In the National League West last night, two left-handed starting pitchers who have been dubbed integral to future success by their respective franchises took the mound. One is already his team’s proven ace, a former Cy Young award winner and one of the best pitchers in the game. The other is still in the early stages of his development, trying to make his 1st round talent translate into professional dominance.
They each were successful by different standards and in different ways. They also both pitched out of trouble by relying on their electric stuff. In the 4th inning of last night’s game with San Diego, Kershaw found himself in a sticky situation after surrending a single and a double. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out, he went and got the strike outs he needed, fanning Cameron Maybin and Everth Cabrera. He did what an ace needs to do in a situation where he needed to strike people out.
Pomeranz escaped from a pickle that was not quite as pressure-packed but important nevertheless. Part of it was the situation: a runner on first after having another runner thrown out at 3rd in the 1st inning. He needed to find a way to get out of an inning where he had traffic twice. The other part of it was the hitter: the dreaded Freddie Freeman, who positively rakes against the Rockies. Pomeranz also beared down and got the strikeout he needed.
Looking at these two situations next to each other provides a solid idea of what needs to happen for Pomeranz to ultimately become the pitchers the Rockies expect him to be. Like Kershaw, he needs to find himself in those dicey situations only on rare occasions. While it is a treat to see Kershaw go get those K’s, he delivers enough consistency that he does not need to do it very often. Right now Pomeranz spends too much of his time needing to get exciting outs instead of racking up boring outs. Kershaw also surrendered two hits that led to the situation, meaning that the headache was not self-imposed. That is another area in which Pomeranz needs to continue improving – not hurting himself with a lack of command.
It was nice to see Pomeranz show a flash of one aspect of a staff ace last night, but to continue progressing, he will need to become more consistent in other areas. For better or for worse, he will always have guys like Kershaw modeling what that looks like in his own division.