Clayton Kershaw has learned the art of working hitters over. 2009: 12 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 19 K, 0 HR.
Last year Clayton Kershaw proved that he had all the tools necessary to be a front of the rotation starter in the major leagues. A plus fastball, a serviceable change up, and a curve ball that is among the best in the majors had scouts and Dodger front office personnel grinning from ear to ear in 2008.
He still had plenty to work on last year when it came to pitching instead of throwing. His throught process seemed to be all out of wack, as he lacked the ability to set up hitters and control at bats. This is probably directly related to control issues, as he saw a ton of long counts last year. It is very difficult to set up a hitter when he knows you have to throw a strike for fear of walking him.
Fast forward to 2009, and see a much different pitcher. The same arsenal of devastating stuff is there. His velocity and break on the curve ball are both the same as they were last year. He is now able to set up hitters and get ahead in the count as a result of improved command and better knowledge of both the mind set of the hitter and the strike zone. It also doesn’t hurt that he is throwing to one of the smarter catchers in baseball, Russell Martin.
His choice of an out pitch is interesting too, as this year he has been able to use that nasty curve ball down in the zone and the elevated fastball to get the strike out. A pitcher that changes speeds, changes the eye level of the hitter, and has outstanding movement is bound to keep hitters off balance. Keeping hitters off balance is the key to getting outs.