Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The 2013 NL Cy Young Award recipient was just announced. However, throughout baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had won the award in August. Kershaw becomes the 17th pitcher in baseball history to win the award multiple times (he won his first Cy Young in 2011) and joins Sandy Koufax as the only other Dodger pitcher to win it twice (Koufax won it three times: 1963,65,66.) Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright finished 2nd with NL Rookie of the Year winner Jose Fernandez following in 3rd.
Kershaw got his 2013 Cy Young campaign underway on Opening Day when he threw a complete game shutout against the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. Kershaw also hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the 8th to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. The Dodgers would go on to win, 4-0. He finished the month of April with a 3-2 record and 1.73 ERA. Kershaw’s April performance was only the start of what would be one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in recent memory.
You name a category and chances are Kershaw probably led the league in it. Kershaw finished the season with a 16-9 record in 236 innings pitched, a career high, and led the National League with 232 strikeouts. Kershaw is the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 2005 to have an ERA below 2.0,finishing the season with an astonishing 1.83 ERA. He became the third pitcher in MLB history to lead the league in ERA three years in a row, joining Greg Maddux who did it with the Braves from 1993-95 and Lefty Grove, who did it with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1929-31. Kershaw also joined Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale as the only Dodgers to record 200 strikeouts in four straight seasons.
The 25 year old from Texas should have had at least 20 wins but suffered from horrible run support during his starts. When Kershaw was on the mound, the Dodgers averaged 3.76 runs per start compared to 4.70 for Hyun-Jin Ryu and 4.11 for Zack Greinke. Kershaw’s number should have been even lower but the Dodgers managed to score 29 runs in his last five starts. Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, who led the league with 21 wins, received 5.58 runs from his offense when he was on the mound. Add to the fact that Kershaw had 10 starts where he didn’t allow a run and 27 quality starts in his 33 appearances, and you have a pitcher who should have had more wins.
I could go on with more records that he broke like having the lowest career ERA in a pitchers’ first 1,000 career innings at 2.70 but enough with the records. Let’s talk about why he is so good. Kershaw averaged 14.5 pitches per inning this year, the lowest of his career and he does it with a variety of pitches. Clayton’s best pitch is his curveball, perhaps the nastiest curveball in the MLB. I think that when he throws it, it starts off in space and then lands in the middle of the plate. Okay maybe I am being a little dramatic but his curveball is slow but has great movement. He has a fastball that ranges from 92-95 mph but can also reach 98. Kershaw gets a lot of batters to strike out when he throws his fastball up in the zone. He uses his slider and his changeup to fool batters and tends to throw the slider on the outside corner. With a variety of pitches and how good he is at throwing them, it comes at no surprise that Kershaw only had four starts where he failed to go at least six full innings.
There is no doubt that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and his Cy Young is deserving, but the only concern I have with Kershaw’s pitching, is how the Dodgers managed his innings. Since he was incredibly efficient, the Dodgers pitched him late into the game almost every start and because of his efficiency, Kershaw set a career high in 2013 with 236 innings pitched. At 25, Kershaw still has a lot of time left in the bigs but if the Dodgers keep overusing him, Kershaw could suffer a major injury.
Clayton Kershaw is going to have a great offseason and his 2nd Cy Young Award is just the start. Kershaw and the Dodgers are talking about a long-term extension that would keep him in LA until he is 33-35. Not to mention that he will become very rich as the Dodgers are preparing to make Kershaw the richest player in baseball with a contract worth 250-300 million dollars according to reports.
With his second Cy Young, Kershaw is already the best pitcher in baseball. But the hardworking lefty out of Dallas wants to be one of the best pitchers of all-time.