Actually, the Dodgers don’t have a 3K play-off plan, at least that I know of, although they would take it if it happened. Perhaps I should say when it happens. We have all heard of 3M and 3D as well as 3R which is a recycling motto – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Some of us will remember another 3R. For those too young, the 3 R’s referred to reading ‘riting and ‘rithmetic My plan for the Dodgers success in the play-offs is 3K – Kershaw, Kenley and Kemp. Maybe I am dreaming but I am going with them to make this a special year for them and the team. This may be Clayton’s last year with the Dodgers, although I expect him to be a lifetime Dodger, and it may be Matt’s last year with the team. They have motivation on at least two fronts. First, bring the Dodgers their first World Series Championship in 30 years. Secondly, play a significant role in securing that championship as part of their legacy. All have had a history of success, only not one that put a ring on their fingers. All have a bit of history they would like to put behind them. What better way to do it than shine on the world’s greatest play-off stage?
Clayton Kershaw: He is the kind of player we feel comfortable calling by his first name. What is not to love about Clayton? Perhaps his postseason play would not fall into that category although we could argue he has been a big part of getting the Dodgers to the play-offs as divisional champions for the past six years. He has appeared in 24 play-off games, starting 19 of them. His ERA is a less than a stellar 4.35 although his WHIP is a very respectable 1.089. He had a strikeout rate of 10.3/9 and a walk ratio of 2.7/9 which are both more than acceptable. One issue for him has been the 18 home runs he has given up in 122 innings pitched. Home runs are never at a great time but unfortunately some of his have been at a very inopportune time. We have to go go back to his rookie season to see a home run to innings pitched ratio as high as he has had in the play-offs. Former Dodger great Don Newcombe had similar issues as Clayton never having won a World Series game before divisional play-off days. Newcombe’s ERA over just 22 innings pitched was 8.59. On the other side of the coin another K, Sandy Koufax, posted a 0.95 ERA in World Series play over 57 innings pitched. Clayton is neither one of these pitchers, nor is he Johnny Podres or Orel Hershiser. He doesn’t have to be. For whatever reason, he has struggled in post season play. Has his back been an issue or the pressure of the expectations put on him because of his superlative regular season play? Are his pitches being telegraphed or has the season been too long for his body to take? That was then and this is now, to borrow a worn out phrase. I think the Dodgers have some momentum going into the play-offs and any number of guys can become the difference maker. Since the expectations on Clayton are now somewhat diminished and he is surrounded by a strong defense and fellow starters Buehler, Hill and Ryu all in good form, this could definitely be his year to shed those bad memories, especially from 2017.
Kenley Jansen: In top form Kenley has been as good a reliever as the Dodgers have had in my time as a fan, including Eric Gagne. He has gone through periods when he is basically unhittable. A quick glance at his stats in postseason play reveal he has been quite good. He has posted a 2.19 ERA over 37 innings pitched along with a WHIP of 0.896. He has struck out 13.4/9 and has a walk to innings pitched ratio of 2.9/9. He does have 13 postseason saves. But, there is the 2017 World Series that has blemished his record. Against the Houston Astros he lost one game and blew a save in another. He has had a difficult time during the current season in spite of his 38 saves. He blew four saves and lost three games while allowing an uncharacteristic 13 home runs over his 71.2 innings pitched. In all fairness his heart issues would be enough to cause concern for any player, much less a pitcher. Yet in a short period of time he returned knowing he will most likely have some heart surgery following the season. Like Clayton, Kenley has a motivation to erase the sting of last year’s World Series loss. I’m thinking that he will not be pressed into four or five out situations unless the team itself is in a desperate situation. I’m counting on him not to have Tom Neidenfuer syndrome when he steps onto the mound to save the biggest game of his life. I’m looking for the final out to be a “K” for Kenley.
Matt Kemp: I have always been a Matt Kemp fan even when Jeff Kent was berating Matt and James Loney when they were both new to the league. Actually, when we think of it, he might have been the Dodgers MVP during the 2018 season as Mark called it. He hit .290 along with 21 home runs and 85 runs batted in over 146 games. He also had 25 doubles. His BABIP was a nifty .339. Matt obviously enjoyed his season as much as any Dodger and has made his way back to postseason play again. There is a bit of irony and motivation involved in that he will face the Atlanta Braves in the first round, the same Braves that dumped him as a way to get their payroll under control. Undoubtedly Matt will be driven to make a statement in the play-offs. That is, to collect a WS ring, to reward the fans who so generously welcomed him back and to gain more notice looking for a spot on the opening day Dodger roster in 2019. That is, one more year with the team that brought him on board as a way to get their payroll under control. During the 2014 play-off series with the St. Louis Cardinals Matt more than did his share hitting .353 along with an identical OBP. In the first round against the Braves starting on Thursday his at bats might be limited because Atlanta has a predominantly right-handed starting staff. In any event look for Matt to pull his weight during the 2018 play-offs, either in a pinch-hitting role or on those days he starts.