LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw leads the league in walks issued, with 24 in 30 2/3 innings, after finishing third in the category last year, which is par for the course for a young power pitcher.
Here's the really sobering reality: get used to it. Sandy Koufax finished in the top five in the league in walks four of his first seven seasons.
At 22 years of age, Kershaw is averaging seven walks per nine innings this year and 4.9 per nine innings as a Major Leaguer. Koufax averaged 5.27 walks per nine innings until he turned 25, when he had roughly 100 Major League starts under his belt and things finally clicked. After that, he averaged 2.27 walks per nine innings.
If Kershaw is on the same timetable, he's looking at two more seasons of inconsistent command, stretches of brilliance undermined by inexperience that changes only with time.
Of course, more is expected sooner from Kershaw than was from Koufax. The Dodgers team that Koufax broke in with was the Boys of Summer -- Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Johnny Podres and Sal Maglie. Koufax was the fifth starter in a four-man rotation until finally earning the trust of manager Walt Alston. Kershaw is the No. 2 or 3 starter in a five-man rotation that has only three regular members.
"He's a tough kid, he doesn't dwell on negative stuff," said manager Joe Torre. "He'll figure it out."
For what it's worth, Kershaw has already hit three batters, tied for second in the league. Koufax never hit more than five batters in a season, and pelted only 18 in his career.