Further Appreciation of Clayton Kershaw’s Slider

Yes, I’m writing another post about Clayton Kershaw. He’s doing interesting, sometimes historic things this season. He’s a pitcher, so we shouldn’t take it for granted. There’s no clearer demonstration of this than the current rotation. Posts about Kershaw are fun to write and presumably fun to read.

I’ll start with two GIFs. One will probably look pretty familiar, and the other one won’t. They have something in common, though.

Both are sliders to left-handed batters. In each image, the batter reached base safely. The top GIF is Corey Dickerson, as Hanley Ramirez allowed the only baserunner of Kershaw’s no-hitter. The bottom GIF is Matt Carpenter walking on a check swing on a 3-2 count. These GIFs by themselves would not normally be noteworthy, but there’s one detail I’ve omitted so far. They’re the only times this season that left-handed batters have reached base on Kershaw’s slider.

Kershaw’s success against fellow southpaws with his slider isn’t due to a lack of usage, either. He throws it about 30% of the time to lefties, which is nearly identical to his usage against right-handed batters. I wrote about Kershaw’s slider to right-handed batters the day after his no-hitter (mostly because platoon advantage suppression is a particular interest of mine), but his complete dominance with the pitch to lefties is worth looking at as well.

After showing two GIFs of the slider “failing,” it’s only fair to show it working properly:

This is Dickerson, again, to close out the no hitter. With that location, he simply had no chance. Of Kershaw’s 108 sliders thrown to left-handed batters this season, about half have been in the same area – either on the low/outside corner or slightly off the plate in the same spot. Kershaw targets the same area against right-handed batters, except the pitch runs in towards them instead.

In order to get an appreciation for Kershaw’s complete dominance with the pitch, here’s a breakdown of the results against left-handed batters this season:

  • 108 pitches
  • 30 balls (one walk) – 27.8%. Kershaw has thrown seven sliders on three ball counts to lefties this year. He’s walked one batter and struck out four.
  • 22 foul/foul tip – 20.4%
  • 11 called strikes – 9.1%. Two called strikeouts.
  • 26 swinging strikes – 24.1% (38.9% whiff/swing). Twelve swinging strikeouts.

This leaves 19 balls put into play:

  • 11 ground balls (1 ROE) – 57.9%. Two comebackers.
  • 3 pop-ups – 15.8%
  • 3 fly outs – 15.8%
  • 2 line drives – 10.5%
  • 0 hits

If you add everything up, 34 left-handed plate appearances have ended with sliders, resulting in a .000/.029/.000 batting line. Kershaw hasn’t allowed a hit on the pitch in almost a calendar year; Jay Bruce was the last to do it, back on September 8th of last season. Bruce homered on a slider twice in the same game! Baseball is fun.

The hitless streak won’t last forever, but it’s fun to appreciate it while it lasts. It’s just one way, out of so many, that Kershaw has been amazing this season.

About Daniel Brim

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Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn't live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.