He’s probably the best pitcher of our generation,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said in his NLDS postgame conference about Clayton Kershaw.
Since his debut with the Dodgers in 2008, Kershaw has been an eight-time All-Star, three-time National League Cy Young winner, and in 2014 was the first pitcher since 1968 to win the NL Most Valuable Player award.
Kershaw’s stats would suggest he’s a front-runner for the Hall of Fame. However, his postseason numbers are not as impressive.
The Dodgers were six outs away from defeating the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS. Kershaw was in to pitch the top of the eighth inning after he recorded a strikeout in the seventh to end a potential scoring threat. He had a two-run lead and quickly surrendered back-to-back home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto on consecutive pitches.
The only other time Kershaw allowed back-to-back home runs was also in the postseason, during the 2017 NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He gave up four home runs in Game 1 and at the time tied the MLB record for the most home runs allowed in a postseason game.
For the game this year, the Dodgers went on to lose 7-3 after Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam off relief pitcher Joe Kelly in the 10th inning.
Kershaw isn’t the only player to blame for the loss; it’s just not the first time he’s struggled in the postseason.
In his 32 postseason appearances, Kershaw’s stats greatly differ from his regular-season stats. He has a 9-11 record, a 4.33 ERA and has given up 24 home runs. His stats are even worse in the eight eliminations games he’s pitched in.
During elimination games, Kershaw has a 5.77 ERA. The only other starting pitcher with a worse ERA is Tim Wakefield at 6.75.
"Everything people say is true right now about the postseason," Kershaw said in his postgame comments. "I understand that. Nothing I can do about it right now, it's a terrible feeling."
Kershaw’s postseason woes can be dated back to the 2009 NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies where he earned his first postseason loss. He entered Game 1 in the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead and gave up five runs.
When the Dodgers made the postseason again in 2013, the first of the last seven division titles, Kershaw crumbled to the Cardinals. In a win-or-go-home Game 6 of the NLCS, within five innings, he had seven earned runs over 10 hits sending the Dodgers back to Los Angeles empty-handed.
Kershaw’s failures have played a massive role in one of the reasons why the Dodgers have failed to win a World Series title. They are currently in a 31-year World Series title drought and Angelinos are anxious for a win.
Kershaw isn’t alone among great pitchers who had bad postseason career stats.
The most notable name is Braves pitcher Greg Maddux. He recorded a 11-14 record in 35 postseason games. In his first ever appearance in the NLCS, he allowed 11 earned runs against the Chicago Cubs. Roger Clemens had his share of ups and downs in the postseason as well. His postseason career ERA was notably worse than his career regular-season ERA.
Most recently, current Red Sox pitcher David Price had his struggles pitching in the playoffs. His career postseason record is 5-9 with a 4.62 ERA and 28 home runs given up. It wasn’t until his 2018 postseason run with the Red Sox was he able to redeem himself.
During the 2018 World Series, Price went 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA. He struck out 14 Dodgers over 17 innings and only walked two batters. His dominating performances helped the Red Sox take home the title over the Dodgers that year.
Kershaw’s career stats are something that shouldn’t be diminished. For the last seven seasons, he’s been one of the dominating forces getting the Dodgers to the postseason.
This season alone, he finished with a 16-5 record, recorded 189 Ks, had a 1.043 WHIP and made the 2019 All-Star team.