Meet The Five Players Who Have Walked Against Clayton Kershaw In 2016
Throughout the Sunday Night Baseball telecast between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, the announcers frequently referenced the historic strikeout to walk ratio Clayton Kershaw has put up thus far in 2016. The eye-popping stat most mentioned was that by the time Kershaw had struck out 100 batters this year, he had only walked five. That rate bettered Cliff Lee, who walked just seven batters at the time of his 100th strikeout in 2010.
Kershaw ended his start with a strikeout to walk rate of 21:1 while averaging just a half of a walk per nine innings. Kershaw’s 21:1 strikeout to walk ratio is infinitely better than his closest competitor, Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard’s 8.8:1 ratio would have led the league most seasons over the previous decade, but just pales in comparison next to Kershaw’s. Only two starting pitchers have ever registered as many as 11 strikeouts per walk over an entire season — Bret Saberhagen, 11.0 in 1994 and Phil Hughes, 11.4 in 2010. His ratio could be even more remarkable as a chart by Baseball Savant shows that two of his five walks came on borderline pitches.
None of his five walks have come around to score and the Dodgers have won each of the five games he has walked a batter.
Much has been made during the 24-hour baseball news cycle of Kershaw’s insane ratio, but not much has been made of the five who have managed to wait out a walk on Kershaw. All five walks came in different games, so he has not walked more than one player in any one start.
Here’s a closer look as to how players actually did the near-impossible: draw a walk against Kershaw in 2016.
There was a point in time when Kershaw’s strikeout to walk ratio in 2016 was 3:1. That happened in the second inning of opening day when Kershaw walked Yangervis Solarte, the sixth batter he faced this season. Kershaw had gone to three balls on three of the first six batters he faced in 2016, but only Solarte was able to draw the walk, doing so on a 3-1 count. Interestingly, Solarte is the only non-All-Star to draw a walk against Kershaw this year. Kershaw would go to three balls on two other batters that day, but otherwise cruised as the Dodgers thumped the San Diego Padres 15-0.
Kershaw’s next start came on April 9 against the San Francisco Giants and once again someone managed a free pass against him. Hunter Pence drew a two-out first inning walk against Kershaw, making this the only time Kershaw walked batters in back-to-back games. Pence is the only batter to draw a four-pitch walk against Kershaw this season. Kershaw went to a 3-2 count on Angel Pagan in the fifth inning, but besides that, no batter got to three balls against him all game. The Dodgers won the game 3-2.
Kershaw faced the Giants in his next start and didn’t walk a batter over seven innings and then faced the hapless Atlanta Braves on April 21. For as bad as the Braves are, they battled valiantly against Kershaw, falling 2-1 in extra innings. Kershaw pitched eight innings, striking out 10 batters along the way. Freddie Freeman managed to draw a walk against Kershaw in the eighth inning at a time when the lefty was probably being careful with Freeman. The game was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth and with two outs and nobody on, Freeman drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch. Although it isn’t like Kershaw to back down from anyone, it made no baseball sense to pitch to Freeman there.
After his walk to Freeman, Kershaw went 23 innings before issuing another walk, this time to David Wright on May 12. The meaningless walk came with two outs and nobody on in the first inning on a 3-2 pitch and was forgotten about when Yoenis Cespedes followed up with w strikeout. Kershaw ended up pitching a shutout in the Dodgers 5-0 win, striking out 13 along the way. He went to 3-2 on three other batters, but got two strikeouts and a ground out in those instances.
Following the walk to Wright on May 12, Kershaw went another 19 innings before walking Joey Votto on May 23. Votto, who has one of the best eyes in baseball, drew a leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch but was erased on the very next pitch when Brandon Phillips hit into a double play. Kershaw would go on to pitch another shutout this game as the Dodgers topped the Cincinnati Reds 1-0.