Let me tell you something, I thought I was so smart about 5 minutes ago when I was thinking about Clayton Kershaw giving up 4 runs in 6 innings of work in game 1 of the NLCS and the thought crossed my brain that Clayton Kershaw is a lot like Peyton Manning. Both guys dominate the regular season but both become just regular everyday players when it’s time for the postseason. I thought, “man, that’s good. That’s real good. How has no one ever made this comparison before? Am I really that smart, do I really see all the angles? I’m sure I am that smart, but lets look it up and see if by chance anyone has ever made the intellectual leap of comparing two guys from different sports.”
Well, it turns out not only has this take been thought of before, it has been thought of, written about and several videos of slightly more well known analysts and media folk were made a few years ago when Kershaw was struggling in the playoffs.
Do I feel a little shook that I didn’t come up with this thought a few years ago? No, I always knew there were more out there like me. Do I feel a bit off that I realized this “take” years after other people already did? Not at all. I’m confident that if I was less busy in 2015 and 2016 that I would have been ahead of this and been leading the charge that Kershaw and Manning are the same guy.
With all that out in the open now, lets discuss this Undertaker’s hometown of Death Valley hot take that is Clayton Kershaw is Peyton Manning.
If you know anything about both of the two guys in question, then the comparison is an easy one. Both guys destroy their opponents in the regular season, piling up “video game”(love when video games gets put in front of stats) stats, but when the playoffs come around both guys morph into your run of the mill okayish player. Like in X3,(swing and a miss for the X-Men franchise) when Magneto gets tricked and Beast injects him with the Cure and he loses his powers and becomes just a regular old human being. That’s what happens to these guys when the postseason comes around.
Last night Kershaw had his powers drained from him and put up a pedestrian 6 innings, with 4 earned, on 6 hits, and 2 walks. It was pretty much an average outing for your typical pitcher, but this was game 1 of the NLCS against the Brewers and giving up 4 in 6 innings was enough for the Dodgers to take the L. What sucks for Kershaw is that the stats completely support this claim. In his career, Kershaw has a regular season ERA of 2.39 and in the postseason he has an ERA of 4.26. In the NLCS alone, he is 2-5 with an ERA of 5.24. Just staggering and unreal numbers from a guy we all know is one of the best pitchers in baseball and one of the best pitchers in the last 10 plus years. What’s even worse is that Kershaw got taken yard by a relief pitcher.
But this is very similar to the career of Peyton Manning, a guy I wrote about earlier in the week who I have as my 4th best QB of all time. Manning amassed legendary stats during the regular season for pretty much his entire career until the very end. But when it got to be playoff time and defenses were a bit better, a bit smarter and Bill Belichick was across the field, his performance dropped significantly. He became human.
Now it’s obvious that in the playoffs or postseason, whatever you’d like to call it, the competition level rises. What also happens is that you get a more semblance of who a player is when the lights are the brightest. Plenty of guys in all sports have underwhelming or steady regular seasons, but when the playoffs start and things are magnified much more, they rise above other players. They call this the clutch gene, in case you were wondering. Some guys have it, while some guys wish they have it. To Manning’s credit, he eventually put an entire season including the postseason together and won 2 Super Bowls. Kershaw has yet to win a ring.
The thing is, we all know this is mental, not physical. We’re smart enough to understand just how good Kershaw is. We’ve seen it. But, for whatever reason, in the biggest spots, he comes up empty. The other thing about it is, as time goes forward and he continues to put up games like last night, it will only get harder to break this obvious trend that in the postseason Clayton Kershaw is just a guy. You never want to be just a guy and the only way to break that stigma is to take the the ball and shove it down the throats of the opponent. Not sure Clayton is that guy and I’m sure that thought has crossed his brain as well.
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