Clayton Kershaw

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Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw (8664959714).jpg
Kershaw in 2013
Los Angeles Dodgers – No. 22
Starting pitcher
Born: (1988-03-19) March 19, 1988 (age 26)
Dallas, Texas
Bats: Left Throws: Left
MLB debut
May 25, 2008 for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Career statistics
(through July 4, 2014)
Win–loss record 87–48
Earned run average 2.55
Strikeouts 1,321
WHIP 1.077
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Clayton Edward Kershaw (born March 19, 1988) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB). A left-handed starting pitcher, Kershaw has played in the major leagues since 2008 and his career earned run average is the lowest among starters in the live-ball era with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched.[1]

Kershaw was drafted seventh overall in the 2006 MLB Draft. He worked his way through the Dodgers' farm system in just one full season and reached the majors at 20 years old. When he debuted in 2008, he was the youngest player in MLB, a title he held for one full year. In 2011, he won the pitching Triple Crown and the National League Cy Young Award, becoming the youngest pitcher to accomplish either of these feats since Dwight Gooden in 1985. Being a left-handed strikeout pitcher and playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kershaw has often been compared to Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.[2][3][4] Kershaw pitched a no-hitter on June 18, 2014, becoming the 22nd Dodger to do so.

Off the field, Kershaw is an active participant in volunteer work. He and his wife, Ellen, launched "Kershaw’s Challenge" and wrote the book Arise to help to raise money to build an orphanage in Zambia. He has been honored with the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian work.

Early life[edit]

Kershaw was born in Dallas, Texas. His parents divorced when he was 10 and he was raised by his mother.[5] He played in youth sports leagues as a child,[6] including Little League Baseball.[7]

Kershaw attended nearby Highland Park High School, where he played baseball and was also the center on the football team.[8] After a growth spurt and further development of his pitches he established himself as an elite high school prospect in 2006[8] when he posted a 13–0 record with an earned run average (ERA) of 0.77, and recorded 139 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched. In a playoff game against Justin Northwest High School, Kershaw pitched an all-strikeout perfect game. He struck out all 15 batters he faced in the game, which was shortened because of the mercy rule.[9] He also pitched for USA Baseball's Junior National Team in the Pan Am Championship.[8] Kershaw was selected by USA Today as "High School Baseball Player of the Year", and was also the Gatorade National Player of the Year for baseball.[10]

Entering the 2006 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, Kershaw was considered the top high-school pitcher available.[11][12] The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Kershaw with the seventh overall pick in the draft.[13] He had committed to Texas A&M University[8] but turned down their scholarship offer to sign with the Dodgers,[14] with a bonus estimated at $2.3 million. The bonus was the largest to any Dodgers draft pick at the time, which was eventually topped by Zach Lee in the 2010 Draft.[15]

Minor league career[edit]

Kershaw began his career with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Dodgers. He pitched in 37 innings in which he struck out 54 batters (walking only 5), while compiling a record of 2–0 with a 1.95 ERA.[16] He featured a fastball that topped out at 96 miles per hour (154 km/h)[17] and he was rated as the top prospect in the GCL,[18] and the Dodgers' second best prospect by Baseball America behind third baseman Andy LaRoche.[19]

Kershaw was promoted to the Great Lakes Loons in 2007, where he recorded a record of 7–5 with a 2.77 earned run average.[20] He was selected to play on the East Team in the Midwest League All-Star Game[21] and on the USA team in the All-Star Futures Game.[22] On August 6, he was promoted to the Double-A Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League,[23] where he produced a 1–2 record and 3.65 ERA in five starts[24] and was selected as the top prospect in the Dodgers organization heading into the 2008 season.[25]

During spring training in a game against the Boston Red Sox, Kershaw gained much attention for throwing a curveball to Sean Casey that started behind Casey but at the end looped into the strike zone and struck him out looking.[26] Kershaw was 0–3 and had a 2.28 ERA with 47 strikeouts through 4313 innings pitched in his first stint of the year with the Suns.[27] He was then called up to the majors on May 28, 2008, but optioned back to Jacksonville on July 2.[28]

Kershaw pitched 18 innings during his second trip to Jacksonville (two starts and one seven inning relief appearance), winning two games. During this stretch, he allowed only two runs earned runs, lowering his ERA to 1.91. He was recalled on July 22.[29]

Major league career[edit]

Los Angeles Dodgers[edit]

Kershaw at spring training in Florida in 2008

2008–2010 seasons: Early career[edit]

On May 24, 2008, the Dodgers bought Kershaw's minor-league contract, and he was added to the active roster.[30] Sportswriter Tony Jackson called Kershaw's debut the most anticipated start by a Dodgers pitcher since Hideo Nomo's major league debut during the 1995 season.[31] He made his debut on May 25, starting against the St. Louis Cardinals. He struck out the first batter he faced, Skip Schumaker, the first of seven strikeouts in the game, in which he pitched six innings and allowed two runs.[32] When he debuted, Kershaw was the youngest player in MLB, a title he held for one full year.[33]

Kershaw won his first major league game against the Washington Nationals on July 27, 2008. He pitched six-plus shutout innings, allowing four hits, a walk, and he struck out five.[34][35] Kershaw finished his rookie season 5–5, with a 4.26 ERA in 22 games (21 starts).[36] He also pitched two innings out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in the 2008 National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Philadelphia Phillies.[37]

On April 15, 2009, Kershaw pitched seven innings, striking out 13 batters while allowing only one hit (a solo home run) against the rival San Francisco Giants. He was the youngest Dodger to ever strikeout 13 or more batters in a game since Sandy Koufax did it in the 1955 season.[38] On May 17, 2009, Kershaw did not allow a hit against the Florida Marlins through 7 innings, then gave up a lead-off double to Florida's Cody Ross.[39] In 2009, despite an 8–8 record, he led the major leagues in opposing batting average (.200), opposing slugging percentage (.282), and hits per nine innings (6.26). He also posted an ERA of 2.79 and 185 strikeouts. Kershaw also walked 91 batters, which was second most in the National League (NL).[40]

Kershaw made his playoff starting debut against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2009 National League Division Series (NLDS). He went 623 innings, striking out 4, walking 1, and ended up getting a no-decision (the Dodgers went on to win the game in the 9th inning).[41] At 21 years old, he started the opener of the 2009 NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies and was the third youngest pitcher to ever start a playoff series opener, behind only Fernando Valenzuela in the 1981 NLDS and Rick Ankiel in the 2000 NLDS.[42]

Kershaw started the 2010 season by posting a 3.07 ERA in April, but did so by walking 22 batters in 29 innings. On May 4, he had his worst start of his career against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium, throwing just 57 pitches in 113 innings, while retiring only four of the 13 batters he faced—including the pitcher. He was booed loudly upon being pulled from the game. Kershaw said after the game, "I didn't give our team any kind of chance. It's just not a good feeling to let your teammates down, let everybody down. It stings, it hurts. I've got to figure things out."[43]

Kershaw rebounded his next start by pitching an 8 inning two-hitter and out-dueling the then undefeated Ubaldo Jiménez.[44] He credited his control of the slider being the major turning point for him.[45] Later in the season, he was suspended for five games after hitting Aaron Rowand of the Giants with a pitch in a game on July 20. The incident occurred after both teams were given a warning following Giants ace Tim Lincecum hitting Matt Kemp earlier in the game.[46] He threw his first career complete game shutout on September 14, 2010 also against San Francisco and finished the season with a record of 13–10 and a 2.91 ERA in 32 starts, pitching 20413 innings and recording 212 strikeouts.[47]

2011 season: Cy Young Award[edit]

After finishing the 2010 season strong, the Dodgers named Kershaw as the Opening Day Starter for the 2011 season.[48] On May 29, he pitched the second complete-game shutout of his career, striking out 10 while winning a two-hitter against the Florida Marlins, 8–0; he also had two singles and an RBI, scoring twice in the game.[49] He produced his third career shutout on June 20, a two-hit, 11-strikeout effort against the Detroit Tigers. Kershaw became the first Dodgers starter to strike out the side in the 9th inning since Sandy Koufax's perfect game.[50] In his next start, on June 26, Kershaw pitched another complete game (against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). He became the first Dodger starter to have back-to-back complete game victories since Jeff Weaver in the 2005 season and the first Dodger to have double-digit strikeouts in consecutive starts since Chan-Ho Park in the 2000 season. He was awarded the National League Player of the Week award for the week of June 20–26 as a result of those two starts.[51] Midway through June, Kershaw had amassed 32 career victories, a 3.15 ERA and 593 career strikeouts in 568.2 innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kershaw was the first 23-year-old pitcher to have that many victories, an ERA that low and an average of more than one strikeout per inning since ERA became an official statistic in 1910.[52]

Kershaw won numerous awards for his 2011 campaign

Kershaw was selected to the National League team for the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, his first All-Star selection.[53] In the month of July, Kershaw was 4–1 with a 2.02 ERA and NL-leading 45 strikeouts, earning him the National League Pitcher of the Month Award.[54] On August 23, he struck out Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals for his 200th strikeout of the season and became the 10th Dodger pitcher to record back-to-back 200 strikeout seasons and the first since Chan-Ho Park did it in the 2001 season.[55]

Kershaw finished the 2011 season by leading the NL with 21 wins, 248 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA, winning the NL pitching Triple Crown, the first Triple Crown winner since Jake Peavy of the 2007 San Diego Padres and the first Dodger since Sandy Koufax won it in the 1966 season.[56] Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won the American League Triple Crown the same season, marking the first major-league season since 1924 to feature Triple Crown-winning pitchers in both leagues. Kershaw's 21 wins were the most by a Dodger pitcher since Orel Hershiser won 23 during the 1988 season. His ERA was the lowest by a Dodger since Hershiser's 2.03 in the 1985 season, his strikeouts were the most by a Dodger since Koufax's 317 in 1966 and his 233 13 innings pitched were the most since Chan Ho Park pitched 234 in 2001.[56] Since 1965 when Koufax did it, Peavy and Kershaw are only two pitchers in the National League have led the league in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched).[56] Kershaw also became just the second lefthander to have a 240-plus strikeouts in a season before the age of 24, joining Vida Blue.[56]

After the season, Kershaw was awarded the Warren Spahn Award as the best left-handed pitcher in 2011,[57] the Players Choice Award for Most Outstanding National League pitcher,[58] the Gold Glove Award as the top fielding pitcher in the NL [59] and the Sporting News (TSN) National League Pitcher of the Year. He was additionally selected as the starting pitcher for the TSN NL All-Star Team.[60] On November 17, he was honored with the National League Cy Young Award, making him the youngest Cy Young winner since Dwight Gooden of the 1985 New York Mets. He was the 8th Dodger pitcher to the win the award, the first since Eric Gagné in the 2003 season.[61]

2012 season: Cy Young runner-up[edit]

On February 7, 2012, Kershaw and the Dodgers agreed on a two-year, $19 million contract. The contract was the second highest for a player in his first year of arbitration (after Tim Lincecum's $23 million 2-year contract in 2010).[62]

Kershaw was the Dodgers' Opening Day starter for the second year in a row, where he pitched three innings of shutout ball against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park before being removed from the game due to flu-like symptoms.[63] On April 27, he was able to last through eight innings for his second win of the season against the Washington Nationals. The win was also his 12th straight home win, tying him with Ed Roebuck (June 1960 – August 1962) and Orel Hershiser (September 1984 – October 1985) for the longest home winning streak since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.[64] Kershaw won the National League's Player of the Week Award for the week of May 14–20 after he made two starts during that week and pitched 16 scoreless innings, including his fourth career shutout.[65] Kershaw was selected to appear in the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the second straight year he made the team.[66] On August 11, he went over 200 innings on the season, becoming the 12th Los Angeles Dodger pitcher with three or more seasons of 200 or more innings, and the first since Hershiser did it five times from 1985–1989.[67] Kershaw also became just the fifth Dodger pitcher with three straight 200 strikeout seasons.[68]

Kershaw finished 2012 with a 14–9 record, a 2.53 ERA (leading the league), 229 strikeouts, and 22723 innings pitched, coming second in both categories. He became the first pitcher to lead the league in ERA in consecutive seasons since Arizona's Randy Johnson in 2001–02. This was also marked his fourth year in a row with a sub-3.00 ERA, making him the first to do this since Randy Johnson from 1999–2002.[69] He finished second for the NL Cy Young behind R. A. Dickey, receiving two first place votes.[70]

2013 season: 2nd Cy Young Award[edit]

Kershaw made his third straight opening day start for the Dodgers in the 2013 season, the first Dodger starter to do so since Derek Lowe (2005–2007). In that opening day start he pitched a complete game, four hit, shutout over the Giants and also hit his first career home run. He was the first pitcher to throw a shutout and hit a home run on opening day since Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians did so against the Chicago White Sox on April 14, 1953.[71] Kershaw picked up his 1,000th career strikeout on April 17, 2013, when he struck out Yonder Alonso of the Padres. He was the second youngest Dodger to reach that mark, behind only Fernando Valenzuela.[72] On May 14, Kershaw passed the 1,000 inning mark for his career. His ERA of 2.70 at the time was the fifth best of the live-ball era at the 1,000 inning mark and the best career mark. He also threw 130 pitches that day, the most of his career and the most by a Dodger pitcher since Odalis Pérez in the 2003 season.[73]

Kershaw was selected to the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, his third straight selection.[74] In July, he compiled a 4–1 record and 1.34 ERA in six starts and was awarded his second National League Pitcher of the Month Award.[75] On September 2, Kershaw picked up his 200th strikeout of 2013, joining Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale as the only starters in Dodgers history with at least 4 consecutive seasons of more than 200 strikeouts.[76]

Kershaw finished the season with a 16-9 record, 236 innings pitched (a career high), and a Major League best 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.[77] He was the third player in history to lead the Majors in ERA three years in a row, joining Greg Maddux (1993–95) and Lefty Grove (1929–31). His ERA was the first sub-2.00 ERA since Roger Clemens did it in the 2005 season and the lowest overall since Pedro Martinez in the 2000 season. He was only the third Dodger pitcher to have an ERA under 3.00 in five consecutive seasons (Koufax and Nap Rucker).[78]

Kershaw struck out 12 batters in seven innings in the first game of the 2013 National League Division Series. That was the third most strikeouts by a Dodger pitcher in the playoffs, behind only Koufax (15 in the 1963 World Series) and Carl Erskine (14 in the 1953 World Series). His six straight strikeouts in the game tied a MLB post-season record set by Tim Belcher in the second game of the 1988 World Series. He picked up his first career post-season victory in that game.[79] The Dodgers would end up losing in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kershaw won the Warren Spahn Award for 2013, the second time he had won the award, which honors the best left-handed pitcher in the Major Leagues.[80] He was also selected to the Sporting News NL All-Star team, the fourth Dodger pitcher to be named to the team twice (after Koufax, Valenzuela and Don Newcombe).[81] On November 13, he won the NL Cy Young Award for the second time in three seasons. He became just the sixth pitcher in history to finish in the top two in voting three seasons in a row.[82]

After the season, Kershaw and the Dodgers agreed on a seven-year, $215 million, contract extension. The deal was the richest in MLB history for a pitcher, eclipsing the seven-year, $180 million, contract signed by Justin Verlander the previous year.[83] The average annual value of $30.7 million was also the largest ever for a baseball player, beating the $28 million Roger Clemens received in 2007 and the ten-year $275 million contract that Alex Rodriguez signed that same year.[84]

2014[edit]

Kershaw made his fourth straight opening day start for the Dodgers in 2014, only the fourth Dodger ever to do so. This season the game was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.[85] Before his second start, Kershaw felt some pain in his back and was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.[86] He did not rejoin the Dodgers until early May.[87] On June 18, he pitched a complete game no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies and struck out a career-high 15 batters. The only batter to reach base was due to an error in the top of the seventh inning, costing Kershaw a perfect game. He is the only pitcher in MLB history with 15 strikeouts in a game while allowing no hits and no walks.[88][89] Kershaw was 6-0 with an 0.82 in June and was awarded with his third career Pitcher of the Month award.[90] He was selected to the National League squad at the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, his fourth straight selection. He was the sixth Dodger pitcher, and the first since Fernando Valenzuela to make the All-Star team four years in a row.[91]

Kershaw had a 41 inning scoreless inning streak that ended in the top of the sixth inning on July 10th when, with two outs, Chase Headley homered to left field at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw's streak was, at the time, tied for the fifteenth longest scoreless inning streak in MLB history. [92]

Pitching style[edit]

Kershaw's pitching style relies on a lot of deception. He keeps the ball hidden so that it is hard for the batter to pick up the ball and has a consistent delivery on all of his pitches.[93] Out of the stretch, he uses a slide step as it makes it difficult for the base runner at first base to get a read on him.[94] He has stated many times that he has modeled his pitching mechanics after his favorite pitcher growing up, Roger Clemens.[95]

Example of Kershaw's stride and deception

Kershaw's repertoire includes a four-seam fastball that sits anywhere from 92 miles per hour (148 km/h) to 95 miles per hour (153 km/h) (tops out at 98 miles per hour (158 km/h)) with late movement, a slider at 84 miles per hour (135 km/h)–87 miles per hour (140 km/h), a 12–6 curveball between 72 miles per hour (116 km/h)–76 miles per hour (122 km/h), and a seldom thrown changeup.[96] He is also known for having one of the better pickoff moves to first base and is considered one of the better fielding pitchers in the game.[97][98]

Preparation[edit]

According to many teammates, Kershaw is a noted perfectionist. [99] A.J. Ellis describes his preparation and perfectionism during bullpens before each start:

"Dodgers' catcher A.J. Ellis can rattle off the list if you ask, like a flight attendant rambling through pre-takeoff safety instructions. "Three fastballs when I'm standing up. I sit, and three fastballs down the middle. Then three fastballs either side. Three changeups away. Fastball inside. Three curveballs to the middle. Fastball inside. Three sliders to the middle. Then he goes to the stretch position. Two fastballs inside, two fastballs away, two changeups, one fastball inside, two curveballs, one fastball inside, two sliders. Back to the windup, and one fastball inside, one fastball away.

Thirty-four pitches in all."


Awards and accomplishments[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Kershaw grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended school with quarterback Matthew Stafford [6] and fellow pitchers Jordan Walden [109] and Shawn Tolleson.[110] One of his favorite players growing up was former Texas Rangers first baseman Will Clark, and the main reason he wears number 22 is to honor Clark.[111]

He is the great-nephew of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto.[112] Kershaw's mother, born Marianne Tombaugh,[113] is the daughter of Clyde Tombaugh's younger brother.[114] His father, Christopher George Kershaw, was a musician and won a Clio Award for his work. The elder Kershaw remarried after his divorce from Marianne and died in 2013.[115]

On December 4, 2010, Kershaw married his girlfriend of seven years, Ellen Melson.[116][117] He is a Methodist with strong religious faith.[118][119]

Humanitarian work[edit]

Prior to the 2011 season, Kershaw visited Zambia with his wife as part of a Christian mission organized by Dallas-based Arise Africa. After the trip, Kershaw announced his dream of building an orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia, which he called "Hope's Home" after 11-year-old Hope, an HIV-positive child Kershaw met while in Zambia. To accomplish his goal, Kershaw pledged a donation of $100 per strikeout recorded in 2011. With Kershaw's career high of 248 strikeouts thrown during the 2011 season, he donated $492,300 toward his $70,000 goal. When Kershaw won the 2011 Players Choice Award, he donated $260,000 to Hope's Home. He and his wife returned to Zambia in 2012.[120] Kershaw donated $100 for every strikeout in the 2012 season to Kershaw's Challenge, calling that season's incarnation of the project "Strike Out To Serve." Seventy percent of the money raised in 2012 went to Arise Africa, with 10 percent each going to the Peacock Foundation in Los Angeles, Mercy Street in Dallas, and I Am Second.[120]

In addition to Hope's Home and Kershaw's Challenge, he has also helped with other programs in Los Angeles, such as helping Habitat for Humanity demolish and rehabilitate a house in Lynwood, California.[121] He is also a supporter of the Peacock Foundation, which provides animal-assisted interventions and activities for at risk youth by partnering with mental health practitioners, public service agencies and community organizations.[122]

Kershaw was recognized for his charity work by being honored with the Roberto Clemente Award in 2012, the top humanitarian honor bestowed by Major League Baseball.[101] In 2013, he received the Branch Rickey Award in recognition of outstanding community service, presented by the Rotary Club of Denver.[102]

Author[edit]

Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, co-authored a book named Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself about their Christian faith and their humanitarian efforts. The book was released on January 5, 2012 through Regal Press.[120]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

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