Clayton Kershaw’s ERA

Clayton Kershaw is obviously unprepared for the major leagues. That’s a justifiable statement if you only judge pitchers by ERA. Kershaw’s is 5.46, more than a run higher than last year. Of course, Kershaw is pitching nearly as well if you judge pitchers by FIP, and his peripherals look pretty impressive.

Kershaw is striking out 9.32 batters per nine (8.36 last season), walking 4.18 (4.35), allowing 1.29 homeruns (0.92), and has a BABIP against of .276 (.325), so what gives? Well, a LOB% of 62.5 has a lot to do with that horrendous looking ERA. Consider that league average is right at 71%, and even last year Kershaw flexed a 75.7% strand rate.

Frankly, his strand rate is a bit puzzling given that:

A. Kershaw is striking out a quarter of the batters he faces.
B. Kershaw is getting about 50% flyballs.
C. 30% of those flyballs are of the infield variety.

BIS’ batted ball data shows that Kershaw has actually given up an equal amount of liners and infield flies, which is just silly to think about. Obviously the infield pops will regress, over the last five years the seasonal highs for infield flyballs out of those who qualified are 21% by Tim Wakefield in 2004, also in 2004 Joe Kennedy at 19.6%, and Matt Garza at 18% last season. Pitchers rarely get 20% flyballs, forget about 30%.

Kershaw’s ERA should drop by at least a full run during the course of the season, if not more. He’s pitching wonderfully outside of the homeruns, and those are a product of the flyball heavy batted ball portfolio.

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Kevin S.
14 years ago

In what world is having a walk rate north of four per nine “pitching wonderfully?” Yes, his strand rate is really low, but a pitcher typically needs to post strong rates in two of the three true outcomes to do well. Right now, Kershaw’s only getting it done in one.

Eric Cioe
14 years ago
Reply to  Kevin S.

That was my thought, too. “Wonderfully” seems a bit overboard for a walk rate like that.

14 years ago
Reply to  Eric Cioe

A study on “another site” (Derek Carty) showed that when a pitcher is a high-strikeout pitcher, as long as his K/BB is above 2.0, he can survive a high walk rate, in fact, the study showed that the overall ERA for those pitchers are the best among pitchers with a K/BB over 2.0 (which is the minimum you want to see out of good pitchers).

Thus, while normally, a 4+ BB/9 is not “wonderful”, in combination with a very high K/9, it is.