Clayton Kershaw's Injury Leaves Fantasy Owners Scrambling
"Clayton Kershaw has left the game due to an apparent injury."
For Los Angeles Dodgers fans, that's the worst sentence ever. And they've now heard it in back-to-back years.
Kershaw lasted just two innings in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, removed from the game for a pinch hitter due to a lower back strain that will force him onto the disabled list, with no timetable for a return. Last year, Kershaw missed two-and-a-half months last year due to a herniated disk in his back, which leads one to wonder if the two injuries are related.
After the game, Kershaw said he thinks the incidents are each their own thing.
Clayton Kershaw postgame: pic.twitter.com/PAdfFLrJES
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) July 24, 2017
Despite having the best record in baseball, the Dodgers' pitching staff (and the team as a whole) has been making extensive use of the disabled list. Kershaw is the 24th different player the team has put on the DL this season, a huge number when you consider baseball has an active 25-man roster.
Clayton Kershaw is expected to go on the DL; Dodgers have already used DL an MLB-high 31 times this season (18 times for pitchers). pic.twitter.com/eq9UX8oRx6
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 23, 2017
Fantasy owners who have been dependent on Kershaw are bummed, and justifiably so, as there's no viable replacement.
Going into Sunday, Los Angeles had won each of Kershaw's last 14 starts. He'd allowed just two earned runs in his last five outings (36 innings), going 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA and a WHIP of 0.78, with an average of 12.75 batters struck out per nine innings (K/9).
In 21 starts, he's 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, and 10.7 K/9, while walking just 1.53. Opponents are batting .195 against him this season, and his WAR of 4.0 is third to Chris Sale (6.1) and Max Scherzer (4.4).
Since the start of the 2015 season, Kershaw is the only pitcher in baseball with an ERA under 2 (1.98). His 19.1 WAR over that stretch eclipses Scherzer's 16.5.
Luckily for the Dodgers, they have a 10 1/2 game lead in the NL West and a potent offense. And there's a potential option out there who could fill Kershaw's spot:
Sources: #Dodgers showing strong interest in Yu Darvish, as are multiple other teams. Talks remain in early stages. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 23, 2017
Adding the Texas Rangers ace's 3.44 ERA and 9.65 K/9 to the staff would give them a rotation that would be tough to handle in October. Not only that, but it would add a right-handed starter into the mix with their three outstanding southpaws, Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill.
The Dodgers can afford to keep Kershaw out of action until he's 100%, and they should be fine. It's a different story for fantasy owners, who must now find a reasonable replacement for the best pitcher in baseball.