Clayton Kershaw took the ball for the Dodgers on Opening Day for the eighth consecutive season yesterday, and although he ended up taking the loss in a 1-0 defeat to the Giants, it’s impossible to lay the blame at his feet when the offense got shutout.
That said, taking a look at how things actually went is a bit less pretty since he was forced to strand runners in scoring position in the first, second, fourth, and fifth innings, and surrendered eight hits (including two doubles and a homer) in his six innings of work. But those kind of starts happen from time to time, and he still allowed just one run and struck out seven while walking two.
The main concern heard from fans was actually about Kershaw’s radar gun readings, as the ESPN broadcast continually showed him sitting 90-91 mph. And indeed, this was his second-lowest velocity on Opening Day (but basically his lowest, as you’ll see later), down a tick or two from his norm.
Note: Data via Brooks Baseball.
While some pitchers take time to ramp up the velocity, Kershaw has never really had that issue, as he normally sits between 93.5 and 94.5 mph on Opening Day. So he was definitely down a tick or two from the norm yesterday, but he was sitting more 91-93 than 90-91, which is still less than ideal but a bit less worrying at least.
Remember, 2012 doesn’t really count either, because that was the day he was removed after three innings due to flu-like symptoms. Following that start, he averaged 93.6 mph on his fastball in his next outing. There’s no data for Opening Day in 2014 because that was the year the Dodgers opened in Australia and he subsequently got hurt. But when he did return, his velocity was fine, averaging 94.1 mph in his following start.
It’s not worth freaking out about Clayton Kershaw’s velocity yet, but it certainly is worth monitoring if it doesn’t tick back up in subsequent starts, because what he did yesterday was definitely not the norm.