Sullivan: Clayton Kershaw and 300 strikeouts

From Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs on September 3, 2015:

Talk to any player in baseball and that player will tell you the most important thing is winning. That player will tell you he doesn’t care if he goes 0-for-4 if his team still wins the game. That isn’t always all true, but winning tends to be the priority, and at least in the moment, players don’t care so much about the numbers. It’s one of the many differences between baseball players and baseball fans. Players just want to go to the park and have their team get the job done. Fans want to consume as much baseball as they can, and that’s where the stats come in, to fill the void in between baseball games. Each day, a game entertains for three hours. That means numbers could conceivably entertain for 21 hours, given a particularly unhealthy individual.

Many of the best players in baseball are almost as entertaining on paper as they are on the field. Barry Bonds‘ player pages continue to amaze to this day, even though his career has been over for years. Clayton Kershaw is turning into a sort of pitcher version. Kershaw goes above and beyond what his own team would deem necessary. There’s no need for Kershaw to be this good. The Dodgers would still win if he were a little bit worse, but he’s not a little bit worse, so the numbers are like a toy box. If you want to observe Clayton Kershaw, and he’s not actively pitching, you can get by from looking at his statistics, because they’re like the numerical version of a perfectly-located curveball.

Kershaw pitched on Wednesday. He faced a lineup of players all worse than him, and he was something close to perfect, striking the hitters out 15 times. What that meant, for Kershaw, is that the Dodgers won a game against a division rival. What it means, for us: Kershaw has positioned himself to have a shot at 300 strikeouts.

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Originally published: September 3, 2015. Last Updated: September 3, 2015.