Clayton Edward Kershaw
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 210 lb.
- High School Highland Park High School (Dallas)
- Debut May 25, 2008
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw made his major league debut in 2008 and immediately became a pillar of the starting rotation of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has since established himself as one of the top pitchers in the major leagues.
Kershaw went 13-0 with a 0.77 ERA as a high school senior, whiffing 139 batters in 64 innings while allowing 23 hits and 26 walks. Baseball America named him as a first-team All-American and as having the best fastball of any high school pitcher entering the draft.
Scouted by Calvin Jones, Kershaw was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 2006 amateur draft, the 7th overall selection and the first high schooler picked. He made his pro debut that year with the GCL Dodgers, going 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 1 save in 10 games with the team. Baseball America ranked him as the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League, followed by Chris Parmelee and Gorkys Hernandez.
He pitched part of the 2007 Futures Game for the USA. Entering in the 7th, he allowed a homer to Jimmy Van Ostrand and walked Gorkys Hernandez one out later. After he got the second out, he was relieved by Collin Balester, who surrendered a RBI double to Wladimir Balentien to charge Kershaw with a second run.
He was 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA for the Great Lakes Loons, striking out an incredible 134 in 97 1/3 innings while holding left-handed batters to a .151 average. Promoted to the Jacksonville Suns, he had a 1-2, 3.65 record. Overall, his 2.95 ERA led Dodgers farmhands. Baseball America rated him as having the best fastball and being the best pitching prospect in the Midwest League. He had a .201 opponent batting average, lowest in the full-season affiliated minors by .004 over John Lannan. He also had 12.02 K/9 innings, easily the best in the full-season affiliated minors. Baseball America rated him as the best prospect in the Midwest League. He made the MWL All-Star Team as the left-handed pitcher and also was named the MWL Prospect of the Year. Baseball Prospectus named him the #5 prospect in minor league baseball.
Kershaw opened 2008 with Jacksonville and was 0-3 with a 2.28 ERA but with a .205 opponent average and over a strikeout per inning. He was then called up to the majors to replace Esteban Loaiza. He struck out Skip Schumaker, the first batter he faced in the majors, but walked Brian Barton and allowed a RBI double to Albert Pujols. The young southpaw recovered to whiff both Ryan Ludwick and Troy Glaus. He would work six innings and allow two runs, striking out seven in a no-decision in the game.
On June 21, 2011, Kershaw fanned 11 in a 2-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers. He struck out the side in the 9th inning; no Dodger starter had ended a shutout by doing that since Sandy Koufax in 1965. He was named the National League's Pitcher of the month for July when he went 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 35.1 innings of work. For good measure, he was named to the All-Star team and pitched a scoreless inning against the American League at Chase Field on July 12th. He finished the season very strong, tying Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks in wins with 21 (against 5 losses), and finishing alone in first place in the League for strikeouts with 248 and ERA at 2.28. He thus won the Pitching Triple Crown and was voted the winner of the 2011 National League Cy Young Award.
Kershaw couldn't quite match his numbers from the previous year in 2012, but was still excellent, returning to the All-Star Game. In mid-September, he was leading the National League with 30 starts, 206 2/3 innings pitched and 206 strikeouts, with an ERA of 2.70 and a record of 12-9, when his missed his scheduled start on September 16th with a hip injury. He was immediately flown to New York, NY to visit a specialist, with the expectation that he would need to undergo season-ending surgery. The news came at a particularly bad time for the Dodgers, as they were only one game back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card spot in the NL, and had already lost two starters for the season in Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly. However, Dr. Bryan Kelly advised him that he could continue pitching without risking further injury - if he could handle the pain. He thus took the mound against the Cincinnati Reds on September 23rd, pitching 5 innings while giving up only 1 run in a no-decision; however his solid performance allowed the Dodgers to eventually come out on top, 5-3, and keep their slim hopes of earning a wild card spot alive. He won his last two decisions to finish at 14-9, 2.53. He took a second consecutive ERA crown, and finished second in the NL in strikeouts with 229, pitching 227 2/3 innings in a league-leading 33 starts.
After the 2012 season, Kershaw traveled to the southern African country of Zambia with his wife Ellen and teammate Shawn Tolleson, a childhood friend, and his wife. He opened a small orphanage near the capital city of Lusaka and pledged to support its operations over the coming years. He explained that he hoped it was only the start of what would be a long-term involvement to improve the lives of some orphans in the country that has been wracked by the AIDS epidemic. He had a superhuman performance for the Dodgers on Opening Day on April 1, 2013, throwing a four-hit complete game shutout while homering off George Kontos of the San Francisco Giants to break a scoreless tie in the 8th inning. The Dodgers won 4-0, and Kershaw became the first pitcher to throw a shutout and hit a home run on opening day since Hall of Famer Don Drysdale had achieved the feat for the Dodgers in 1965. He continued to dominate in his second start on April 6th, pitching 7 scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 9 to lead the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory. On April 17th, he struck out Yonder Alonso of the San Diego Padres in the 2nd inning, for the 1000th K of his career. He was the fastest Dodgers pitcher to reach the milestone, having needed only 970 innings, - 20 fewer than Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. It was the only highlight for him that night, as he gave up three homers and lost, 7-2. That game was a blip on an otherwise very successful first month, which ended with another outstanding start on April 28th against the Milwaukee Brewers. he gave up no runs on four hits in 8 innings, walking none and striking out 12 as he combined with closer Brandon League for a 2-0 shutout. At one point in the game, he retired 18 consecutive batters. That gave him a record of 3-2, 1.73 for the month. On May 20th, he pitched a three-hit complete game win, beating the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-1, to lower his ERA to a NL-leading 1.35 at that point. He was named the NL's Pitcher of the Month for July, when he went 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA in 6 starts. He finished the year at 16-9, 1.83 with 232 strikeouts, leading the league in the latter two categories and was rewarded with his second Cy Young Award.
On January 15, 2014, Kershaw signed a seven-year contract extension with the Dodgers that broke a number of records. With a total value of $215 million, the deal was the largest ever for a pitcher, eclipsing the $180 million offered to Justin Verlander a year earlier, and second only to the $275 million extension consented to Alex Rodriguez in 2008. Averaged at $30.7 million per season, it made Kershaw the recipient of the highest annual salary in baseball history, beating A-Rod on this count, as his deal was over 10 seasons. He was the Dodgers' starter on opening day, played in Sydney, Australia, on March 22nd,and pitched very well, giving up a single run in 6 2/3 innings while striking out 7. He also managed a hit himself, but was thrown out when he attempted to stretch it into a double. He received credit for the Dodgers' 3-1 win. Back in the States, however, he was scratched from his next scheduled start because of an inflamed muscle in his back and then was placed on the disabled list for the first time of his career. After missing five weeks of action, he was back on the mound on May 6th and had seemingly not skipped a beat, as he threw 7 shutout innings against the Washington Nationals in an 8-3 win; he did not walk anyone and struck out 9. On June 18th, he tossed a no-hitter in shutting out the Colorado Rockies, 8-0. The no-hitter came less than a month after his teammate Josh Beckett had pitched the last no-no in the major leagues, on May 26th. He came very close to pitching a perfect game in what was a truly dominating performance: he struck out 15 and walked none, but Corey Dickerson reached on a two-base throwing error by SS Hanley Ramirez to lead off the 7th. He followed up his gem with 8 shutout innings in his next start, on June 24th in a 2-0 win over the Kansas City Royals, although his bid for a second no-hitter was broken in the 1st inning when Eric Hosmer singled with one out. He ended the month by being named the NL's Pitcher of the Month, finishing June with an ERA of 0.82, a 6-0 record and 61 strikeouts. On July 4th, he extended his scoreless innings streak to 36 after allowing only 2 hits in 8 innings in defeating the Rockies, 9-0. The streak eventually reached 41 innings before it ended when the Padres scored a run off him in the 6th inning on July 10th on a homer by Chase Headley. But that start turned out to be another gem, a three-hit complete game that gained him his 8th straight win, 2-1, and improved his record to 11-2. On July 26th, he threw a two-hit shutout at the Giants for a 5-0 win that put the Dodgers in first place a half-game ahead of the Giants. He repeated as Pitcher of the Month in July, after going 4-0, 1.07 in 5 starts during the month. On August 10th, he made it a career-high 11 straight wins when he defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-1; he pitched 8 innings, made a great diving play to start a double play on an attempted squeeze, scored a run and drove in one in a great all-around performance. The winning streak ended in his next start when he lost, 3-2, to the Brewers on August 16th. He won his 18th game on September 8th with a 9-4 win over the Padres, improving to 18-3 and becoming the first 18-game winner in the majors as talk began about whether he was the front-running candidate for the MVP Award in addition to the Cy Young Award. On September 19th he became the first 20-game winner in the majors when he defeated the Chicago Cubs, 14-5. It was not one of his best outings as he pitched only 5 innings, ending a streak of 17 starts with at least 7 innings pitched, the longest in the majors since Mike Hampton in 1999. He was also only the second pitcher since World War II to record 20 wins in less than 30 starts, joining Pedro Martinez. He ended up winning his fourth straight ERA title at 1.77, the lowest by a major league pitcher since Greg Maddux finished 1995 at 1.63; he was the first pitcher to win four straight ERA crowns since Sandy Koufax in the mid-1960s. In 27 starts, his record was 21-3 with 239 Ks in 198 1/3 innings, while allowing only 139 hits. Not surprisingly, he won his third Cy Young Award, by unanimous vote, and a day later, he added the MVP Award to his hardware collection. However, he struggled again in the postseason, being saddled with a pair of losses as the Dodgers lost to the Cardinals in the Division Series.
Kershaw gave the Dodgers a scare when he was hit in the face by a line drive hit by Andy Parrino of the Oakland Athletics during a Cactus League game on March 20, 2015. He fell to the ground and was examined by a trainer, but stayed in the game after a couple of warm-up tosses, although he had to undergo some dental work after the hit. It did not prevent him from being named the Dodgers' opening day starter once again. He struggled a bit in the early going that year, as it took him five attempts before he recorded the 100th win of his career on May 15th, 6-4 over the Colorado Rockies. On June 6th, he had one of the best outings of his career when he limited the St. Louis Cardinals to one hit while picking up 11 strikeouts in a 2-0 win. He made the All-Star team for the fifth straight year that season, but it wasn't straightforward, He was not one of the initial pick for the National League pitching staff, as teammate Zack Greinke had had a better first half. His name was one of five put up for election in the Final Man Vote, but he did not win that poll, and he had to wait until the final day before the All-Star break to be added as a replacement for Max Scherzer, who was unavailable to pitch under the Sunday Starter rule. He was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for July after going 3-0, 0.27 with 50 strikeouts in 33 innings during the month. When he recorded his 200th strikeout of the year in a 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals on August 12th, he became only the third pitcher in National League history with six consecutive seasons of 200+ strikeouts, after Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver. On September 2nd, he reached a couple of statistical markers in a complete game, 2-1 win over the Giants: his 15 strikeouts matched a career high for one game, and by reaching 251 for the season, he set a new personal best. He ended up as the first pitcher to record 300 strikeouts since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling had both done so in 2002 when he struck out 7 batters on the season's last day for a total of 301.
Clayton got off to a great start in 2016 as he pitched 7 shutout innings against the San Diego Padres on Opening day, April 4th, giving up just a single hit while striking out 9. The Dodgers won the game 15-0, the most lopsided shutout win ever by major league team on opening day. He had another tremendous individual performance on May 1st, when he threw a three-hit shutout against the Padres, struck out 14, and also drove in the game's only run with a 3rd-inning single off Drew Pomeranz. It was his 13th career shutout. With another shutout on May 12th, 5-0 over the Mets, it marked his fifth straight start with double-digit strikeouts and one or no walks, something no pitcher had accomplished before him. No other Dodgers pitcher, not even the great Sandy Koufax had ever struck out ten or more batters in five consecutive starts. He was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for May, having gone 5-0 with an ERA of 0.91 and 65 Ks in 49 2/3 innings during the period. However, with the Dodgers relying more than ever on his left arm, he sent their hopes for a fourth straight division title tumbling down when he had to be placed on the disabled list on June 30th with a herniated disc in his back, with no timetable set for his return. He missed the 2016 All-Star Game, to which he had been named, as a result, and then suffered a setback when pitching a simulated game on July 16th as he suffered from discomfort the next day and plans for an early return were set aside for the time being. On August 3rd, he was shifted to the 60-day DL, meaning that he would not be able to return before the last days of August, at the earliest, while season-ending surgery was under consideration. He did come back, on September 9th, when he started a game against the Miami Marlins; he went three innings and gave up 2 runs in a 4-1 loss. In his absence, the Dodgers had surged to the top of the NL West, but they were still ecstatic to have their ace back. He finished the year at 12-4, 1.69 with 172 strikeouts and only 11 walks. That shattered the all-time best mark for K/W ratio, at 15.64. In the postseason, he had a win and a save and was the major reason the Dodgers eliminated the Washington Nationals in the NLDS. He then added a win and a loss in two starts in the NLCS as the Dodgers lost to the Chicago Cubs.
He was back in dominating form in 2017. On June 2nd, he tied a career high with 14 strikeouts in a start against the Milwaukee Brewers, and also recorded his 2,000th K in the process, Jonathan Villar being the victim. He was the third fastest pitcher to reach the mark, needing 1,837 2/3 innings and trailing only a pair of Hall of Famers, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, although Max Scherzer was hot on his trail, needing only 19 Ks to reach 2,000 with about 100 fewer innings pitched. That game was part of a Dodgers record 26-strikeout performance in 12 innings, and a National League record combined mark of 42 between the two teams. On July 4th, a couple of days after being named an All-Star for the 7th time, he carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks before allowing an infield single to Chris Owings with one out. He ended becoming the first 13-game winner in the majors, with a 4-3 win, and also struck out 11 batters. It was his 12th straight start without a loss. On July 18th, he became the first pitcher to 15 wins in beating the Chicago White Sox, 1-0; it was also the Dodgers' 10th straight win as the team had become practically unbeatable. That tremendous sequence ended on July 23rd, when he had to be taken out of a start against the Atlanta Braves in the 2nd inning due to lower back pain. Knowing he had missed ten weeks the previous season because of a similar problem, he was not optimistic that his stay on the disabled list would be a quick one. Indeed, while the injury was not a herniated disk but simply a strained muscle, he was still expected to be out for four to six weeks. He returned on September 1st, defeating the San Diego Padres, 1-0, while pitching 6 innings. By recording his 16th win, he was still tied for the major league lead in spite of the time missed. However, in his following start against the Colorado Rockies on September 7th, he couldn't get out of the 4th inning, losing 9-1. It was the 12th loss in 13 games for the suddenly slumping Dodgers, with his win in his return against the Padres a week earlier the only one for the team during that stretch. The losing streak had reached 11 games (and 16 in 17 games) when he took the mound again on September 12th. He proved to be the stopper the team needed, as he limited the San Francisco Giants to 2 runs in 6 innings and was credited with the badly-needed 5-3 win. On September 18th, he allowed his first grand slam after over 1,900 innings on the mound; Aaron Altherr's shot in the 6th inning was enough to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 4-3 win over the Dodgers. He finished the year at 18-4, 2.31, leading the NL in both wins and ERA. His 202 strikeouts - in just 175 innings - placed him 8th. He won his only start against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS in spite of giving up 4 homers in 6 1/3 innings, but followed that with a couple of strong outings in L.A.'s win over the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, picking up a win with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings. In the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros, he started and won Game 1 on October 24th by giving up just 1 run on 3 hits in 7 innings. However, he was hit hard in a Game 5 start, allowing 6 runs in 4 2/3 innings, then came on in a relief role in the decisive Game 7 on November 1st, giving the Dodgers 4 scoreless innings of work. However, his teammates weer unable to dig out of an early hole and the Dodgers lost the game, 5-1.
He was a victim of the gopher ball in his first two starts of the 2018 season. On Opening Day, March 29th, he limited the Giants to one run on a solo homer by Joe Panik in 6 innings, but that was enough to hang him with a 1-0 loss. In his second start against the Diamondbacks on April 3rd, for the first time of his career he allowed two homers to lefthanded batters in the same game, as Daniel Descalso and David Peralta both took him deep. The two solo shots were the only runs he allowed in 6 innings, but again, his teammates failed to back him up with decent run support and lost that game too, 6-1. On May 6th, he had to go to the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. He returned on May 31st, pitching 5 innings in a start against the Philadelphia Phillies. However, after the game he said that his back did not feel right and he returned to the DL the next day, this time with a strained lower back. He was back again on June 23rd, starting a game against the Mets, allowing 2 runs in 3 innings, but felt good afterwards. On July 27th, he performed on both sides of the field as he struck out 8 batters and allowed just one run to the Atlanta Braves in 7 2/3 innings, and hit a two-run single and also drew three walks in a 4-1 win. On August 19th, he recorded the 150th win of his career when he defeated the Seattle Mariners, 12-1. He finished the year at 9-5, 2.73 in 26 starts, logging 161 1/3 innings and striking fewer than a batter per inning for the first time since 2013, as he collected 155 Ks. The Dodgers won a 6th straight NL West title, but needed to win a one-game playoff against the Colorado Rockies to do so. He started Game 2 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves and was impressive, shutting them out over 8 innings to pick up the win, but in Game 1 of the NLCS, facing the Milwaukee Brewers on October 12th, he was let down by his defense, which committed 3 errors and 2 passed balls, leading to his exit in the 4th inning after not recording an out in that frame. One mistake was ll his own, though, as he threw a mediocre fastball to his opposite number, Brandon Woodruff, who hit a no-doubt homer to center that rattled him badly. As a result, he was charged with the 6-5 loss, reanimating talk that he was too often out of sorts during the postseason. He followed that up with an excellent outing in Game 5, when he pitched 7 innings and gave up just 3 hits to win, 5-2, and he then closed off Game 7 by pitching a scoreless 9th inning. However, things did not go well in the World Series as he lost both of his starts while giving up 9 runs in 11 innings against the Boston Red Sox.
Following the 2018 World Series, he had the possibility of opting out of the remainder of his contract to become a free agent, but on November 2nd, he agreed on a three-year extension worth $93 million, adding one year and some $32 million to what he had remaining on his contract. However, the new contract started poorly as he was sidelined in spring training in 2019 because of shoulder soreness, making his availability for the start of the season uncertain. Indeed, it was confirmed on March 18th that he would unavailable for opening day, snapping a streak of eight straight opening day starts. He made his first start of the year on April 15th, facing the Cincinnati Reds at home, and ironically, his former teammate Yasiel Puig homered off him in the 1st inning, in his first at-bat in his old haunt since an off-season trade. He went on to pitch 7 innings, allowing just one other earned run, but was not involved in the decision as the Dodgers won in walk-off fashion in the 9th. He extended a streak of regular season starts without a loss to 21 until being beaten by the San Francisco Giants, 2-1, on June 7th. On August 1st he passed Sandy Koufax to assume third place on the Dodgers' all-time strikeout list with 2,397; only Don Sutton and Don Drysdale were still ahead of him. On August 20th, he passed Koufax again, this time as the lefthanded pitcher with the most wins in franchise history. He finished the year at 16-5, 3.03, with 189 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings in his 29 games. He made two appearances in the Division Series in which the Dodgers were upset by the Washington Nationals. He lost Game 2, 4-2, allowing 3 runs in 6 innings on October 4th, then was brought in in relief in the decisive Game 5. He came in with two outs in the 7th inning, replacing Walker Buehler in a double switch with L.A. ahead 3-1 and two men on base. He struck out Adam Eaton to end the threat, but in the 8th, before he could ercord an out, he allowed back-to-back homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto that tied the game, and gave way to Kenta Maeda. Howie Kendrick then hit a grand slam off Joe Kelly in the 10th to send the Dodgers home early.
In 2020, Kershaw was designated as the Dodgers' opening day starter for the 9th time; it would have been 10th had he not been forced by an injury to step aside the year before.
Kershaw has a very jerky motion that makes it very hard for opposing batters to time their swings. He also barely lifts his right foot off the ground when pitching from the stretch, putting him among the hardest pitchers in baseball to run against.
- 8-time NL All-Star (2011-2017 & 2019)
- 2014 NL MVP
- 3-time NL Cy Young Award Winner (2011, 2013 & 2014)
- NL Gold Glove Winner (2011)
- NL Pitcher's Triple Crown (2011)
- 5-time NL ERA Leader (2011-2014 & 2017)
- 3-time NL Wins Leader (2011, 2014 & 2017)
- NL Winning Percentage Leader (2014)
- NL Innings Pitched Leader (2015)
- 3-time NL Strikeouts Leader (2011, 2013 & 2015)
- 2-time NL Complete Games Leader (2014 & 2015)
- 3-time NL Shutouts Leader (2013, 2015 & 2016)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 6 (2011, 2013-2015, 2017 & 2019)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (2011 & 2014)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 5 (2010-2013 & 2015)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 7 (2010-2015 & 2017)
- 300 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2015)
|Andrew McCutchen||Clayton Kershaw||Bryce Harper|
|NL Cy Young Award|
|Roy Halladay||Clayton Kershaw||R.A. Dickey|
|NL Cy Young Award|
|R.A. Dickey||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw|
|NL Cy Young Award|
|Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw||Jake Arrieta|
- Ted Berg: "Long the best pitcher in the world, Clayton Kershaw is still adding new weapons", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, October 6, 2016. 
- Ken Gurnick: "After Series loss, Kershaw ponders opt-out", mlb.com, October 28, 2018. 
- Richard Justice: "Greatest of his generation? Kershaw keeps rolling", mlb.com, February 18, 2017. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Clayton Kershaw, ex-Dodger? After his 10th playoff loss, All-Star lefty will ponder future", USA Today, October 29, 2018. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Clayton Kershaw's arm injury, trip to DL latest sign of mortality for Dodgers great", USA Today Sports, May 6, 2018. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Kershaw's mindset on pitching speaks volumes: Says star lefty: 'As a pitcher, you're supposed to succeed'", mlb.com, October 6, 2017. 
- Tracy Ringolsby: "Kershaw is a legend in his own time: Do we take for granted just how dominant the Dodgers' ace has been?", mlb.com, April 20, 2017. 
- Jon Weisman: Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2018. ISBN 978-1-6293-7467-3