Our 77th and final player review of the Dodgers' 2015 season involves the face of the franchise, ace Clayton Kershaw.
What went right
Kershaw has reached a level of expected dominance that is so high, he just completed a season with a 2.13 ERA and that was his worst such mark in three years. It was the only time in the last five years that Kershaw didn't lead the majors in ERA.
The ace left-hander did lead the majors in complete games (four), shutouts (three), innings (232⅔), FIP (1.99) and strikeouts (301), becoming the first major leaguer in 13 years to fan 300 in a single year. He also led the National League in starts with 33.
After a superficially slow start, Kershaw had a typically strong finish to his season. He allowed 18 earned runs over his final 18 starts, putting up a 1.22 ERA during that span. Or we could expand that even back to May 26, Kershaw allowed only 27 earned runs in his final 24 starts, with a 1.39 ERA in that time.
Kershaw had four straight starts allowing zero runs from July 8 to Aug. 1, part of a 37-inning scoreless streak that was the second-longest of his career, behind a 41-inning streak in 2014. Kershaw, who had 49 strikeouts and one walk during his 2015 streak, has two of the five longest scoreless streaks in LA Dodgers history.
Kershaw from July 3 to Aug. 1 struck out 46 batters in between walks. He became the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to have three consecutive starts with 10 strikeouts, no walks and no runs allowed, per Elias.
He had 13 different starts with at least 10 strikeouts, most in the majors and most in his career. The only Dodgers pitcher with more such games in a season was Sandy Koufax, who did so 21 times in 1965 and 15 times in 1966.
Kershaw was named National League Pitcher of the Month in July, the fifth monthly honor of his career.
In Game 4 of the NLDS against the Mets, on short rest for a third consecutive season, Kershaw was brilliant, allowing one run on three hits in seven innings, striking out eight to keep the Dodgers alive and snap a personal five-start postseason losing streak.
Kershaw in his career on three days rest in the postseason — one start each in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — Kershaw has a 1.89 ERA with 23 strikeouts and four walks in 19 innings.
Though he did not capture a fourth career Cy Young Award in 2015, Kershaw did finish third in voting for the award in the National League. Starting in 2011, Kershaw's finish in the NL Cy Young vote was first, second, first, first and third, the only pitcher in baseball history to finish in the top three for five consecutive seasons.
What went wrong
Kershaw was 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA after nine starts, the first time he sported a seasonal ERA above 3.52 after at least five starts since May 4, 2010, a start that saw Kershaw allow seven runs to Milwaukee while recording just five outs to bring 22-year-old Kershaw's six-start ERA to 4.99, prompting one of the funniest tweets ever, in hindsight.
Though Kershaw also had 73 strikeouts against only 16 walks in 58⅓ innings and a .347 batting average on balls in play during his relatively rough 2015 start, which suggested a turnaround would come soon. And it did.
Kershaw pitched perfectly fine in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Mets, striking out 11, but faded in the seventh inning, walking three batters and leaving with the bases loaded. It was the first time Kershaw walked three in one inning since April 2013, a span of 95 starts. He left trailing 1-0, but a single by David Wright against relief pitcher Pedro Baez helped New York break the game open in a 3-1 victory.
Stats: 2.13 16-7, ERA, 1.99 FIP in 33 starts, 301 K in 232⅔ IP, 7.5 rWAR, 8.6 fWAR
Salary: $30.5 million, including a $500,000 bonus for finishing third in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
Game of the year
On Sept. 29 in San Francisco, with the Dodgers needing one win to clinch the National League West, Kershaw struck out 13 Giants in his one-hit shutout win, allowing one walk and retiring his final 19 batters faced to give the Dodgers a third consecutive division title.
Kershaw has five more years and $163 million guaranteed remaining on his contract, though he can opt out after the 2018 season (after receiving $98 million over the next three years).