The Dodgers begin the 2014 MLB season two weeks from today when the face the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia. Manager Don Mattingly will most likely send ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound on opening day. If the Los Angeles Dodgers want to have any shot at winning their first World Series title since 1988, they will need to monitor Kershaw’s innings in the 2014 MLB season.
Kershaw had a dominant 2013 season, going 16-9 with a 1.83 era and 232 strikeouts in 236 innings. He had only four starts where he failed to go six innings and in the month of August, he threw 35.2 innings and allowed only four runs. Kershaw’s sensational season finished with his 2ndCy Young Award but not a successful ending for his team as the Dodgers fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. This is where the issue comes for Kershaw as if you include his playoff starts, Kershaw threw a career high 259 innings, 26 more than his previous career high that came in 2011, the year he went 21-5 and won his first Cy Young.
The Dodgers signed their ace to a seven-year, $215 million contract in the offseason, making him the richest pitcher in MLB history. Fatigue became a factor for Kershaw down the stretch as he only pitched into the 7th inning once in his four starts in the 2013 playoffs. Add to the fact that Kershaw pitched on three days rest in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves and I am surprised he didn’t suffer a major injury. It all caught up with him during game six of the NLCS when Kershaw had his worst start of the season, only throwing four innings and allowing seven earned runs. Kershaw looked exhausted early on in the game and although it was a bad start for him, his 250+ innings on the season caught up to him.
The Dodgers begin the 2014 season earlier than most teams due to the fact that they play on March 22nd in Australia (They technically play two games on March 22nd if you base it off of the American time zones). Because the season begins earlier for the boys in blue, that means that Kershaw had a shorter offseason and had to begin his throwing program in early 2014. I know Clayton has never had a major injury but when you are coming off such a high volume of innings in the season before, you need a long time to rest your arm and he didn’t get it because of the shorter offseason. The Dodgers need to keep Kershaw at around 90 pitches for the opener and should hope that they can keep him under 210 innings this season excluding their potential long playoff run. If that means that Kershaw has to miss a couple of starts during the season than so be it because without him, the Dodgers don’t have a chance to bring a title back to Chavez Ravine.