The Dodgers are playing the Mets in New York tonight. Clayton Kershaw is pitching.
Before you breathe that every-five-days sigh of relief that comes with seeing number 22 on the mound, consider the changes to Kershaw’s repertoire since his masterful Opening Day performance.
That day, his curveball was working so well against the San Francisco Giants, he barely needed a fastball. Kershaw threw fastballs on 52.1 percent of his pitches, a ridiculously low percentage considering he threw 94 pitches over nine innings.
In every start since, Kershaw has thrown fewer curves as a percentage of his pitches — from 19.2 percent on Opening Day to 11.3, 9.9, and finally 7.6 percent last Wednesday against the Padres. Kershaw said he didn’t have any of his breaking pitches working well that night, when he allowed five runs (three earned) in 5 ⅓ innings.
Kershaw’s fastball has gotten slightly slower, too. It averaged 93 mph on Opening Day, then 92.3, 92.8 and 92.6 mph in his last three starts, sequentially.
Is his arm about to fall off? No. But as Kershaw relies more on his fastball and slider, the danger of arguably his most dangerous pitch, the curve, is reduced. Depending on how well his entire repertoire is keeping the Mets off-balance, he might not need it.
It’s something to keep an eye on tonight.
Some bullet points for a Tuesday morning:
• Three nights in New York, three different channels: KCAL tonight, ESPN tomorrow, Prime Ticket on Thursday.
• Expect an update on Chad Billingsley later today. Billingsley is scheduled to visit with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache to have his right elbow examined. If his soreness is the result of a torn ulnar collateral ligament, Billingsley could face Tommy John surgery, which would rule him out for the rest of this season and part of 2014, too. If it’s the result of tendonitis, he may be eligible to return once his time on the 15-day disabled list is up.
• Carlos Quentin completed his eight-game suspension Monday and is eligible to play against the Milwaukee Brewers tonight in San Diego. The Dodgers are 2-7 since Quentin charged Zack Greinke; the Padres are 3-7.
• Major League Baseball will host private screenings of the film “42” for high schoolers across the U.S. and Canada. Clubs will select students in grades 8-12 from their respective communities to fill local theaters for the screenings. Commissioner Bud Selig will personally host the first screening in Milwaukee tonight with Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson‘s daughter.
• From SportsIllustrated.com: “While teams still preach the religion of driving up pitch counts to ‘get into the bullpen’ of the other team, they may be pushing an outdated agenda. So fortified are major league bullpens these days, especially with hard throwers, that last year relievers posted an ERA more than half a run lower than starters and averaged almost one strikeout for every inning. The best idea is to strike quickly; teams that get a lead after as little as two innings win 70 percent of the time.”
• Richie Havens died of a heart attack Monday. He hadn’t been performing live for years, and that was a shame. Havens was Phish before Phish, and the Grateful Dead before the Grateful Dead, a performer whose music had to be experienced live to be appreciated. His breakthrough performance came at Woodstock, but if you haven’t heard of Havens it’s because his music was (like Phish and the Dead) not as commercially viable as fellow Woodstockers Jimi Hendrix, Santana, or Crosby, Stills and Nash. Here he is at Woodstock: