Nationals Baseball: Playoff Kershaw

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Playoff Kershaw

Let's get to getting. We'll start looking at Kershaw who the Nats will see at least once, maybe twice.

Clayton Kershaw has a reputation for not being great in the playoffs. This is in part because of the man you saw last night. When someone who you are supposed to be as good as (or better than) comes up special you are supposed to come up special as well. Kershaw has not been doing that. His playoff ERA is a poor 4.59 and his playoff record is 2-6.  His WHIP good (1.160) but when you've been at a 0.908 for the last 6 seasons even that's a bit of a downer. Can Nats fans expect a terrible performance?

Probably not. First off these numbers includes playoff appearances before Kershaw was KERSHAW. In 2008 and 2009 he pitched a few times with mixed results. Secondly, his stats since then are dominated by two extremely bad performances back to back against STL. He lost an NLCS game in 2013 giving up 7 runs in 4 innings and an NLDS game in 2014 giving up 8 runs in 6 and two-thirds.

If instead of looking at overall stats, you look at the starts themselves you'd see a different picture. The eight starts would likely be called : great, very good, very good, OMG TERRIBLE, OMG TERRIBLE, good, good, very good/great. So 6 out of 8 times he's thrown up at least good games, half the time very good or better. Why is his record so poor then? Well he's lost games 1-0, 3-2, and 3-1, and got a no-decision. The Dodgers haven't scored for him.

Also if we look at the games in more detail - that first "OMG TERRIBLE" game was a bad one through and through. The second one had him going 6IP, 2ER, 2H (solo homers), 0BB, 8K before blowing up in the 7th. The first "good" game 6IP, 0ER, 1H, 2BB, 9K before losing it in the 7th. The second one 6IP, 1ER, 4H, 1BB, 11K before walking a bunch in the 7th who'd score when the pen failed. Combined those three and prior to the 7th inning that's 18IP, 3ER, 7H, 3BB, and 28K. That's an incredible line 1.50 ERA, 0.555 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, 14 K/9. Yikes. 

What we've seen - seven of eight starts, is a Kershaw that has been dominant over the first 6 innings of a game. That's what Nats fans should expect. A struggle to score a run or two for the first 2/3rds of the game. Once we get into the later innings, when Kershaw tires a little, the Nats will have a chance, but any failings before that will be the Nats lucking into that one out of eight outing where he just doesn't have it.

How do the Nats do against Kershaw? Here you go.  (Thanks Baseball Reference! Subscribe! I do.)

Werth had faced him by far the most (39 PA) and done well (.286 / .359 / .457). Zimm is next at 24 and has done ok (.318 / .333 / .364).  Murphy  (19 - .316 / .316 / .632)  is another one with a strong showing. Though all three combined in regular season games in the past 2 years are only 2-19. So take the historical success very lightly. Other than that Michael Taylor is the only one you can say hits him well but in only 9 PA. Rendon had been usable. Heisey maybe so. The others - Bryce, Danny, Drew, Lobaton - no good.

And Kershaw in Nats Park? We'll go with career : 6 G, 5GS, 32IP, 2.51 ERA 7BB, 44K, 4HR.  Last two years - 2 starts, 15IP, 0.00ERA., 25 Ks though they did get 9 hits off him in 2014 at home (and yes somehow didn't score. Here's the game if you are interested)

How do the Dodgers do against Scherzer? Here you go again.

As he's been an AL guy for a while there are fewer guys with double digits at bats against him. Ethier has hit him excellently, Kendrick very good, Reddick good, and Utley passably. Adrian Gonzalez has seen him the most and has been terrible (28 - .192/ .250/ .481). He did not face the Dodgers this year so there are no good recent stats but I'll say that the trends generally hold to what's been said. There isn't a drop recently like for the Nats batters against Kershaw. As much as a game or two can actually tell you (which is next to nothing - but next to nothing better than nothing!)

And Max at home this year? 15 G, 2.56 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, 11.8 K/9.  For the most part Max at home is the same as Max on the road with one big difference. He gives up far fewer HRs at home. 10 at home to 21 (in 126 IP) on the road.

Who's hot for the Nats regulars in the last week ?
Trea continues to burn up. Rendon is hot, too and likely Ramos platooner Severino is hitting well. Sean Kelley, Rep, Belisle, Melancon havg all pitched well recently, but not really any starter.

Werth is ice cold, Zimm continues to struggle, Drew, Bryce and Danny are all struggling to get hits.
Burnett is iffy, but really no reliever you expect to see in the DS is pitching poorly. Max and Gio have had some blah starts.

Who's hot for the Dodgers?
A Gonz has been hitting well and Utley has a double and 2 homers in the past week.
I don't know the pen as well but Baez, and Howell seem to be ones most likely to be used that are looking good. Kershaw of course.

Seager did not look great down the stretch and Kendrick hasn't gotten a hit in the last 6 games.
Blanton, Chavez, and Libertore were all key pieces and not doing so hot right now. Maeda is also looking shaky.

Overall feeling right now today :
I'm curious to see how Turner fares against Kershaw. I know it's silly but given how hot he's been I'll look at that first at bat and if Kershaw dominates Turner I'd be tempted to turn it off until the 6th. How the Dodgers will do against Max is a mystery to me. I mean, they won't beat him up, but will he match Clayton or not? I think it'll be close. I'd kind of expect to be down say... 2-1 going into the 7th. After that? Nats should have the edge bullpen wise but that's only 3 innings.

Otherwise I like everything about how the Dodgers are lining up for Gio other than how Gio is bad Gio sometimes, but we'll take that as it comes because if Gio is G3 and Puig and Kendrick have a couple good games I won't feel the same way.

More tomorrow.


JD said...

The thing is, I never want Kershaw to get hit. Even if he's playing one of my teams. So my wish is that both him and Max pitch great, but the Nats win by beating up on the Dodgers' bullpen.

cass said...

JD: You mean basically a carbon copy of last night's NL WC Game, right? Works for me. I'd be happy to see Kershaw get hit, though.

Harper: I disagree about SSS being better than no sample. I wouldn't look at a small sample at all - it's more likely to mislead you. What someone should develop is a good hitter classification system (high contact vs low contact, fly ball hitter vs ground ball hitter, etc.) and then look how similar hitters fair against the pitcher. That might be of some use cause the samples would be large enough to be meaningful - looking at a few PAs is, imo, useless.

I do appreciate your larger point debunking the myth of Kershaw being bad in the playoffs. I hadn't realized he had been that good.

Despite being an advanced stats lover, I am not really thinking too analytically about tomorrow. Just gonna enjoy watching Scherzer and Kershaw in the playoffs live and with my best ever Nats playoff seats. Splurged a little hoping for this matchup and then it turned out that's what we'll get. 132 Row M.

Sammy Kent said...

If I'm Dusty I start Gio in Game 2 and Game 5. But the guys with the wooden sticks better do some damage or all the pitching in the world won't matter.

JD said...

Basically, but I'd prefer more than 3 runs though, it'll make me feel better about the offense.

Anonymous said...

We're approximately 30 hours from first pitch, and STILL neither the team nor Murphy has definitively said that he is definitely starting. Which you would think even a secretive and paranoid organization like ours would have done by now if they knew for sure that he could go.

This can only mean that he's hurting far worse than they're letting on. Even if he does go, we probably shouldn't expect much of anything. We're so screwed.

cass said...

Murphy sprinted a fair amount yesterday and ran the bases, rounding first and all that. He's fielded the last two days. He's faced live pitching. I see no reason not to expect him to start Friday. I think the Nats are just being their typical secretive selves. They took forever to even confirm Scherzer. And still haven't announced Game 2's starter even though it's fairly obvious it's Roark as he pitched yesterday and Gio did not.

Harper said...

JD : That's fair on SSS. I will say a small sample is better than nothing for those that analyze players a lot more closely. If you watch the 25 at bats, examine the approach, try to think of them in context of how the player was doing right then and how he usually does against players of that type, use the fancy stats to see if your assumptions hold water - altogether you might find someone that does seem, in a non-misleading way, to be better/worse than they should be against another. But that's a TON of work.

I still think SSS is better than nothing without all this too but only for say, breaking ties in your mind when you have nothing else to go on. Looked at Player A and Player B overall stats, stats vs guys who pitch/hit like this guy, can't really tell them apart. Might as well go with what SSS tells you rather than say random choice. But that's the very very limited usage for us out here.

SK - don't be too disappointed with 3-4 run games though Sammy, because typically EVERYONE hits worse in the playoffs.

JD - Yes 4 runs would be undeniably good with Kershaw on mound. Either they get to him or bomb the pen.

Anon @ 7:36 - I give them today.

Ed said...

Nice breakdown, H. Could totally see a 2-1 or 3-2 game either way going into the 7th. I'm not well versed on the Nationals' bullpen, but the Dodgers' pen is quite good. As a Dodgers fan, I'd prefer Roberts have a quicker hook and see how the bullpen does. Not sure it's an advantage for DC.

I'd watch how Dodgers Seager and Grandal bat. Seager seems to have a knack for big hits and Grandal is underrated.

Jay said...

I think the problem is two-fold for Kershaw. One, he did blow up in those 7th innings. He gave up 2 runs in the 7th in game 1 of NLCS last year, 2 in game 4 of 2014 NLDS, and 3 in game 1 that same NLDS, and finally 9 runs in game 6 of 2013 NLCS. '14 and '13 were both against the Cardinals. Two, Kershaw is pretty much the one of the best pitchers of his generation, so right or wrong he is held to a higher standard. If I'm a Dodgers fan, I'm hoping Kershaw goes 8 or 9 innings tomorrow and gives up 0 or 1 run. I'm guessing he will come pretty close to that. The Nats offense usually make pitchers look better than they are, not worse.

I fully expect Scherzer will pitch well but not great. It will take at least 2-3 runs to win tomorrow, so we're hoping Harper or Murphy or someone gets to Dodger pitching some. Scherzer is great, but he does give up the occasional couple hits and homers. We'll see. I'm just trying to enjoy it either way.

Mythra said...

With Kershaw having issues in the 6th-7th inning transition, I wonder if it is pitch counts or times through the order that are the correlation? If it's fatigue, then I'd like to see Werth in the #2 spot and working that count from the first inning on. Murphy at #3 would spoil pitches too, leading to more of a grind from inning 1.

The other thing I'd tell Turner and some of the others is to make Kershaw prove he can throw the deuce for a strike. A lot will depend on the ump behind the plate and his zone. If he gives Kershaw the edges and a low strike zone, it'll be a long night. That's a serious hammer he throws.

W. Patterson said...

I plan to record the game so, as I infer from Harper, Kershaw owns the Nats I can just fast forward to when (if) the Nats start getting hits. Might be an early night - or not.

BornInDC said...

I personally hoping for as a low a game time temperature as possible and the wind blowing in, i.e., anything that makes Nationals Park play bigger. If Scherzer is not giving up home runs, I think he becomes at least as hard as Kershaw to score against.

NotBobby said...

My two cents - which isn't even worth that - is that Kershaw has run out of gas in the postseason. I remember hearing this multiple times from announcers while watching him, they say he just runs out of gas. He normally pitches so much in the regular season. This year he went on the DL. I am worried that the extra rest will keep him sharp. Hope not though!

Josh Higham said...

Murphy is, as of less than an hour ago, "confident" he'll play tomorrow. That might be the most concrete info we get until Dusty turns in a lineup card tomorrow.

cass said...

Difo is on the roster. Goodwin is not. I think that takes care of most of the position players, though there seems to be a question about Lobaton. Onion is working out and being considered.

Harper: I hear you. I guess it's okay to use SSS as a tiebreaker but usually there's probably something else that'd be a better tiebreaker, I think. I do admit to getting driven nuts by how much broadcasters focus on it and act like it's advanced stats when it's entirely the opposite.

Anonymous said...

By the way, congratulations Ian Desmond on somehow not striking out even one time yesterday! Granted, you butchered a ball in center field that you should have caught, but at least it had no major impact on that complete debacle.

I sincerely hope that your one year contract next year is bigger than this year's was. I expect it probably will be.