GIF: Clayton Kershaw's brilliance from the stretch
Part of Clayton Kershaw's success is his ability to hide the ball when pitching with runners on base.
MORE: Game 1 Gametracker
ST. LOUIS -- Game 2 of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Cardinals has given us plenty in the way of pitchers' bearing down with runners on base. In the first, Clayton Kershaw pitched around a Matt Carpenter triple on the first pitch of the game. Michael Wacha was masterly while pitching out of trouble in the sixth (an infield pop-up, an intentional walk and two swinging strikeouts to keep the shutout intact).
In the case of Kershaw, this is nothing new. For his career, opposing hitters are batting .214 with the bases empty, .206 with men on and .192 with runners in scoring position. He's dominant in all situations, but especially so when a potential run is lurking on the bags. More to the point, Kershaw for his career has stranded 77.8 percent of base-runners, while pitchers as a group tend to settle in the 72-percent range. Normally, hurlers who greatly exceed or fall short of that 72-percent mark tend to find their way back to it given a larger sample. In Kershaw's case, though, we're talking about 1,180 innings spread over parts of six major-league seasons.
So is there something about Kershaw that allows him to pitch even more effectively with runners on base? Maybe.
What's impressive here is how well Kershaw hides the ball while pitching from the stretch. That's especially evident in the top portion of the GIF. He of course has the ball tucked in his pitching hand while coming set, and while in the set position the ball is in his glove, blocked by the bend in his right arm and almost nestled into his jersey. Then, as he begins his "fall" toward the plate, he hooks the ball behind his back leg, and even as his arm action kicks in, his ball-hand is behind back and then, for an instant, his head. In essence, the hitter doesn't see a flash of white until Kershaw's about 55 feet from the plate.
So, yes, Kershaw's exceptional ability to keep the ball obscured while pitching from the stretch may a little something to do with why runners so rarely come around to touch the plate against him.