strikeouts. No Dodger had done that in the regular season since Van Mungo in 1936. Meanwhile, Cards starter Adam Wainwright allowed 11 hits and six runs but got bailed out by the big inning. He's the first postseason starter with those totals to not lose the game since Scott Erickson of the Orioles in 1997. A.J. Ellis had four hits and scored three runs, becoming only the second Dodgers hitter ever to do that in the postseason. The other was Steve Garvey (1974 NLCS).

Giants-Nationals, Game 2
When go-ahead run Buster Posey was thrown out at the plate in the ninth, we literally played two. Brandon Belt finally homered in the 18th, only the third 18th-inning-or-later homer in Giants history. George "High Pockets" Kelly hit an inside-the-parker in 1922, while Larry Doyle in 1914 provided the deciding runs in what was (at the time) the longest National League game ever, a two-run shot in the top of the 21st in Pittsburgh. Yusmeiro Petit threw six innings of one-hit relief and got the win, something no pitcher in the majors had done since fellow Giant Ryan Jensen on May 4, 2002.

NLCS Game 2
Kolten Wong's walk-off made the Cardinals the first team ever to homer in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of the same postseason game. The 5-4 final score was spread over nine different half-innings (no crooked numbers), tying the record for most runs in a postseason game without a multi-run inning. The Yankees set the record when they beat the Orioles in the 1996 ALCS when Bernie Williams hit a walk-off homer in the 11th.

NLCS Game 5
Travis Ishikawa hit the fourth pennant-winning home run since the start of divisional play in 1969. Magglio Ordoñez sent the Tigers to the 2006 World Series, while the others were both famous Yankee homers: Chris Chambliss in 1976 and Aaron Boone's 11th-inning shot in Game 7 in 2003. This year's NLCS was only the third postseason series with walk-off homers by both teams, the others being the 2004 NLCS and the 1988 World Series-- in which one was Kirk Gibson's legendary "one-legged" homer.

ALCS Game 3
Pushed back a day (in the only weather incident of the entire postseason), Jeremy Guthrie needed 94 pitches to get through five innings. That gave the Royals' bullpen another chance to shine. Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland each worked one perfect inning; they're the first quartet of relievers ever to do that in a postseason game. The entire ALCS was the first series in postseason history in which no starter-- for either team-- finished the sixth.

World Series Game 4
Eleven different Giants batters had hits, matching a World Series record last accomplished in 1960. Even Petit got in on the action, the first relief pitcher with a World Series hit since Al Leiter had a double in 1993, and the first Giants reliever with a hit since Clydell "Slick" Castleman in 1936. In a four-run third inning, the Royals sent 11 batters to the plate, including Jason Vargas twice. He became the first AL pitcher to bat twice in a World Series inning since Boston's Luis Tiant in 1975.

World Series Game 5
Madison Bumgarner threw the first Giants shutout in the World Series since Jack Sanford in 1962; the first walk-free World Series shutout for any team since Bret Saberhagen in 1985; and the first walk-free World Series shutout with eight strikeouts since, well, ever. The previous high for K's in a World Series shutout with no walks had been seven -- by Don Larsen in his perfect game in 1956.

World Series Game 7
Because it was Game 7. And because Bumgarner recorded just the second five-inning save in the majors in the past 20 years. Joaquin Benoit of the Rangers recorded a seven-inning save -- and nearly finished a combined no-hitter -- on Sept. 3, 2002, when starter Aaron Myette was ejected for throwing at the first batter. Much more on Game 7 here.

By the way, the season would not be complete without a hearty shout-out to the amazing Play Index, and also our partners at the Elias Sports Bureau. Most of this column's content would be difficult, if not impossible, without their help. A sincere thank-you.

And if you're wondering ... our favorite game?

The next one. See you in April.

Top stats to know: Giants at Dodgers

September, 24, 2014

Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw has thrown 4 shutouts vs. the Giants since 2010, twice as many as any other pitcher.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers conclude their season series tonight (10 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN). The teams split their first 18 meetings of the year, but the Dodgers have won six of the eight since the All-Star break.

What’s a win worth?
With a victory tonight, the Dodgers will clinch the NL West title, becoming the first team in the divisional era (since 1969) to defend its division after trailing by at least nine games at any point.

The Giants can make postseason play with a win or a loss by the Milwaukee Brewers (who are playing at Cincinnati at 7:10 p.m. ET). San Francisco has made only two playoff appearances since 2004, but both times (2010, 2012) they went on to win the World Series.

History on the line when Kershaw takes the mound
Clayton Kershaw enters his final start of the regular season with an MLB-best 1.80 ERA, well ahead of the next-closest pitcher (Chris Sale, 2.17).

As long as Kershaw allows seven earned runs or fewer tonight, he will become the first pitcher in MLB history to lead baseball in ERA four straight seasons. He can allow more than seven, but innings pitched start to come into play.

For context, Kershaw has allowed more than seven earned runs in only two of his 208 career starts. He has allowed seven earned runs in his past five starts combined.

In addition, he has the chance to become the second pitcher in baseball history to win 21 or more in 27 or fewer games over a full season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only pitcher to accomplish that was Fred Goldsmith of the 1880 Chicago White Stockings.

In 25 career appearances against the Giants, Kershaw has a 1.44 ERA. According to Elias, that is tied for the lowest career ERA by a pitcher against a single opponent in the past 100 years (minimum 20 starts). Sandy Koufax had a 1.44 ERA against the Mets.

Let’s go by the numbers and look at Kershaw in September/October:

2.00: Kershaw has a 2.00 career ERA in September/October during the regular season, the lowest by any pitcher in the live ball era (since 1920) with at least 200 career innings.

.783: In 32 career starts, Kershaw is 18-5 in the two months, good for a .783 win percentage. That’s the second-best by any pitcher with 30 September starts in the live ball era, behind only Russ Meyer’s .810 from 1946 to 1956.

1.14: Kershaw saves a special brand of dominance for the Giants. In six career September/October starts against the Giants, he is 5-1 with a 1.14 ERA, averaging just shy of eight innings per start.

Quick hitters
• Today is the anniversary of the final game played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn (1957). In that game, Danny McDevitt pitched a five-hit shutout as the Dodgers beat the Pirates 2-0.

Interestingly enough, the Pirates stayed in town and also closed down the Polo Grounds the following weekend. Both the Giants and Dodgers moved west after the 1957 season.

• Tim Hudson is 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA in four September starts. In his first 26 starts this season, he went 9-9 with a 2.90 ERA.

• The Dodgers lead the NL in steals, something they haven’t done for a full season since 1970. They also lead the league in walks. The previous occasion they led the NL in walks was 1961.

• Yasiel Puig has punished the Giants this year, hitting .317 (20-for-63) with a .973 OPS in 16 games. Nine of Puig’s 20 hits against the Giants have gone for extra bases.

Top stats to know: Giants at Dodgers

September, 23, 2014

AP PhotosBumgarner (left) and Greinke (right) have excelled against tonight's opposition this season.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers play the middle game of a three-game set tonight (10 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).

The Giants have won nine of the 17 games played so far this season, including a 5-2 win in 13 innings Monday night. The Dodgers have already clinched a playoff spot and lead San Francisco by 3½ games in the NL West. LA’s magic number to win the division is three.

Here are some stats to know coming into tonight’s game.

Greinke looks to continue dominance
Zack Greinke takes the hill tonight for the Dodgers.

He’s been spectacular this season against the Giants, going 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts. He’s also struck out 31 batters while allowing only four walks.

Over the last three seasons, Greinke’s fastball has become a more effective strikeout pitch.

This season alone, he ranks seventh in the majors among all qualified starters with a 24.3 fastball strikeout percentage.

Bumgarner strong when getting ahead
San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner has excelled lately, going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA over his last six starts.

A big reason for his success this season (he’s 18-9 with a 2.91 ERA in 32 starts) has been his ability to get ahead of hitters frequently.

He’s thrown a first-pitch strike 66.2 percent of the time this season, the best rate of his career and fourth-best in the NL this season.

Quick Hitters
• The Giants have made the playoffs just twice in the last 10 seasons (2010, 2012), but won the World Series in both trips.

• The Dodgers lead the NL in steals, something they haven’t done for a full season since 1970. They also lead the league in walks. The last time they led in this category was 1961.

• Yasiel Puig is hitting .333 (20-for-60) against the Giants this season. Nine of his hits are for extra bases.

• The Giants are hitting a major league-best .318 with runners in scoring position since August 1.

Star-studded showdown: Trout vs. Kershaw

August, 5, 2014
ESPN Stats & InformationThe Trout-Kershaw matchup will test the strengths of both players.
Hollywood loves a good blockbuster, and Tuesday night's battle in Chavez Ravine between the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers will be no exception.

It will be the first ever regular-season meeting between Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw.

Here are a few of the top stats to know for Tuesday night's marquee matchup.

Best of the best
Trout debuted for the Angels in 2011 (the season Kershaw won his first Cy Young award), but made a name for himself in 2012.

Since then, Trout has been arguably the best hitter in baseball, while Kershaw could be considered the game's best pitcher.

Trout leads all position players in WAR since the start of 2012 and Kershaw leads all pitchers in WAR over the same stretch.

Not only are they both at the top of their games in 2014, but each has started his career in historically impressive fashion.

Trout has produced more WAR through age 22 than any position player in MLB since 1900. His 26.1 WAR from 2011 on is ahead of Ty Cobb's 25.5 and Ted Williams' 23.6 through their seasons at age 22.

Meanwhile, Kershaw has produced more WAR through his age 26 season (this season) than any pitcher to debut in the last 40 years. His 37.4 WAR since 2008 is ahead of Dwight Gooden's 36.5 and Bret Saberhagen's and Roger Clemens' third-place tie at 35.7 through their seasons at age 26.

Strength vs. strength
One thing to keep an eye on will be how Trout handles Kershaw’s pitches in the lower third of the strike zone and below.

Kershaw ranks at or near the top in baseball in effectiveness with pitches down in the zone.

It's also worth noting that Kershaw has thrown an increasingly high percentage (46.0) of his pitches down, a jump from 37.3 percent a season ago and 36.5 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, Trout has crushed pitches down in the zone, leading MLB with a .382 batting average, .763 slugging percentage and 17 home runs this season on pitches in that location.

Fastballs early, curveballs late
When thinking about how Kershaw might pitch to Trout, consider how Trout has fared against each of the types of pitches Kershaw throws.

Eighty-five percent of Kershaw's first pitches this season have been fastballs, while Trout ranks in the bottom third of the league in batting average against fastballs. Against first-pitch fastballs, Trout is hitting .250 this season, which ranks in the 13th percentile across MLB.

Trout has also struggled to hit pitches thrown up in the zone.

If Kershaw can survive deep in the count, he has thrown the curveball on 36 percent of his two-strike pitches up in the zone this season, the highest rate of any starter in MLB. Trout has seen 131 curveballs up in the zone in his career and has produced zero hits on just seven swings.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

July, 27, 2014

AP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly has his team playing .610 ball since June 9, tied for the best mark in the NL.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), first place in the National League West is on the line as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers go into the game with a half-game advantage in the division. Through June 8, Los Angeles trailed San Francisco by 9½ games. Since then, the Dodgers have gone 25-16, while the Giants are 15-26.

Still, it’s easy to wonder if the Dodgers have underachieved, given their MLB-leading payroll. Similar questions could be asked of the Giants, who rank sixth in payroll. Part of the reason is that several of their star players haven’t played up to their star billing this season.

Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez started the season on a tear. At the end of April, he was hitting .317 with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.021. But since May, he is batting .245, with just seven home runs in 282 at-bats. His OPS over the last three months is down to .685.

Matt Kemp
In 2011 and 2012, Kemp was one of the top outfielders in baseball, finishing second in MVP voting in 2011 and making the NL All-Star team both seasons. Since then, however, Kemp has struggled.

Over the last two seasons, Kemp’s wins above replacement is a minus-0.6, meaning he’s worth less than a minor league call-up in the same position.

This season, his WAR is minus-1.1, which ties him for the third-worst among NL position players, behind only Domonic Brown and Jedd Gyorko.

Andre Ethier
Ethier’s decline has been going longer than Kemp’s. Ethier batted .292 in 2011, but his batting average has declined each year since, down to .248 this season. His home run total has also declined, from 20 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 to just four so far this season.

Hanley Ramirez
Although Ramirez is producing much more than the previous trio, he is still well off his mark from 2013, when he had a 1.040 OPS. This season, it’s .840. Last year, Ramirez had 20 home runs in 336 plate appearances. At this year’s All-Star break, he had 11 homers in the same number of plate appearances.

Buster Posey
One of the Giants’ stars, Posey has failed to live up to his 2012 NL MVP season, when he batted .336 with a .957 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Posey is batting .288 with a .801 OPS.

The key to Posey’s success might be a positional change. In his MLB career, Posey has a .361 BA and .996 OPS when playing first base. Those numbers drop to a .292 BA and .822 OPS when he’s in the lineup as a catcher.

Pablo Sandoval
After a rough start, Sandoval has turned his season around.

Through May 10, Sandoval was hitting .173 and striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. Since then, his batting average is .332, and his strikeout rate is down to 11 percent.

His free-swinging style has worked for him. This season, no batter has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than Sandoval’s 43 percent; he ranked second in that statistic last season. But he is hitting .255 on pitches out of the zone, the third-best mark in the NL and well above the MLB average of .163.

Gonzalez a winner the past two nights

July, 22, 2014
The Los Angeles Dodgers need to be careful over the next couple of weeks, because the schedule favors their division rivals.

If the San Francisco Giants are going to make a move in the NL West, it may come in the next month. Over the next 30 days, only nine of their 27 games are against teams currently over .500. In that same span, the Dodgers play 22 games against teams with winning records. The Dodgers managed a road win against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday, while the Giants defeated Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Winning teams had been flummoxing Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez this season. But he’s now had two notable days in a row against contending teams, with the go-ahead RBI in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3-for-3 showing with a pair of runs scored against the Pirates.

Gonzalez entered Monday hitting a meager .222 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 135 at-bats against teams with winning records this season. It would seem to be a priority for the Dodgers to get his bat going.

Perhaps Sunday’s hit will go down as the at-bat that turns Gonzalez’s season for the better. He singled in the winning run on a 98 mph fastball from Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal with two outs in the ninth inning.

Gonzalez entered that at-bat with only one other hit (and 26 outs made) against pitches of 98 mph or faster dating back to August 15, 2010, and that hit came a little less than a month ago against Rosenthal’s Cardinals teammate, Carlos Martinez.

Monday the pitches came in a little slower and Gonzalez delivered three hits and two walks against them, including another that came with two outs and runners in scoring position (he'd been 9-for-48 in such situations entering that last at-bat on Sunday).

There’s something about seeing that Pirates uniform on the other side that Gonzalez likes. He’s 20-for-50 against them over the past three seasons and his .341 career batting average against Pittsburgh is his best versus any National League team.

What’s the biggest key for Gonzalez the rest of the way? Something he didn’t have to deal with Monday: hitting against left-handed pitching.

Gonzalez’s numbers against right-handers this season aren’t that different from when he was in his prime -- a .286 batting average and .508 slugging percentage with 13 home runs.

But against lefties, he’s hitting .178 (18-for-101) with a .478 OPS. That’s a far cry from two seasons ago when he hit .322 and slugged .491 against left-handed pitching.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Cardinals

July, 19, 2014
Clayton Kershaw might not have a scoreless streak going any more, but he figures to be tough to beat when the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball.

Here are some of the stories our broadcast crew will be focusing on tonight.

The greatness of Kershaw
Since the start of June, Kershaw is 8–0 with 80 strikeouts and an 0.74 ERA in eight starts. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Kershaw is the only pitcher in major league history to win eight consecutive starts within a single season with at least 80 strikeouts and an ERA under 1.00 over that span.

Kershaw pitched against the Cardinals on June 29 and struck out 13 in seven scoreless innings. He had a particularly wicked slider that night and whiffed eight hitters with it.

That pitch ranks among the best in the sport and nets misses on 54 percent of swings. Opponents have made 90 outs while getting 13 hits and two walks against that pitch this season.

Over the four-start stretch from June 18 to July 4, Kershaw got 38 outs with the pitch and yielded only one hit and one walk with it.

It was a slider on which Kershaw’s scoreless streak ended, however, with Chase Headley hitting a home run against a rare hanger in his latest start.

Carlos Martinez Stat to Watch
St. Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez has the highest average fastball velocity of any pitcher to throw at least 50 innings this season (96.8 mph). He’s a smidge ahead of Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura (96.7). An optimal maneuver for the Dodgers would be to start Carl Crawford somewhere in their outfield. Crawford is 11-for-18 with a double and a home run against pitches of 95 mph or faster this season.

Dee Gordon has also fared well against those pitches. He’s 10-for-31 with eight walks in at-bats ending with pitches that speed. Seven of the 10 hits have come from either hitting the ball up the middle or hitting it to the left side.

Some notable Dodgers have been beaten by the heat a bit this season. Matt Kemp (.182), Yasiel Puig (.167) and Adrian Gonzalez (.154) all have hit sub-.200 against pitches of that speed in 2014.

The Cardinals secret weapon
Pat Neshek showed that which made him an All-Star in Saturday’s win, as he struck out Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez to preserve a two-run lead with the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning.

Neshek has arguably been tougher to hit than Kershaw this season (take a look at Neshek's heat map below). He's faced 145 batters and held them to a .132/.179/.162 slash line, with only two extra-base hits. Lefties and righties have nearly identical numbers against him, with lefties hitting .130 and righties hitting .133.

Neshek lost the All-Star Game, but that appears to have been a minor blip. Opponents have only one hit in 30 at-bats against him in his past 16 appearances.

Why aren't Dodgers great? Look to the stars

July, 19, 2014
With the past season’s success, their $230 million payroll and a cadre of easily recognizable players, the Dodgers were considered the heavy frontrunners for the National League West and among the favorites for the World Series.

Entering Saturday’s action, however, the team is 54-44 –- good, not great -– and a percentage point behind the Giants in the NL West. What's more, the Dodgers are only 6-7 in July.

The reasons the Dodgers aren’t better is actually quite simple: The players perceived to be –- and paid to be –- stars are, in fact, playing nothing like stars.

If you use Wins Above Replacement, the lack of production from Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Adrián González becomes apparent. Those three are being paid a combined $58 million this season yet have combined to produce below replacement level, at -0.7 WAR.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think of them not by their star names, but by comparisons to players at the same position producing at the same level. In other words, Kemp, Ethier and González have been as good as the decidedly less famous Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Mark Reynolds.

If you replaced Kemp, Ethier and González with Brown, Revere and Reynolds, the team wouldn’t have been any worse off this season, and far fewer people would be asking the question: Why aren’t the Dodgers better?

It would be obvious; their players aren’t that good. Using OPS, we can see that all three of those players (and to a lesser extent, Hanley Ramirez) are playing well off their previously established levels of performance. All three players have posted an OPS at least 100 points below their combined OPS from the previous three seasons.

It doesn’t get any more optimistic when you dig into each player individually. All three are not only playing below expectations this season, but are also in the midst of a prolonged decline:

Adrian Gonzalez
González is hitting .224 since the beginning of May and has two fewer home runs in the past two and a half months (6) than he did in April (8).

He is hitting just .280 with a .781 OPS since being acquired by the Dodgers in late August 2012, compared to .321/.895 while in a Red Sox uniform.

Matt Kemp
Only two position players in the NL have been worse by WAR than Kemp this season, as he’s cost the Dodgers more than a win with his play (-1.3). Since the start of the past season, he’s been worth below replacement level (-0.8). After hitting .315 with a .954 OPS during his peak in 2011-12, Kemp has hit just .268 with a .740 OPS since the start of the past season.

Kemp was worth 8.2 WAR in 2011 and signed a $160M contract following that season. He’s been worth 1.6 WAR in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (so far) combined.

Andre Ethier
Ethier hit .284 in 2012 and .272 in 2013 and is hitting .250 so far this season. His slugging percentage was .460 in 2012 and .423 in 2013 and is .375 this season. Both his current .250 batting average and .375 slugging percentage would be the worst marks of his career.

He hit 20 home runs in 2012 and 12 the past season but has four this season, entering Saturday.

Kershaw's numbers will wow you

July, 10, 2014
Right-handed hitters have no edge when facing Clayton Kershaw of late.
Clayton Kershaw carries a 36-inning scoreless streak into his start Thursday against the Padres. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that it’s the longest single-season streak by any starter since Brandon Webb in 2007 (42 straight) and the third-longest by a Dodgers pitcher since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

Here are 10 "Wow!" facts on Kershaw's streak.

• Kershaw is holding opponents to a .318 OPS (.130/.164/.154) during the streak. For reference, major-league pitchers have a .306 OPS at the plate this season, so essentially Kershaw has turned every hitter into a pitcher.

• Kershaw has faced 17 batters with runners in scoring position and none of them have hit the ball out of the infield.

• Only three of the 129 batters Kershaw has faced have reached third base. Two of those three got on base as a result of an error. Kershaw would strike out two of the three batters he faced with a runner on third.

• Kershaw has retired the leadoff batter in 31 of 36 innings (86 percent). The MLB average is 69 percent.

• Eighteen of the 36 innings have been perfect (i.e. hitters retired 1-2-3). The MLB average is 37 percent.

• Only 30 of the 129 batters Kershaw has faced has put the ball in the air during the streak (23 percent). The MLB average is 38 percent.

• The Dodgers have had a lead for 31 of Kershaw’s 36 scoreless innings. They’ve scored in the first inning in three of Kershaw’s four starts since the streak began.

• Opponents are 5-for-64 (.078) with 38 strikeouts in at-bats ending with a Kershaw breaking ball. They’ve put 26 balls in play against those pitches and only two have been classified as hard-hit, according to video tracking.

• Only 13 of the 129 batters Kershaw has faced has seen a 2-0 or 3-1 count (10 percent). Only three of those 13 batters would reach base (.231). The average OBP in those situations is .512.

• Opponents are 5-for-67 (.075) against Kershaw with two strikes. He’s struck out 63 percent of the batters he’s taken to a two-strike count during the streak (MLB average is 40 percent).

Kershaw at the top of his game

July, 4, 2014

ESPN Stats & InformationClayton Kershaw (top right) is in a league of his own this season.

Clayton Kershaw carries a career-best 28-inning scoreless streak into his start Friday against the Rockies, the longest single-season streak by a Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser’s MLB-record 59-straight scoreless innings in 1988.

While Kershaw has been arguably baseball’s best pitcher for years, he’s taken his game to another level so far this season, as Buster Olney noted in his column Thursday.

Kershaw entered this season as one of only three pitchers in National League history to win at least three consecutive ERA titles (Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux).

While it’s hard to fathom we hadn’t seen Kershaw’s best yet, Kershaw has substantially improved nearly every aspect of his game so far this season. Consider:

• He has struck out 34.7 percent of the batters he's faced this season (1st in MLB), compared to a career high is 27.2 percent in 2011.

• Kershaw has walked only 3.6 percent of the batters he's faced (6th in MLB), well below his career best is 5.7 percent in 2013.

• He is throwing 70.8 percent first-pitch strikes (2nd in MLB), nearly six percentage points above his career high of 64.9 percent in 2013.

• 59.8 percent of the balls in play against Kershaw have been ground balls (2nd in MLB); his career high is 48 percent in 2008.

• He has induced whiffs on 30.3 percent of the swings against him (2nd in MLB), versus a career high of 25.8 in 2012 and 2013.

• And Kershaw has induced hitters to chase on 37.1 percent of his pitches outside the strike zone (2nd in MLB), six percentage points above his career high 31.1 percent in 2013.

Perhaps most notable among Kershaw’s development is the increase in ground balls. From 2008-13, Kershaw ranked 86th among 145 qualified starters in ground-ball rate (43.9 percent).

Among pitchers with 70 innings this season, he ranks second. His current combination of high strikeouts, low walks and lots of ground balls is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years.

Since batted-ball data became available in 2002, there have been 1,138 individual seasons by qualified pitchers. He’s currently just eight innings short of qualifying due to his early-season injury, but Kershaw’s strikeout rate (34.7 percent) would rank first, his walk rate (3.6 percent) tied for 28th and his ground-ball rate (59.8 percent) 28th among those 1,138 pitcher seasons.

The highest strikeout rate by a pitcher with a ground-ball rate as high as Kershaw is 22.9 percent (Brandon Webb in 2003). See the scatter chart at the top of the article to see how unusual his season has been.

While some regression is likely, if Kershaw finishes near these totals we’ll be witnessing a level of performance unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Kershaw, Hernandez overpowering in June

June, 29, 2014
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw just completed one of the most impressive calendar months in major league history. Kershaw allowed zero runs and struck out 13 in seven innings as the Dodgers blanked the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.

Kershaw went 6-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts in June. He’s the only pitcher in major league history to be unbeaten with that many wins, that many strikeouts and an ERA that low in a single calendar month.

Only three other pitchers have gone 6-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA and 50 or more strikeouts in a month: Hideo Nomo in June 1995, Randy Johnson in April 2000 and Justin Verlander in June 2011.

Kershaw's 61 strikeouts in June were the most by any Dodgers pitcher in any month since Sandy Koufax had 62 in June 1966.

Kershaw’s month included a no-hitter and ended with a streak of 28 scoreless innings. He now has 107 strikeouts and only 11 walks this season. His ERA is 1.11 with seven runs allowed in eight starts since getting pounded for seven runs by the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 17.

How he dominated
Kershaw owned the month largely because of a super sharp slider. He had 34 strikeouts with his slider and 14 more with his curveball. His 48 breaking ball strikeouts were 18 more than the next pitcher, Yu Darvish.

When he wasn’t striking hitters out, he was getting them to hit the ball on the ground. Kershaw’s 65 percent ground ball rate was the highest in the majors this month.

He wasn’t the only one who owned Sunday … and June
Felix Hernandez was basically the AL version of Kershaw, both on Sunday and in June. Hernandez threw eight scoreless one-hit innings in a win over the Cleveland Indians and improved to 3-1 with a 1.22 ERA for the month, with 54 strikeouts and only six walks. The Hernandez changeup was vintage in June and netted 57 outs while yielding only three hits and two walks.

Hernandez bested Kershaw, barely, in one statistical category in June: Hernandez enters the final day of the month with the lowest opponents’ OPS in the majors, .410, which is nine points better than Kershaw's.

Looking ahead
Both Kershaw and Hernandez will get strong consideration to start the 2014 All-Star Game. Neither has started one previously.

Kershaw is trying to become the first Dodgers pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Brad Penny in 2006. Hernandez would be the first Seattle Mariners pitcher since Johnson in 1997.

Kershaw’s competition includes Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright, both of whom have ERAs hovering around 2.00. Wainwright also had a great June and finished with a 1.16 ERA for the month.

Hernandez might also have moved a notch ahead of New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka for All-Star starting consideration. Both have 2.10 ERAs this season. Hernandez is a hair better in WHIP, with 0.92 to Tanaka’s 0.95.

Top 10 facts on Kershaw's no-hitter

June, 19, 2014

AP Photo/Chris CarlsonClayton Kershaw no-hit the Rockies and logged a career-high 15 strikeouts on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw threw the 284th no-hitter in Major League Baseball history on Wednesday. Stats & Info gives you the top 10 facts on his remarkable effort.

1. Kershaw recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts, 14 of which came on breaking balls. The 14 strikeouts on breaking balls are the most in a single start since pitch types were begun to be tracked, in 2009.

2. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Kershaw’s 15 strikeouts are tied for the third-most strikeouts in a no-hitter in MLB history. The only pitcher in MLB history with more strikeouts in a no-hitter is Nolan Ryan, who did it twice (17 in 1973 with the Angels and 16 in 1991 with the Rangers). Kershaw tied Warren Spahn for most strikeouts in a no-hitter by a left-handed pitcher. Spahn did it in 1960.

3. Kershaw is the third reigning Cy Young Award winner to throw a no-hitter, and the second to do so in a Dodgers uniform. Sandy Koufax did it for the Dodgers in 1964 and Bob Gibson did so for the Cardinals in 1971.

4. Kershaw’s teammate Josh Beckett threw a no-hitter on May 25. The last time a team threw the first two no-hitters of a season was when Cubs pitchers Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas did it in 1972. Before Kershaw and Beckett, the last Dodgers to throw no-hitters in the same season were Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie in 1956.

5. Kershaw's no-hitter came 24 days after Beckett’s no-hitter. Per Elias research, that is the shortest span between no hitters by a team since Johnny Vander Meer of the Reds did it in consecutive starts in 1938, on June 11 and June 15.

6. The Dodgers now have 22 no-hitters in their history, most of any MLB team. No other team has more than 18.

7. The most recent Dodgers left-handed pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Fernando Valenzuela in 1990. Kershaw is the fifth Dodgers lefty to toss a no-hitter.

8. As for the Colorado Rockies, they were no-hit for the third time in their franchise's history. The most recent was by a Dodger (Hideo Nomo in 1998) and the other was by a lefty (Al Leiter for the Marlins in 1996).

9. Kershaw’s only blemish came from a Hanley Ramirez error in the seventh inning. Elias tells us that the last pitcher to throw a non-perfect no-hitter without any walks was Jonathan Sanchez in 2009. An eighth-inning error did in Sanchez during his perfect-game bid.

10. A legitimate case could be made for Kershaw’s pitching performance on Wednesday as the best individual pitching performance all-time. Kershaw’s Game Score was 102. Over the past 100 years, that’s the second-highest Game Score in a nine-inning game. Only Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game in 1998 was higher (105), but Wood allowed a hit in that game.

Furthermore, Elias research confirms that Kershaw is the first player ever in the history of MLB with 15 strikeouts without allowing either a hit or walk.

Dodgers doing fine when Ryu pitches

June, 7, 2014
There aren’t a lot of things going right for the Los Angeles Dodgers these days, but at least they can count on Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ryu won his fourth straight decision and continued to be dominant on the road in beating the Colorado Rockies on Friday.

Ryu is now 7-2 with a 3.08 ERA overall and 5-0, with four earned runs allowed in 38 innings on the road this season. He’s the first Dodgers pitcher to win his first five road decisions in a season since Chad Billingsley in 2007. The last Dodgers pitcher with a longer streak was Kaz Ishii, who started 6-0 on the road to begin his career in 2002.

The road success actually dates back to the end of last season. Over his last 11 road starts, he has a 1.49 ERA.

This game was a little different for Ryu in that he did a couple of things he hasn’t done often this season. One was allowing a home run. He’d only yielded two in 10 starts this season. The other was that he only had two strikeouts, to go with his two walks. Entering Friday, Ryu had a strikeout-to-walk rate of better than 4 to 1.

Key to Friday’s win: The changeup
The best thing for Ryu on Friday was that he had a good changeup going. Right-handed hitters were 10 for 20 against that pitch in his last four starts, but he threw 12 of 15 for strikes against the Rockies, inducing five outs while yielding only two base hits.

Getting that pitch back to form could be a key moving forward for Ryu. Opponents hit only .175 against it last season.

A little help
Ryu was helped by a three-hit, two-triple, three-RBI game from Dee Gordon, who is now 5 for 8 in his last two games (one of the runners he drove in on Friday was Ryu). Gordon is the first Dodgers player to hit that combination of numbers in a game since another second baseman, Steve Sax, in 1982.

Looking ahead
Ryu’s next start will be on the road against the Cincinnati Reds. He’s had success in two starts against them, allowing four earned runs in 14 1/3 innings, with 16 strikeouts and one walk.

Greinke dominant, but different from 2009

June, 1, 2014

Zack Greinke has dominated opposing hitters over a long stretch.
Since the start of last season, few pitchers can match Zack Greinke in terms of production. Greinke is a stunning 17-3 with a 1.80 ERA over a stretch of 27 starts dating back to last season. Los Angeles is 30-9 in his 39 total starts since 2013.

Greinke, who will start for the Dodgers tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN), wins largely on the strength of getting hitters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. His 36 percent chase rate this season ranks second in baseball to Masahiro Tanaka’s 39 percent.

What’s different about Greinke now compared to when he was younger? Let’s compare his 2009 Cy Young-winning campaign with what he has done since joining the Dodgers at the start of last season.


Less velocity. Greinke’s fastball averaged 93.6 mph in 2009, with a maximum of 98.7. Since the start of last season, his average fastball velocity is 91.5, with a maximum of 95.8.

Throwing more strikes. Since the start of last season, 53 percent of Greinke’s fastballs have been in the strike zone, and he has recorded strikes with it at a 66 percent clip. In 2009, the fastball was in the strike zone 49 percent of the time, and he got strikes with it 63 percent of the time.

More swings and misses, fewer balls in play. In 2009, Greinke had a swing-and-miss rate of 13 percent with his fastball. That mark is 20 percent since 2013. Related, 44 percent of the swings at his fastball resulted in balls in play in 2009, and that mark is much lower now -- 35 percent.

Coming inside vs. lefties. Since the start of last season, 38 percent of Greinke’s fastballs to left-handed batters have been on the inner half. That’s a significant increase over how often he came in back in 2009, at 27 percent.

The end result of all this is that he gets misses on 21 percent of swings against his fastball, up from 13 percent in 2009.


Throwing it more. In 2009, 6 percent of Greinke’s pitches were changeups. Since the start of last season, 13 percent are changeups (16 percent if you limit it to just this season).

Specific to left-handed batters, he threw a changeup 10 percent of the time in 2009, and he is throwing it 22 percent of the time since the start of last season. With two strikes, he is throwing a changeup 12 percent of the time now, compared to just 2 percent of the time in 2009.

A much more effective pitch. In 2009, Greinke allowed a .386 opponents’ batting average off his changeup (17 hits in 44 at-bats ending in a changeup). Since the start of last season, batters are hitting a much more modest .228 off the pitch (33 hits in 145 at-bats ending in changeup).

Swinging and missing more. In 2009, hitters missed on 23 percent of their swings against Greinke’s changeup. Since the start of last season, his swing-and-miss rate is 32 percent. His chase rate is up too -- 43 percent since the start of last season, up from 24 percent in 2009.

Beckett adds to Dodgers' no-no history

May, 25, 2014
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered Sunday with 20 no-hitters, the most for any team in major league history.

But it had been awhile since they threw one and since the team they faced Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies, had been no-hit.

Josh Beckett added another to the Dodgers’ ledger, as he no-hit the Phillies on Sunday.

The Dodgers not only have the most no-hitters all time, but the Phillies also have been no-hit the most: 19 times.

The history
Beckett became the first Dodgers pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Hideo Nomo no-hit the Colorado Rockies in 1996.

Beckett is the first pitcher to no-hit the Phillies since Bob Forsch threw one for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1978.

The Phillies had gone the second-longest without being no-hit. The team with the current longest streak of not being no-hit is the Cubs, who were last no-hit by Sandy Koufax in 1965 (a perfect game).

The Dodgers have thrown five no-hitters against the Phillies (including Koufax in 1964). The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only one franchise has thrown more no-hitters against an opponent than that: The Dodgers hold that distinction with six no-hitters against the Giants.

It was the second no-hitter to be thrown in Citizens Bank Park, joining Roy Halladay, who threw one against the Reds in the 2010 National League Division Series.

How Beckett won
Beckett threw a career-high 128 pitches. His previous longest no-hit bid was 6 2/3 innings in 2009 against the Detroit Tigers. Beckett had previously thrown a one-hitter in 2011 against the Tampa Bay Rays, the last time he threw a shutout.

He won with a combination of an effective fastball and good secondary stuff. He threw 68 fastballs and cutters, which accounted for 18 outs. Beckett got nine outs on the 60 off-speed pitches he threw (40 curveballs and 20 changeups).

Beckett succeeded at keeping the ball down, throwing 52 percent of his pitches in the lower third of the strike zone or below, his highest rate throwing to that location in any start in the last three seasons.

He averaged 91.6 mph with his fastball for the game but threw a little harder as the game went on. He averaged 92 mph with the fastball in the last three innings.

Beckett succeeded against a lefty-heavy lineup. Phillies lefties were 0-for-20 against him, one start after Mets lefties went 5-for-13 with two home runs against him.

Did you know?
The last five no-hitters have been thrown by National League teams.

The last time the NL threw the five most recent no-hitters in the major leagues was from 1978 to 1981 (also five straight). The pitchers were Bob Forsch (1978), Tom Seaver (1978), Ken Forsch (1979), Jerry Reuss (1980) and Charlie Lea (1981).

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
Josh Beckett has a no-hitter with the Dodgers and World Series wins with the Marlins and Red Sox.

The only other pitcher in major league history to win World Series games with multiple franchises and throw a no-hitter with another franchise is Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.