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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dodgers unnecessarily pitching Clayton Kershaw on short rest

Clayton KershawThe Los Angeles Dodgers were flirting with the idea of pitching ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest for Game 4 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, and they announced that they would be going forward with the plan. While the move may allow them to clinch the series on Monday, I think it’s an unnecessary risk.

Kershaw pitched brilliantly in the Dodgers’ Game 1 win in Atlanta last Thursday. He’s the best pitcher in baseball on regular rest. The team is already up 2-1 and planned to have Ricky Nolasco pitch Game 4. The Braves are going with Freddy Garcia, who is a weak link on their pitching staff in my opinion. The Dodgers have a very good chance of winning Game 4 in a Nolasco-Garcia matchup, so why push Kershaw to pitch a day early?

Pitching Kershaw on short rest creates some uncertainty. Teams only pitch their aces on short rest, thinking that will give them an advantage. But we’ve seen many times in the past where aces on short rest just looked like average guys.

According to Gerry Fraley, since 2000, pitchers who start a postseason game on less than four days rest have gone 20-32, 4.97 in 82 starts. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that since 1995, pitchers going on 3 days rest have gone 20-31 while their team has gone 29-48.

That’s pretty strong evidence that even aces are not the same when going on short rest. Pitchers are used to having the same routine throughout the season. Their bodies are used to the same patterns of pitching, recovery, rest, training, and preparation. Messing with that pattern affects them in big ways. And even if Kershaw does get through Game 4 just fine, we don’t know how this might fatigue him later in the playoffs. It’s already at the end of the season, and Kershaw threw 124 pitches last Thursday. Those are high-stress pitches thrown in the playoffs. That wears a body down more than spring training pitches, or even pitches against the San Diego Padres in June.

Don’t believe me? Look at what Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy said about the move:

I know Nolasco was blown up at the end of the season. He went 1-4 with a 6.17 ERA in his last six games. But he was money at home before that, and I think he was worth giving the start, even if he’s had a 5.11 career ERA against the Braves. Are you really telling me you don’t think the Dodgers can win a Nolasco-Garcia matchup? And if they don’t, would you rather have Zack Greinke or Kershaw in Game 5? I know my answer. Like I said, I just don’t think this is worth throwing off Kershaw’s routine.

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