Hello friends — did you know Clayton Kershaw threw a classifiable changeup? Well, apparently, neither did Clayton — he used it just 16 times in 2019. The pitch doesn’t feature a tremendous velocity dip from his fastball (just 5 mph), so he’ll likely only continue to throw it when he wants to frustrate pitch trackers.
Kershaw’s curveball is his third pitch by usage and it’s a thing of beauty to look at the graphs for his curveball. They’re all up and down in the zone, no side to side movement because it doesn’t really break horizontally at all. Home runs roughed Kershaw up in 2019 and his curveball wasn’t able to escape that fate either, as he allowed five in 2019 on the pitch.
At an average velocity of 90.5 mph, Kershaw’s fastball hit all-time lows in 2019. The pitch, nonetheless, registered a stellar 13.5 pVAL, buoyed by a rock-bottom .221 opponent BABIP and high swinging strike rates. Expect some regression on this offering.
Kershaw was able to bounceback with his slider in the strikeouts department, going from a 13.9 % swinging-strike rate (good) to a 19.1% swinging-strike rate (very good). A 26.2% HR/FB rate helped allow 11 home runs with the pitch, which is an issue for Kershaw going forward. As long as he continues throwing it outisde the zone and getting swings and misses it should help Kershaw continue to be an ace.
Kershaw’s four-seamer was essentially a neutral pitch in 2018 with a 0.2 pVal. Containing a lot less movement than is typical of a four-seamer, it got hit hard in 2018, continuing a trend for the pitch that started in 2017. It carried a .290 BAA, .207 ISO, and a 131 wRC+. Quite a bit of this might be attributed to the pitch losing 1.8 mph in velocity last year and another tick in velo the season before.
A truly elite pitch, Kershaw’s fantastic slider has great movement to the glove side in on righties and diving away from lefties. This pitch really does look like it’s on a string. With a 13.9% swinging-strike rate (down from 2017’s 24.4% but still solid), Kershaw generated a 28.0% K rate (also down from 39.3% in 2017). It still was fantastic at generating ground balls (63.1 GB%) and poor contact (36.1 IFFB%) while limiting hitters to a .185 BAA, .111 ISO, and a 49 wRC+.
Kershaw’s out pitch in 2018, his curveball generated a 14.2% swinging-strike rate with a 32.0 K-BB% mainly by sacrificing horizontal movement for lethal vertical drop (nearly 13 inches more than the average curveball). And it is darn near impossible to hit, as it limited opponents to a .200 BAA, .032 ISO, and 30 wRC+. This pitch is so good that in 388 offerings, Kershaw’s curveball was only hit for an extra base three times—with all three being doubles.