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Kershaw Injury All But Gives San Francisco Giants the Division

Jun 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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While baseball nerds debate who is better between Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, or whether Manny Machado belongs in that conversation, the conversations are kinda moot. Frankly, there’s little debate that Clayton Kershaw is this decade’s most dominant player. The San Francisco Giants community is well aware of this, having had to face him several times a year since 2008.

Well, some good news, Giants fans and players: Clayton Kershaw is not recovering very well from his back injury, and now there is talk of him possibly needing season-ending surgery. If this is the case, the Giants have effectively won the National League West already.

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Kershaw went on the disabled list June 29 with a herniated disk. He had been healing up, but while pitching a simulated game earlier this week, he came away feeling worse than when the exercise began. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts has since indicated to reporters that Kershaw might need to go under the knife.

Now, there is a chance that Kershaw avoids surgery and heals enough to get back on the field before the Dodgers lose too much ground. But if they’re talking back surgery, chances are that he won’t return to the field anytime soon—regardless of whether he undergoes a procedure.

For the Dodgers, this is at least as devastating of a loss as was losing Buster Posey for the Giants in 2011. The as-is Dodgers just aren’t good enough to compete with the Giants or any other playoff contenders. In Kershaw’s 16 starts this year, the Dodgers have gone 14-2. They’re 40-41 in the rest of their games. That doesn’t necessarily predict how they will do down the stretch, but it certainly illustrates how valuable is.

The Dodgers offense is average and their starting pitching was already struggling before Kershaw’s injury. Kenta Maeda is a good second starter but now has to be the staff ace. Scott Kazmir appears to be finding a groove, so there’s a good chance he will help the Dodgers win some games. But otherwise, the Dodgers are relying on the ultra-talented-but-ultra-young Julio Urias, the ultra-fragile Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, and the just-not-very-good But Norris. (Though when he was in college, Norris mowed down the college summer league team I was running, so I have to give him some props.)

So, with the Dodgers losing their best player and the rest of the division already looking forward to 2017, the Giants don’t really have any competition down the stretch. That’s good and bad.

It’s good because it increases San Francisco’s already-strong probability of reaching the postseason. It’s bad because it could deprive the Giants of the high-stakes regular season games that usually serve as great conditioning for the postseason.

Next: Span Not Meeting Expectations

Either way, the Giants still need to make some trades to prepare themselves for what should be a highly competitive postseason. So, while the playoffs are pretty much a lock, getting through it is anything but.

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