After capping off a stellar season with an eighth inning performance where he only allowed one run on three hits while striking out eight against the Giants yesterday, we were reminded that Clayton Kershaw is very good at baseball. In a season that threw obstacles at Kersh left and right including a bout of Opening Day flu, a nagging case of plantar fasciitis, and a late season hip impingement scare, the 24-year old southpaw never thought about backing down. Coupled with his battery mate A.J. Ellis, both ball players always dedicated themselves throughout the season to their team and to their ultimate goal of winning a world championship for Los Angeles. A.J. had this to say about Kershaw on Twitter after the conclusion of the season:
those of us who are with him and see him everyday are spoiled and forget about how great he is and how words can’t do true justice. #cyyoung
— AJ Ellis (@AJEllis17) October 4, 2012
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher that I have seen play in my generation. I have often heard stories about Sandy Koufax from my uncle who witnessed him pitch perfection at Dodger Stadium. My generation now has our own golden armed lefty, and I am so excited to follow Kershaw’s Dodger career.
Last season Clayton won his first National League Cy Young Award after finishing with a 21-5 record and a 2.28 ERA. He struck out an amazing 248 batters while walking 54 in 233 1/3 innings pitched. Kershaw followed his utterly dominant 2011 season with a 2012 season which was almost as impressive. Due to lack of run support, Kershaw finished the season with a 14-9 record, but we all know that W-L numbers are almost completely irrelevant when it comes to quantifying the value of a pitcher in a particular season. Kershaw did end up with a Major League best 2.53 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He struck out 229 batters which was one less than leader R.A. Dickey who whiffed 230 on the year. Kersh walked 63 batters (slightly up from 2011) in 227 2/3 innings pitched. He only allowed one more homerun than last season with 16. What’s also interesting to look at is Kershaw used his curveball much more often this season than in 2011. In 2011 he used the curve 5.4 % of the time and in 2012 he threw the curve 11.2 %. Kersh pitched 2 complete games and 2 shutouts. Kershaw was so dominant in September that he only allowed 2 earned runs the entire month-good for a 0.67 ERA.
Let’s take a look at a few of the other NL Cy Young contenders in comparison.
R.A. Dickey, the veteran right-handed knuckleballer, emerged as a force to be reckoned with this season. Dickey leads the league in strikeouts with 230 and finished with a 20-6 record and a 2.73 ERA. The Met walked only 54 batters in 233 2/3 innings pitched. He also pitched 5
complete games and 3 shutouts. His WHIP was slightly more than Kersh at 1.05. He did surrender 24 homeruns during the course of the season to the opposition. Dickey will be turning 38 later this month, so this could possibly be his last opportunity to be awarded the coveted Cy Young award. Dickey’s late career success is a favorite story among baseball fans.
Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals is among the top three Cy Young candidates for the National League. He finished the season with the most wins (21-8), and he’s sixth in ERA (2.89). The young lefty struck out 207 batters while walking 76 in 199 1/3 innings pitched. He allowed only 9 homeruns, and his WHIP was 1.13. He pitched 2 complete games and 1 shutout. Gonzalez was a integral part of the Nationals success this season, and he will be needed in the postseason since Stephen Strasburg has been shut down. Although Gonzalez has the best record, he is not nearly as dominant as Kershaw or Dickey. Earlier today Gonzalez was awarded the 2012 Warren Spahn Award for MLB’s best left-handed pitcher. Last season Clayton Kershaw received this award.
Johnny Cueto of the Reds finished third in the league in ERA at 2.78. He had a very good record of 19-9 with his playoff bound team. The right-hander struck out 170 batters while walking 49 in his 217 innings pitched. Cueto allowed 15 homeruns and his WHIP was 1.17. He pitched 2 complete games. His numbers are pretty extraordinary considering he pitches at the Great American Ballpark.
Craig Kimbrel of the Braves cannot be counted out. The young right-handed reliever has been the epitome of dominant. He finished with an astonishing 42 saves, a record of 3-1, and 116 strikeouts with only 14 walks in 62 2/3 innings pitched. He only allowed 3 homeruns and had a superb 1.01 ERA. The last reliever to win the NL Cy Young was Eric Gagne in 2003.
Although Kershaw has only won 14 games, it is not an automatic disqualification from the award. If you remember, Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young award in 2009 with a 15-7 record and Felix Hernandez won the 2010 award with a record of 13-12. Kershaw received a much lower amount of runs per game from his teammates than Dickey or Gonzalez received. It also helps that his curveball is a thing of beauty.