Kershaw Becomes the Dodger Strikeout Leader

Sunday, May 1, 2022
Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2022

Saturday, Clayton Kershaw became the all-time Dodger franchise leader in strikeouts, passing Hall of Famer Don Sutton.

On a lazy March afternoon in 2008 when the Los Angeles Dodgers played an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox, a skinny nineteen-year-old named Clayton Kershaw debuted for the Dodgers. During every spring training, many young pitchers make their debuts for their respective Major-League teams, and most are quickly forgotten. Kershaw, a lefty, was compared to the Dodger legend, Sandy Koufax.

I ignored the hype surrounding Kershaw since I had learned the more hype surrounding a young player, the more likely that player would fail. Nevertheless, I was anxious to see the young phenom pitch. I never saw Koufax pitch because he retired four years before I was born. The minute I saw Kershaw’s rainbow curveball on my monitor, I knew the Dodgers had something special. Usually, I could not see any break on a curveball, but with Kershaw’s curveball, the vertical break was completely visible on my monitor.

Kershaw went to the Minor Leagues to begin the 2008 season. Since the Dodgers did not have a good starting rotation in 2008, many Dodger fans almost demanded Kershaw to debut for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Understandably, the Dodger organization wanted to protect their phenom from injury. Of course, Kershaw needed more seasoning to be a successful Major Leaguer. Kershaw needed to develop another pitch to survive the Major Leagues.

Nevertheless, circumstances forced the Dodgers to bring Kershaw up and have him make his first Major-League start against the Saint Louis Cardinals. Although Kershaw received a no-decision, he had seven strikeouts and impressed the future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.

Kershaw received his first Major-League victory on July 27, 2008, but he struggled until he trusted his God-given talent and discovered the slider. Under manager Joe Torre, Kershaw had a strict pitch count, which frustrated highly competitive Kershaw.

When Don Mattingly took over the Dodger managerial job before the 2011 season, he took off the limitations on Kershaw. Using his terrific fastball, curveball, and slider, Kershaw baffled the National League to win his first Cy Young Award. Although he performed outstandingly in the 2012 campaign, he was runner-up for the Cy Young Award. Both in 2013 and in 2014, Kershaw earned the National League Cy Young Awards. In 2014, every time Kershaw took the ball, his team won and pitched his first and only no-hitter in his Major-League career; therefore, he became the first pitcher in forty-six years to earn the National League MVP.
While in 2015 Kershaw struck out three hundred strikeouts, he did not win the National League Cy Young Award. Under Mattingly, Kershaw performed poorly in the postseasons since he was overused during the regular seasons.

Under Dave Roberts, Kershaw has battled an array of injuries that prevented him from making starts. When healthy, Kershaw still has dominated his opponents. Instead of relying on the overpowering fastball, he has learned to use his breaking pitches to still dominate the opponents. While still highly competitive, Kershaw has a more open mind to suggestions on how to improve.

After winning his first world championship during the abbreviated 2020 season, Kershaw suffered his first elbow injury. For the first time in his Major-League career, he missed the playoffs. Many Dodger fans feared Kershaw would not return to the Dodgers for this season. After all, he lives within minutes from Globe Life Field in Dallas. He is famous for being a family man.

The labor dispute was a Godsend for Kershaw, allowing him to heal and enjoy his fourth infant son Chance. Kershaw did not pick up a baseball until January 1st. To surprise every Dodger fan, Kershaw started the first exhibition game.

In his first start of 2022, Kershaw pitched seven perfect innings against the Minnesota Twins and caused controversy when he left after the seventh inning to protect his newly healed arm. Although the Dodgers lost Saturday, Kershaw pitched excellently for six innings allowing only one run.

Kershaw has the lowest ERA, 2.49, in the live-ball era starting in 1920. This year he has a 2.35 ERA, and the Dodgers and their fans hope Kershaw continues his dominance. Saturday belonged to him, and most Dodger fans understand they will not witness any other Dodger pitcher breaking Kershaw’s new strikeout record anytime soon.

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