The Tampa Bay Rays Are A Major Threat To Clayton Kershaw

L.A. Dodger Clayton Kershaw has a lot of pressure on his shoulders, now that he has been slated to throw Game 1 of the World Series. The 3-time Cy Young winner has yet to have a signature postseason moment, and the Rays pose a new problem for him: left-handed pitchers have struggled to strike out the American League champions all season. Pitching coaches need to prepare Kershaw now so that he can make adjustments before the start gets away from him.

Tampa set an all-time record for most strikeouts in a championship series but controlled this problem against lefties. It’s unclear why lefties didn’t see the same success against the Rays as their right-handed counterparts, but the issue is real. Clayton Kershaw needs to find ways to get through the lineup knowing that strikeouts won’t come easily.

Silver lining

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts needs to take note of these postseason splits and pull Kershaw before Tampa can wear him down. Pitch count should be a huge factor in Game 1, as Kershaw tends to struggle as he creeps into the 80s. Roberts should not ask Kershaw to pitch more than twice threw the Rays’ lineup since history has shown that batters have success against him on their third try. Game 4 of the NLCS was especially brutal for the former ace.

Tyler Glasnow

The L.A. roster was built to face velocity from the right side. In years past, they didn’t have the ability to play matchups, so they made roster adjustments. They are now ready for the Rays. Tyler Glasnow is arguably the most physically imposing right-hander in the game, but the Dodgers possess plenty of lefties to platoon against him.

Like Kershaw, Glasnow should have a high pitch count, but his team is better fit to handle it than Kershaw’s Dodgers. Tampa has built up a dynamic bullpen that can withstand long stretches on the mound. They scheme to shut down lineups beginning in the fourth inning.

Pay attention to Kershaw’s pitch count tonight, as it could affect Games 2 and 3. He’ll throw the first pitch for Game 1 tonight at 8:11 ET. You don’t want to miss it.

Written by Gary Sheffield, Jr

Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr

4 Comments

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  1. Good insight, Gary.

    One thing I’ve noticed about Kershaw the last couple years is that he has gotten away from using that huge Bugs Bunny curveball as much, in favor of a cutter/slider. I’d like to see him throw more curveballs to this TB lineup. There’s a huge velocity difference between his curve (mid 70s) and his fastball (90-92), so it’s more effective against fastball hitting teams. I think if he would utilize the curve more than the cutter/slider it will only help him. He’s got one of the best curves in baseball, but he’s gotten away from using it as his go-to pitch. Use that sucker more!

  2. Excited for the world series to start tonight, it should be a great series.

    I need help understanding the “stats” referenced in this article. You draw a conclusion that the Rays strike out less vs left handed pitching. How does that data reflect that?

    The data shows:

    301 at bats vs right handers.. with 98 Strike outs. apx 32.5% of the time

    144 at bats vs left handers .. with 52 Strike outs. apx 36.1% of the time

    Otherwise, I enjoyed he read. Just don’t agree with the conclusion drawn from the stats referenced.

    • Good eye. I looked at a larger sample for TB against lefties, and over the year they hit.238 vs RHP and .236 vs LHP. No big difference there.

      Looking at how TB vs left handed “starters” specifically, they hit .218 and struck out 11.1 per 9 while hitting .246 and striking out 9.7 per 9 vs right hand starters. They’re going to whiff. However, they take lefty starters deep more often too. They averaged a HR per 24 plate appearances vs LH starters vs 1 per 30 plate appearances vs RHP. That’s a potential worry for Kershaw. You make a mistake, TB will punish it.

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