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2018 Dodgers Review: Clayton Kershaw

World Series - Boston Red Sox v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’ve finally reached the final player review from last season, which means the Dodgers can finally make their move this offseason, right?

It was another year of battling injuries for the Dodgers longtime ace. But when he was on the mound, Clayton Kershaw was still able to be effective.

What went right

If you compare the 2018 version of Kershaw to the standard he has set over the past decade in baseball, it was underwhelming from a standpoint of dominance. But that doesn't mean he wasn’t great at preventing the other team from scoring runs.

In 26 starts, the lefty finished with a 2.73 ERA. That would’ve been good for fourth in the National League had Kershaw qualified, falling five outs shy at 161 13 innings.

The 30-year-old was charged with two or less runs in 20 of 26 games and struck out more than five hitters per walk (5.34) for the fifth straight season.

With 155 strikeouts — his lowest total since his first year in 2008 — Kershaw moved from 68 to 57 on the all-time list. He is 8th among active players and is only 121 away from a tie with Sandy Koufax for third in franchise history, 211 away from Don Drysdale for second.

After coming back from his second stint on the DL, the lefty went 7-1 with a 2.20 ERA from June 28 to September 18. Impressive for someone who lost two to three mph of his fastball this year.

What went wrong

As the Dodgers were heading toward May, they were still struggling as a team. Though it wouldn’t land him on the DL until May 6, Kershaw was dealing with biceps tendinitis. For just the third time in his career and the first since 2010, he walked six batters on April 25.

After starting May 1, Kershaw wouldn't start again until May 31. Though he pitched well in his return, giving up just one run in five innings, it would be his last start until June 23 due to a second trip to the DL for lower back discomfort.

It was the first season since 2010 that the lefty wasn’t chosen for the All-Star Game and didn’t receive votes for Cy Young.

Sure, NLCS Game 2 was great when he shutout the Braves for eight innings and he had seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers. But he also gave up 14 runs (13 earned) in 14 innings over his other three starts in the 2018 postseason — including two in the World Series.


One of the things we’ve been tracking for quite some time here at TBLA, is the fact that Kershaw had lowered his career ERA each of the last nine seasons. That came to an end after 2018 as the number went from 2.36 entering the season, to 2.39 coming out.

2018 particulars

Age: 30

Stats: 26 starts, 9-5, 2.73 ERA 161.1 IP, 139 H, 55 runs (49 earned) 17 HR, 155/29 SO/BB, 142 ERA+, 3.19 FIP, 1.041 WHIP, 8.6 K/9

Salary: $33,000,000

Game of the year

Going by importance, Kershaw had a couple important starts that were successful in the postseason. The lefty tossed eight scoreless innings in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves, leading the Dodgers to a 3-0 win while allowing just two hits and no walks.

After the decision was made to have Kershaw go in Game 2 instead of Game 1 as he always had, the left was unable to hold back a smile after the game.

“Yeah, maybe. Maybe a tick, for sure,” he said, grinning from ear to ear when asked if he felt any extra satisfaction with the performance after the talk around the rotation choice.

But even bigger than that, Kershaw came up big with seven solid innings in Game 5 to send the NLCS back to Milwaukee with a 3-2 Dodgers advantage. He struck out nine while allowing just one run.

During the regular season, Kershaw struck out 12 in a 7-2 Dodger win over Arizona back on April. The DBacks managed only two hits and were held to one run over seven innings. It was the only time he struck out double digits all year.

Roster status

Kershaw has 10 years and 105 days of major league service time and was recently extended on a contract for three years and $93 million. Incentives in the deal can send it over $100 million.