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A Closer Look: Clayton Kershaw-The Ace??

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I am watching the Dodgers-Yankees Sunday night game, and manager Joe Torre made a statement during his 5th inning interview saying "Kershaw is starting to look like an ace, even though I am not ready to call him in ace just yet" Well, let's take a look at how he has performed this season. The problem Kershaw has had since AA is walking batters. It appears he is beginning to improve his control on the mound.

He opened the season by going 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.534 WHIP in April. He walked at least 4 batters in 4 of his first 5 starts, closing April with a 33-22 K/BB ratio in 29 innings pitched. Then in May, he went 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.154 WHIP, and improved his K/BB rate to 39-15. He walked more than 2 batters in just 2 of his 6 May starts.

So far in June, he has gone 2-1 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.193 WHIP (not including his Sunday night start). In his 4 June starts, he has continued to lower his walk totals as evidenced by his 31-11 K/BB ratio. Through 7 innings in Sunday night's game, Kershaw has struck out 5 and walked none vs the solid Yankees lineup, bringing his June K/BB rate to 36-11.

Coming into the season, many fantasy experts expected Kershaw to see a drop in performance, but so far this season he is proving that 2009 was not a fluke season for him, and he appears to be improving, and not regressing. His LOB% is 75.7% vs 77.5% in 2009. His HR./FB% is 4.8% vs 4.1% in 2009, and his BABIP is .295 vs .274 last season.

Looking at his plate discipline statistics, he is inducing 26.1% out of zone swings vs 23.4% in 2009. Batters are making less contact on the out of zone pitches 53.7% vs 57.6% in 2009, as well as pitches in the zone-80% vs 84% in 2009.

If he gets the win in Sunday night's game, it will be his 8th win of the season equalling his 2009 win total. His ERA sits at 3.19 and his WHIP at 1.24 after coming out of Sunday night's game. One of the reasons why the experts didn't see Kershaw pitching as well as he did in 2009, was the walks, but also the fact that he couldn't pitch deep into games. Well, including Sunday's outing, he has pitched at least 6 innings in 9 of his last 10 starts, including going 7+ innings in 6 of those 10 starts.

I think Kershaw can be called an ace, and should be in the talks for top 10-15 starting ptichers in all of baseball. We will have those rankings sometime before the All Star break.