Another look at Clayton Kershaw's opening day start
Clayton Kershaw had the most impressive pitching performance on opening day, tossing a complete game shutout. How did he do it?
Clayton Kershaw had the most impressive pitching performance on opening day, tossing a complete game shutout against the reigning World Series champs. CBSSports.com's Mike Axisa called it the best individual performance of the day in his recap post, so we figured it deserved another look.
Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Opponent: San Francisco Giants
Result: In his first start of the 2013 season, Kershaw tossed a complete game 87-pitch shutout against the Giants. He gave up only four hits, and walked none. Kershaw struck out seven batters.
Strategy: Kershaw relied on a three pitch mix during the start, using his fastball, curveball and slider. He used the fastball early, particularly against right-handed hitters. To start an at-bat against a righty, Kershaw went with the fastball 73 percent of the time Monday. When it came time for a punch-out, he went with the curve, throwing it over 40 percent of the time with two strikes.
The Giants only used two left-handers Monday, but Kershaw altered his repertoire when facing them. At the beginning of their at-bats, Kershaw mixed in an equal amount of fastballs and sliders. During the third inning, he started Brandon Crawford off with a slider.
He was far more willing to throw his slider to Brandon Belt and Crawford, using it 46 percent of the time in all counts against them. With two strikes, he broke out the curve. Kershaw would wait until the count was at least even to toss a curve against lefties. He preferred to use it once he got ahead or when he had two strikes on a left-hander.
Best pitch: It’s really hard to decide between the curveball and the slider, as both were fantastic. The slider had a 28 percent whiff rate, finishing just ahead of the the curve, which had a 23.5 percent whiff rate. But against lefties, the curve was really special. Kershaw only threw five curves to left-handed hitters Monday, but they swung and missed at four of them. Both pitches were well above-average during the start.
Bonus gif: Kershaw also hit a home run during the game.
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