Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thoughts on Clayton Kershaw and Don Mattingly

Clayton Kershaw's postseason struggles continued last night as he lost to the Mets and Jake deGrom to remain winless in postseason competition.  Once again, those struggles were tied to questions about the timing of Dodger Manager Don Mattingly taking him out of the game.  Last year against the St. Louis Cardinals, the consensus seemed to be that Mattingly left him him too long, most likely because the Dodgers' bullpen was not trustworthy.  Last night, most of the criticism seemed to be that he took Kershaw out too soon, that he should have left him in to face David Wright.

The situation was that Kershaw had pitched brilliantly all night except for a solo HR to Daniel Murphy.  That the score was still 1-0 is a tribute to both pitchers because it was a hot, dry evening in SoCal and balls were carrying like crazy, much to the befuddlement of Michael Cuddyer in particular.  The Mets had been fouling off quite a few pitches all night, many of them coming on an umpteen pitch AB by David Wright in the first inning.  As the 8'th inning wore on and Kershaw's pitch count climbed above the century mark, you could see him tiring before your eyes.  He started dropping his elbow and failing to finish off breaking pitches.  After a couple of pitches with nothing on them, to the last batter, I wondered if Kershaw had enough energy to even walk back up to the top of the mound.  He did summon some reserve on the last pitch to Granderson which was just outside but otherwise a really good pitch.  Kershaw pounded his glove and grimaced, knowing that was the pitch he really, really needed.  David Wright had not done much against Kershaw all night, but he did have that long AB in the first inning.  With Kershaw clearly running out of gas, having walked 3 batters already in the inning and with Wright coming to the plate, Mattingly took him out for Pedro Baez.  Baez looked like he had good stuff, but Wright kept the AB alive and eventually singled up the middle to drive in 2 insurance runs which proved to be the difference in the game.

Afterwards, Mattingly said the reason he took Kershaw out was because of the pitch count, which stood at 112 pitches and because this would be Wright's 4'th PA against him.  To his credit, Mattingly avoided saying anything that could be construed as a criticism of Kershaw, such as saying he was out of gas or had lost control of the strike zone.  In the TBS panel discussion on the postgame show, both Dusty Baker and Gary Sheffield criticized the reasoning, saying Wright had not had good swings against Kershaw all night and it would not have been different in a 4'th PA.  They did not mention the long AB in the first inning.  I have a hard time understanding Pedro Martinez, but it sounded to me like Pedro thought Kershaw was showing signs of being out of gas and if anything, Mattingly left him in too long.  Pedro put the blame on pitching coach Rick Honeycutt for being too focused on pitch counts and not looking at the pitcher's mechanics on the mound.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that 1. Kershaw appeared to be out of gas.  2.  He had lost control of the strike zone.  3.  He had thrown 112 pitches on a hot night.  4.  Even if David Wright was not likely to get a good swing at that point, which I think is a dubious assumption by Baker and Sheff, he was likely to grind out another AB with a high probability of running Kershaw's pitch count about 120 and still drawing a walk.  Mattingly made the right move.  Once again, his bullpen was not up to the task.  If you are going to blame anyone, blame the GM for once again not building a better bullpen.  And once again, let's marvel at just how great the Giants "Core Four" bullpen has been over the past 5 seasons.


  1. Agreed. Still, the game was effectively on the line - and indeed that single by Wright proved to be the game-winning hit. I suspect Bochy, had he been hired to manage for the night, would have put the closer in (Jansen?) right then to clamp down on the rupture and prevent any bleeding. Had they gotten Wright out, the Dodgers' one run would have tied the game and who knows what would have happened somewhere around the 10th. Of course, if the Dodgers had the Core Four, such a move wouldn't have been needed, and indeed I wouldn't want to rely on the Dodgers' bullpen in extra innings. But I think Mattingly had to pull out all the stops right there anyway and worry about later innings later.

  2. Postseason:

    Kershaw 1-6 4.99 ERA WS Rings 0

    Bumgarner 7-3 2.13 ERA WS Rings 3

    Enough said.

  3. Out of gas... Yeah I can imagine that after pitching 232.2 innings in the regular season, the most by any pitcher in the majors. And with a sub-standard bullpen... It's tough on Mattingly too.

  4. He looked gased. IF anything he was left in too long, IMO. Wright put up some good ABs, the one against Baez was good hitting, good clutchiness, and of course if Wright can do anything right now its good ABs and a taking a good pitch back up the middle.