Clayton Kershaw proves how unfair Coors Field truly is

Jun 28, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) walks back to the mound while pitching against the Colorado Rockies during the third inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

Every single pitcher in the history of the Colorado Rockies is underrated.

Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones, in fact.

Just ask Clayton Kershaw.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. “But he’s not a Rockie, he is and has always been a Dodger!”

Astute observation, dear reader, and as such you are also likely aware that since Kershaw made his debut in 2008, he has made many trips to Coors Field. And one would have to surmise that he is not a fan.

Yes, all while the big southpaw Texan was establishing himself as a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer and the greatest pitcher of a generation, alongside Justin Verlander, he was also providing a subtle reminder to the world that even the best can’t handle the Coors.

He’s got a nice solid sample size at the ballpark as well, having pitched 25 games over the course of his career at 20th and Blake, covering 149.2 innings pitched.  

Over that span, he has posted an ERA of 4.81, the worst mark he has at any park, and a WHIP of 1.330, second worst after a 1.340 in St. Louis over only 50 innings.

In other words, the best pitcher in the game has been profoundly mediocre at best when visiting Colorado and he has had ample time to make his adjustments and do better. 

This was apparent most recently when he brought a 2.00 ERA to Denver on Tuesday night and walked off the mound just a few hours later with it ballooning all the way up to 2.94. He tossed four innings, gave up nine hits, surrendered six earned runs and walked four batters. It was, in every respect, his worst start of the season. It always is.

On the flip side, his counterpart for the evening was Kyle Freeland, a pitcher who flirted with Cy Young status in 2018, was sadly underrated during those conversations, and who has mostly fallen into “middle of the pack” territory among MLB pitchers. But he is the one who knows how to handle the environment.

Over 378 innings pitched at his hometown park, Freeland has posted an ERA of 4.55. Not super impressive when viewed out of context but when put right next to the most talented guy in the league, it starts to become far more so.

And Freeland, much to the point, was far from perfect. He was just better. He went six, gave up three earned runs, walked three and had to hand the ballgame to a bullpen who surprisingly held on for the win. He gave his team the quality start which is massive in a place where its so hard to dominate.

Of course, Freeland has had a bit more time over the years to study and adjust to the ballpark and it is far more important that he does so. Kershaw, after all, only has to pitch a game or two a season out here.

That, however, is also very much the point.

Kershaw, and the rest of the elite pitchers of the league, don’t have to think deeply about Coors Field. They can shake off their worst start of the season and move on with their lives. But Rockies pitchers don’t have that luxury. 

The Dodger’s ace isn’t a lone example either. Here are a few more top-line pitchers and there ERA/IP in their careers:

Madison Bumgarner (4.92 ERA, 111.2 IP)
Stephen Strasburg (6.23 ERA, 26 IP)
Max Scherzer (6.39 ERA, 31 IP)
Jake Arrieta (10.64 ERA, 22 IP)
Matt Cain (4.47, 102.2 IP)
Jake Peavy (5.45 ERA , 72.2 IP)
Walker Buehler (4.98 ERA, 53.1 IP)
Julio Urias (5.81 ERA, 48 IP)

Corbin Burnes and Yu Darvish also have bad numbers at Coors Field but in just a start or two.

You get the point. None of these pitchers, who are the very best that the game of baseball has to offer, have figured out a way to tame the beast. Because most of them don’t have to.

Now consider the following:

Antonio Senzatela (4.58 ERA, 351.2 IP)
Jon Gray (4.54 ERA, 416 IP)
German Marquez (4.99 ERA, 443.2 IP)
Aaron Cook (4.65 ERA, 681.1 IP)
Jorge de la Rosa (4.38 ERA, 583.2 IP)

Like I said, every single pitcher in the history of the Colorado Rockies is underrated. Except Bryan Shaw.

But is it possible that Kershaw, Bumgarnger, Scherzer or any other future Hall-of-Famer could have broken through and been exactly what we know of them today if they had to pitch half their games at Coors? 

It’s possible, but we have no way of knowing that for sure. All we know is based on the data we have and this week we were given yet another example of how difficult the life of a Rockies pitcher truly is, and how much more credit they should receive when they excel.

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