Dodgers: Kershaw vs Scherzer and the Battle for the NL CyYoung

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 7: A fan holds a sign for Max Scherzer
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 7: A fan holds a sign for Max Scherzer /

The Cy Young race is starting to heat up as we head into the home stretch of the season. Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Nationals’ Max Scherzer are the two clear front-runners for the award. Let’s compare their seasons up to this point.

Clayton Kershaw is a legend. Not just a Dodgers legend but an all-time legend. If he retires today, he probably would already be a Hall of Famer. Nowadays, it seems like Kershaw’s greatness gets taken for granted.

He is having another great season, and it’s so expected of him that people are hardly talking about it. He has been so great for so long that people constantly try to find somebody to supplant him as the best pitcher in the game.

A few years ago it was Jake Arrieta and maybe even his then-teammate Zack Greinke, and today it is Max Scherzer. Scherzer is no doubt great, and he has now had a sustained level of success to warrant the praise he has gotten, but he hasn’t surpassed King Kershaw.

Both men have already won multiple Cy Youngs. Kershaw’s three Cy Youngs came in 2011, 2013, and 2014. His 2014 Cy Young was accompanied by an NL MVP.

Scherzer has one Cy Young in each league. 2013 with the Tigers and 2016 with the Nationals.

Although, many could argue that if Kershaw had stayed healthy last year, he would’ve easily won the Cy Young instead of Scherzer, considering the year Kershaw was having at the time before the injury.

Both players are having incredible years, and their numbers are very close right now. Heading into Sunday’s start, Kershaw is now the NL leader in ERA at 2.07 because Scherzer fell to 2nd after his last start.

Scherzer allowed five earned runs in five innings to the Diamondbacks on Friday which raised his ERA to 2.26. Kershaw also leads the league in ERA+ at 202 while Scherzer is 2nd at 193.

ERA has always been a significant statistic when it comes to valuing how good a pitcher is. After all, a pitcher’s duty is to allow the least amount of runs and Kershaw is winning that.

However, Scherzer does lead Kershaw in many other advanced stats and analytics that one could make a strong argument for him as the Cy Young.

Scherzer has a slight lead in FIP of 2.79 to Kershaw’s 2.94 and WHIP 0.84 to 0.89. Scherzer also leads the league with a ridiculously low 5.4 H/9 and a Randy Johnson level 12.4 SO/9.

Kershaw is 3rd with 6.5 H/9 and 10.7 SO/9. Opponents are hitting .199 off Kershaw and .170 off Scherzer. Kershaw does have a better SO/BB ratio of 7.2 to Scherzer’s 5.82. This is because Kershaw has, as always, the better control with a 1.5 BB/9 vs. Scherzer’s 2.1 BB/9.

Scherzer has a higher WAR of 5.3 to Kershaw’s 4.6. Despite the ERA in Kershaw’s favor right now, these other stats indicate the Scherzer is having a slightly more dominant overall season thus far.

However, Kershaw has been closing the gap fast on Scherzer over the past month. Over his last four starts, Kershaw is 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 12.75 SO/9.

It’s like Kershaw heard the whispers around the league that Scherzer might be better than him and has been on a mission ever since. Kershaw historically has been a 2nd half pitcher so don’t expect him to cool off anytime soon.

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One thing to consider as well is that Scherzer has always been vulnerable to the home run ball.

That might be a bit contradicting to say seeing that Kershaw has already allowed a career-high 18 dingers himself this season, but Scherzer gave up three homers in his last start to bring his total up to 16. Just last season Scherzer allowed 31 home runs, the most by any pitcher.

Scherzer relies on overpowering hitters more than Kershaw does and often tries to pump fastballs past batters. This leaves him more open to the possibility of someone taking him deep.

The final thing that I believe is going to matter more in the end than people think is wins.

If the advanced statistics and analytics are close by season’s end, the difference in who gets the Cy Young could be wins.

Kershaw is 15-2 while Scherzer is 11-5. The individual record could be the tiebreaker, and if Kershaw ends up with significantly more wins than Scherzer, it is going to be hard to overlook that.

Kershaw does get almost a whole run more of support which helps his win total, but the record is what it is. Wins for pitchers are not as valued as they once were, but the difference is still meaningful.

Next: The Black Cloud Over This Season

It’s close right now, but Kershaw still is the best pitcher in the world. Scherzer may be the current favorite but it’s a tight race, and my guess is by season’s end, Kershaw will stand out as the front-runner for Cy Young, albeit in a close one.