Baseball is back and so is our beloved Clayton Kershaw!

This afternoon, Kershaw threw his first bullpen at Camelback Ranch to the newly-acquired Russell Martin.

It was a fun and noteworthy reunion for Kershaw and Martin, working together for the first time since 2010. As Martin noted, “last time I caught him he didn’t have a slider.” Kershaw also had yet to win a Cy Young, MVP award, or even be named to the All-Star game.

This season is pivotal for Clayton Kershaw as the critics are louder than ever, questioning his ace status due to declining velocity and declining strikeout rates.

Kershaw is still among the best pitchers in the game, regardless of his performance in 2018, which was still well above-average. He posted a 2.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 26 starts which are still both obviously elite marks.

However, there are a lot of numbers that are frightening when evaluating the future of Kershaw. He saw a drop in K% from 29.8% to 23.9%, saw a rise in hard contact against him from 27.4% to 36.1%, and saw his swinging strike rate drop from 14.1% to 11%. As fans know as well, Kershaw’s velocity went down from 92.7 to 90.9 mph, which only adds fuel to the fire. All four of these examples show what is hard to admit, Kershaw might be on the decline in terms of dominance.

All of us hope that Kershaw can continue being an ace and we would be ignorant to not believe he can be. Even if it requires reinventing himself, Kershaw is an absolute gamer and we know he will stop at nothing to be successful. He still craves the elusive World Series ring.

A few months ago, it was also reported that Kershaw’s main focus in the offseason was doing core work to help increase his velocity. If he can get it to around 92 mph on average, he can probably repeat his 2018 campaign. On day one at camp, Clayton made his goals clear: “[I’m] trying to regain some stuff I lost.”

The prospects for Kershaw’s 2019 are not all dark and he should continue to slot in as a co-ace to the young Walker Buehler.

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