Clayton Kershaw might be the greatest pitcher of his generation, but he might never shake the playoff choke artist label from his resume.
Kershaw has seemingly every accolade a pitcher can earn besides a World Series trophy. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been knocking on the door in the past few years, but they’ve fallen short every time.
Kershaw has been at the forefront of some brutal collapses recently, but does he really deserve to be called a choke artist? Let’s find out.
Clayton Kershaw is an elite regular-season pitcher
There’s no questioning Kershaw’s ability as a starting pitcher. The dude has been one of the most dominant and consistent performers in the MLB for over a decade. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer once he retires from the league.
Over his 13-year professional career, Kershaw has a 2.43 ERA in over 2,300 innings pitched. He’s recorded a sub-3.00 ERA in all but two seasons. Kershaw has three National League Cy Young awards to his name, and he could easily have more, but the voters need to mix it up and give it to other pitchers every once in a while.
He still has a few years of winning baseball left in him, but Kershaw already ranks 35th in career ERA and 36th in strikeouts in MLB history. He’s one of the best pitchers of this century, but just not in the postseason.
Kershaw chokes in the playoffs
Kershaw is a dominant force in the regular season, but he’s been the complete opposite once October comes around. In 35 playoff appearances, Kershaw has an 11-12 record and a 4.31 ERA. For context, he hasn’t finished a single season with that high an ERA since his rookie year.
Kershaw allows more runs, hits, walks, and home runs in the postseason, and it’s not a small sample size.
But what’s even worse is his performance in games when the Dodgers are facing elimination. Kershaw has an atrocious 5.77 ERA in elimination games. That’s the second-highest mark in MLB history.
Just last year, Kershaw appeared in relief in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals. He got out of the seventh inning, but he allowed two home runs in the eighth to allow the Nationals to tie up the game. Washington went on to win in extra innings.
It isn’t the first time Kershaw failed to rise up to the postseason pressure, and it surely won’t be the last.
Kershaw finally has a chance to reverse the curse
Will a World Series trophy undo all the postseason blunders Kershaw has made in his career? Maybe not, but it wouldn’t hurt.
He’ll have a chance to strip the choker label from his resume this year when he starts Game 1 of the 2020 World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Kershaw will most likely appear more than once in the series, and he knows this is a golden opportunity for him to prove he won’t crack under pressure.
The future Hall of Famer is running out of time to do so. It’s now or never. Don’t let us down again, Clayton.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference