This will be Kershaw’s third career trip to the disabled list, all because of back injuries. He spent 38 days on the DL in 2014 with an inflamed back muscle, and 70 days there last year with mildly herniated disc in his lower back.
Kershaw’s 2.04 ERA leads the majors this season and his 15 wins are three more than any other pitcher entering Monday. But Kershaw has logged a lot of work this season, tied with Chris Sale for the most innings pitched at 141.1.
With help at the top of the rotation from 11-1 Alex Wood, Kershaw has helped the Dodgers to a 68-31 mark, 2.5 games better than any other team in the majors, and eight games ahead of the next-best team in the National League. The Dodgers have won the last 15 games he’s started. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that ties the Dodgers’ franchise record for the most consecutive team wins in a pitcher’s starts, set in 1924 by Dazzy Vance.
Going back to 2011, Kershaw has been the best pitcher in all of baseball. His 115-39 record, 2.06 ERA, .198 opponents’ batting average and .538 opponents’ OPS all lead the majors over the those seven seasons.
A bit of solace Dodgers fans can take is how good Kershaw was last season after he missed more than two months with a back injury. He had a 1.79 ERA in 16 starts before the injury, and a 1.29 ERA in five regular season starts following his trip to the disabled list.
However, Kershaw’s strategy was forced to change in those five starts after his 2016 return from the DL. His miss rate on his fastball dropped from 22% before to 14% after the DL trip; on his slider, it dropped from 46% before the injury to 31% after.
But the Dodgers’ defense backed him up, catching 80% of the balls hit in the air in those five post-DL starts, compared to 67% before.
The Dodgers did just fine last season without Kershaw. During Kershaw’s time on the DL, they went 35-23 (a .603 winning percentage), the second-best record in MLB in that span, trailing only the eventual world champion Chicago Cubs (38-23). This season, an NL West title seems all but locked up, as they enter play Monday with a 10.5-game lead over the Colorado Rockies.
The Dodgers have dealt with injuries all season. Entering Monday, they’ve used the DL 31 times this season, most in the majors, including 18 times for pitchers (before Kershaw).