We’ve reached the end of our 2020 Dodgers player reviews, 44 in all. The last player on the list is the one who has meant more to the franchise than anyone this century. Clayton Kershaw, the future Hall of Famer, got the championship monkey off his back in 2020, finally getting to bask in October glory.
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been with, one of the most fierce competitors when he steps on that mound,” said Mookie Betts. “He’s there to compete, no matter what he has that day. He’s been great for his whole career, obviously for this year, and I’m just happy to be on the same side as him.”
What Kershaw had in 2020 was an improved fastball, increasing his average four-seamer by 1.3 mph, after declining in velocity for the previous four seasons. That helped his entire repertoire, and Kershaw posted a 2.16 ERA in 10 starts, his lowest ERA in four seasons.
On Sept. 3, Kershaw reached a milestone, striking out his 2,500th career batter. He ended the season with 2,526 strikeouts, good for 36th place all-time. He could climb that list considerably with a full season next year, and he’s 170 strikeouts away from Don Sutton’s Dodgers franchise record.
With 2,341 hits plus walks in 2,333 innings, Kershaw lowered his career WHIP to 1.0034290613, fourth all-time and second only to reliever Mariano Rivera in the live ball era.
Kershaw still had his hiccups, scratched from his Opening Day start with back stiffness, and having his NLCS start pushed back two days with back spasms. But generally, Kershaw was healthy this season, and it came through in October as well.
Kershaw in five postseason starts was 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA, with 37 strikeouts against only five walks in his 30⅔ innings. He won both World Series of his starts, Kershaw’s first postseason series of his career with two victories. It was a narrative-busting October for Kershaw, who didn’t seem too concerned with that kind of talk in the aftermath of winning the World Series.
“We won the World Series. I don’t care about legacy. I don’t care about what happened last year. I don’t care about what people think. I don’t care at all, man,” Kershaw said. “The 2020 Dodgers won the World Series. Who cares about all that other stuff? To be a part of that team, all that other stuff is just pointless.”
Stats: 2.16 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 62 K, 58⅓ IP, 1.7 bWAR
Salary: $31 million (salary plus signing bonus combined)
Game of the year
Kershaw closed out the Brewers with a dominant performance in Game 2 of the wild card round at Dodger Stadium, striking out 13 — the third-most by a Dodger in a postseason game — in eight scoreless innings, allowing only three singles and a walk.
Kershaw is under contract for one more year, and will be a free agent after 2021. He will earn $23.33 million in salary next year, plus the final $7.67 million of his signing bonus due in June. Kershaw can earn $1 million for each of 24, 26, 28, and 30 starts, plus $1.5 million for winning the Cy Young Award, and $500,000 for finishing second or third.