Oh Thats Nasty Week 1: Clayton Kershaw's Curve
Welcome to the first edition of what will be a weekly column called Oh That’s Nasty in which I’ll go in depth on a particularly devastating pitch that a certain pitcher utilizes.
Today we look at Clayton Kershaw, and more specifically, his knee-buckling curve.
It's a pitch that has been filthy since his first day in the league, as sees when he used it to make current Texas Ranger Elvis Andrus look absolutely silly in the 2007 Futures Game.
Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in baseball and his ability to work between his fastball, hard slider, and looping curve has made him statistically one of the greatest of all time. (At least in the regular season, but that’s another article for another day)
That is a combined video of each of Kershaw’s 15 punch-outs from his no-hitter in 2014 -- argued as one of the best no-hitters in history by the LA Times -- showing the precision in the delivery and execution of his pitches.
You don’t need to be a baseball fan to appreciate something as beautiful as that curveball, but let me throw some statistics at you to prove how great it is.
Brooks Baseball showed that through the 2016 and 2017 seasons, opposing hitters averaged a miniscule .142 against his curve - the lowest among Kershaw's three main pitches: his fastball, slider, and curve. The pitch had a 14.61% swing-and-miss rate, and had the lowest opponent slugging percentage of the three.
Lefties especially struggled against the pitch, they hit just .130 and didn’t hit a single home run. In fact, Kershaw allowed just one extra base hit to lefties with his curve in the last two seasons.
And who could forget when he humiliated former San Francisco Giant Gregor Blanco.
But just because it is filthy, doesn’t mean Kershaw will throw it at any time.
A big shout out to Jeff Sullivan from Fangraphs for doing the digging to find just how little Kershaw throws this pitch.
Sullivan found Kershaw didn't throw a single curveball behind in the count between 2014 and 2016, and threw only one in 2017.
The lone curve he threw when he was behind in 2017?
A solo bomb to J.D. Martinez.
A quick aside: I'd like to point out that the Dodgers were up 7-1 at the time and would go on to win the game regardless.
While this fact doesn’t change the devastating nature of the pitch, it is interesting to note that such a dominant pitch isn’t utilized more often when behind. That job goes to Kershaw’s equally-nasty slider that may be featured at some point this season.
If you have a suggestion for a pitch to be featured on Oh That's Nasty, feel free to send it to me on Twitter @RealCamNewell !
Gifs provided by Gfycat, mlb.com, pitcherlist, giphy,
Stats provided by Brooks Baseball.