Dodgers’, Kershaw’s Path to WS: Keeping Runners Off Base

Through seven playoff games so far this post season, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has done an amazing job keeping opposing batters off base. The Dodgers as a team have hit ten home runs and have scored 37 runs. Opposing teams have out homered the Dodgers with a total of 13, but they have scored a total of only 18 runs in the seven games, as when the Diamondbacks and Cubs have homered, there almost always are NO runners on base. As a team, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has compiled an unheard of WHIP of 0.79 through the seven games, allowing a total of only 38 hits and 11 walks over 62 innings pitched. Combine this with the outstanding offense led by Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig, and the Dodgers sit today one victory from their first World Series appearance since 1988.

One factor overlooked by many that has been a major reason for not just the great performances from one Dodgers’ pitcher after another, but also for the team’s overall success has been the great all-around play of the new but yet unofficial starting catcher,

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Austin Barnes. From the very first day that the Dodgers’ gave away far, far too much talent for an extremely overrated yasmani grandel, I have been saying what a horrifically bad trade that was. That clearly can be seen now. Tied for the major league lead in passed balls this season, the underachieving grandal is hitless throughout the post season, while the next Dodgers’ star, Barnes, is hitting a solid .278 and producing runs, while performing brilliantly behind the plate, not just in not committing passed balls, but in corralling potential wild pitches, in preventing stolen bases (the Dodgers have stolen five bases in the seven games, their opponents, one), doing the one thing that pundits agreed grandal was good at – framing pitches – and in his overall handling of the pitching staff. Do not underestimate Barnes’ significant contributions to the Dodgers’ current success.

Kershaw, baseball’s best regular season pitcher over the past decade, has yet to make any kind of an historic mark in the post season, and with all of the dominance exhibited by Dodgers’ pitching over the past two weeks, Kershaw has contributed very little, in fact, he has the third highest ERA on the post season staff and has a WHIP higher than every other member of the staff save for Ross Stripling, who has pitched a single inning. I will not beleaguer the fact that he has given up five home rums in only 11-1/3 innings pitched.

The question that must be asked is how healthy is Kershaw? Is he experiencing the back pain that he has had re-occur several times over the past couple of seasons, and if so, how much is that effecting his pitching? The Dodgers need a great effort from him tonight to end the preliminaries and get the team to the World Series, but thinking ahead, once there and faced with the powerful offensive of either the Astros or the yankees, the Dodgers REALLY need a healthy and productive Kershaw to actually win a championship.

Throughout their history, Dodgers’ world championships have been won on the back of

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phenomenal pitching performances, from Larry Sherry in 1959 to Sandy Koufax in 1965 to Orel Hershiser in 1988, and to the staff-wide total dominance in the 1963 sweep of the yankees.

For the Dodgers to get there this year and to win it all, they need Kershaw to be as healthy as possible, to pitch innings, to keep runners off base as his cohorts have done so well, and to be the leader of the best pitching staff in baseball. That’s all.

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