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Clayton Kershaw is no longer just dominating…

Last week, I looked at the luckiest pitchers to date. Clayton Kershaw was not only the most “skillsy,” but he was also slightly UN-lucky. Do you believe that?! His BABIP is actually the worst since 2008 while the HR/FB is the third worst of his career (still not bad) meaning his left-on-base rate is potentially the only luck he has going for him thus far, but then there are these splits:

Bases Empty: K-rate = 32.6%; .307 BABIP

Men on Base: K-rate = 37.5%; .269 BABIP

Runners in Scoring Position: K-rate =42.9%; .233 BABIP

Although the BABIP might be a little lucky with RISP, he’s throwing with a sense of urgency and is as or more dominating in increasing leverage situations. In fact, one of my ballsier forecasts last year was that Clayton Kershaw was going to be the #1 5×5 value in fantasy baseball. Had he not missed time, he would be top-5 right now, and assuming health, I don’t see why he won’t end up there.

Here are his individual whiff and groundball/flyball rates and ranks this year and 2013 (stats courtesy of Baseball Prospectus’ Pitch F/X Leaderboard):

2014 as of 7/8/14 Qty Usage UseDiff Vel Rnk Whiff/Swing Rnk GB/FB Rnk
2014 Fastball 573 54.3% -6.3% 93.82 43 11.44% 142 4.27 6
2014 Slider 316 30.0% 5.4% 87.91 6 50.75% 1 5 9
2014 Curveball 147 13.9% 1.4% 74.92 95 33.30% 39 2.5 55
2014 Changeup 18 1.7% -0.6%
2014 Sinker 1 0.1%
2014 Total P: 1055
2013 Season Qty Usage Vel Rnk Whiff/Swing Rnk GB/FB Rnk
2013 Fastball 2075 60.60% 93.42 66 16.08% 99 2.35 22
2013 Slider 839 24.50% 85.76 33 41.03% 14 2.17 46
2013 Curveball 428 12.50% 74.42 127 39.27% 15 4.11 25
2013 Changeup 80 2.34% 86.05 53 30.43% 96 3 49
2013 Sinker 2 0.06%
2013 Total P: 3424

Using it more, Kershaw has increased his Slider velocity by over 2MPH thus far. As Jeff Sullivan on FG pointed out, from about half, Kershaw now has a 4:1 low slider ratio, doubling his Slider’s GB/FB ratio. While it’s also induced more swing and miss, it has also ensured less quality contact.

Verifying his sense of control, look at the bottom third of his pitch% first from 2013:

0.50% 0.70% 1.00% 1.60% 1.80% 1.80% 1.40% 0.90%
0.30% 0.50% 0.90% 1.30% 1.50% 1.50% 1.10% 0.70%
0.40% 1.90% 1.10%

And now for 2014 so far:

0.30% 0.80% 1.30% 2.00% 2.60% 2.40% 1.80% 1.10%
0.30% 0.80% 1.20% 1.70% 2.00% 1.90% 1.40% 0.70%
0.20% 2.70%       2.00%

It might be difficult to distinguish, but as you can see, most locations in the bottom-third of the heatmap jumped while numbers in the top third of the zone (not shown) and beyond dropped. His value is not 100% about the K% any longer. It’s about the K-BB% and Balls In Play awesomeness.

Clayton Kershaw is no longer just dominating…He is commanding.

Follow Dano on Twitter @Rotobanter.

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