It's will he have any run support?
I think most of you know he didn't always have the best run support last year. If someone has already covered this I'm sorry. Feel free to stop reading. I know there is a sample size issue here but since that's all we have it will have to do.
Kershaw has an ERA of 1.76 in 13 career wins. With an ERA of 8.56 in 13 career losses. Most of those were terrible games which is expected from a 20-21 year old. Here comes the bad part he's posted an ERA of 2.28 in 27 no decisions, 25 were starts. Now I know he has trouble going deep into games, but his walk rate 3.9/9 in wins 3.8/9 in no decisions (it's 7.6/9 in his losses by the way) is almost identical. I couldn't find any data on pitch count, but his but he pitched roughly 6.2 innings per win and 5.6 per no decision. I'm guessing that might have more to do with Torre getting jumpy in a close game than his actually pitch count or performance. In his 51 starts he has left the game with less than 2 runs of support 18 times. Not all of those were close games, but it's over a third of his starts.
In contrast, Little Tim Lincecum has and ERA of 1.51 in 40 career wins (39 starts). In 33 career no decisions he has posted an ERA of 3.31. In 38 more career starts. Lincecum has just 6 more no decisions. Now I know what your thinking. Lincecum goes deeper into games. True. he's posted roughly 7.4 innings per win. More than a full inning more than Kershaw. His 6.1 innings per no decision is just half an inning more than Kershaw's however. When Lincecum is on he wins. When he is just good or the competition is a little better he might not get that W.
My point is there is an ERA difference of 1.8 runs between Lincecum's Wins and his no decisions. Kershaw's is .52. Does he have to keep it under two runs to win? This might be a sample size issue, but his 5.4 BB/9 with less than 2 runs is higher than his 4.2 BB/9 with 3 or more runs. Or it could be a kid trying to be too fine with little run support. In any case he is going to have to improve is command and efficiency (hopefully the third pitch will help here). If he is going to stay in longer and give himself and his team a better chance to get a win. I think Joe might let him stay out there another inning or two if he has a two or three run lead instead of a tie or one or two run deficit though. Regardless of how well he's pitching. A huge streangth of this team is it's bullpen I'd like to keep it that way. Kershaw throwing an extra 30-40 innings this year would go a long way to help. I would also like to see him become more than a .500 pitcher.
Another thing just for fun. Roy Halladay's No decision ERA is 4.11 in 88 games 86 starts. Cliff Lee? 4.20 52 games 48 starts. I know both of their careers are longer. I picked Lincecum because his service time isn't a ton longer than Kershaw's, and the Giants offense makes my point a little better.
Some more fun facts about Kershaw:
He has a .500 record on the road, and at home despite having a road ERA of 4.37 and a home ERA of 2.48.
He has not given up a grand slam, or even a home run after the 4th inning.
He has only one start against the Giants. (I'm sure they would like to keep it that way) 18 against the rest of the west.
His IF/FB rate was 65% in 2009. This might explain why even though his HR/FB rate was a league average 8% he only gave up 7 home runs. I don't think that percentage is sustainable. The league average is 13%. I do think though, that his career average will be well higher than that of the league.