July 24: The initial prognosis on Kershaw is that he’ll be sidelined for the next four to six weeks, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). He still is set to receive another opinion before a final determination is made.
While that’s obviously a disheartening development for the Dodgers, that timeline would still give Kershaw time to return and get back up to full strength well in advance of the postseason. And, with a 10.5-game lead on the NL West, the Dodgers can weather the storm even without Kershaw for a month or a bit more.
July 23: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw exited today’s game in the second inning due to lower back tightness, and manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group) that Kershaw’s issue “is a DL situation.”
Despite the likely DL placement, Roberts felt this injury wasn’t similar to the herniated disk that cost Kershaw over two months of the 2016 season. This bout of back tightness didn’t involve any shooting pains in Kershaw’s leg, for instance, as Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times notes (Twitter links). More information will be known tomorrow when Kershaw is examined by the Dodgers’ team doctor.
Given Kershaw’s past history with back problems, one can’t fault the team for being as careful as possible with their superstar left-hander, even if this DL stint ends up ultimately being precautionary in nature. With the best record in baseball and a 10.5-game lead in the NL West, the Dodgers can afford to give Kershaw perhaps even more time than required to fully heal up.
This being said, another DL placement due to a back problem is an ominous sign for both the team and the player. Despite that large lead, the Dodgers obviously need Kershaw to make a World Series run, and an extended absence for their ace could have a big impact on the team’s deadline plans. L.A. has mostly been linked to bullpen upgrades on the rumor mill, though the team has been exploring all options, including checking in on starters like Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander.
The Dodgers have enjoyed great success from their rotation and team as a whole despite a staggering number of injuries. As MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick tweets, Kershaw would be the 24th different player the Dodgers have placed on the disabled list this season. That list includes all five members of their current rotation (Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Brandon McCarthy, who is about to begin another DL stint), as well as Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who also currently sidelined. If L.A. was looking at rotation help even before Kershaw’s injury, the search will only intensify, possibly even towards a headline name like Darvish.
Kershaw is enjoying yet another tremendous season, with a 2.04 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 1.53 BB/9 and 47.4% grounder rate over 141 1/3 innings. One minor wrinkle is that Kershaw’s 15.7% home run rate is over twice his career average, plus he is getting more BABIP (.251) and strand rate (90.2%) luck than usual, which is why his ERA predictors (2.94 FIP, 2.73 xFIP) are significantly above his real-world ERA. Of course, these numbers are still pretty outstanding, which says something about Kershaw’s body of work that 2017 could technically be considered something of “a down year” by his standards.