I think most baseball people agree. If he never threw another pitch in the Major Leagues, Clayton Edward Kershaw would still be a near lock to be invited to Cooperstown sometime around 2030.
Go to his Baseball Reference page, and before you begin scrolling down to some of the astounding stats about him, focus on the top of the page: MVP, Triple Crown, Gold Glove, Major League Player of the Year, three-time Cy Young Award winner, seven-time All-Star, five-time ERA leader.
And he’s still only 29!
Scroll down to Standard Pitching and look at all the bold-faced numbers. Those are league leading stats for a particular year. Thirty seven of them, to be exact.
Using some of today’s statistical information, Kershaw is ninth among active players in WAR with 59.4. Sure, that doesn’t sound as exciting as when Aaron finished the 1974 season with 713 home runs in his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s all-time record.
But consider that every one of the players ahead of Kershaw on the active WAR list has played a minimum of 13 seasons and is at least 33 years old. Kershaw has played 10 seasons and, yes, is only 29!
The Dodgers’ ace is the active leader in ERA (2.36) by a wide margin. The fascinating part of that is that the difference between Kershaw and second place Chris Sale (2.98) is greater than the gap between Sale and 17th place Julio Teheran (3.59).
Kershaw leads all active pitchers in both WHIP (1.002) and adjusted ERA+ at 161 by a wide margin. The ERA+ gap between Kershaw (161) and second place Chris Sale (139) is equal to the gap between Sale and 15th place CC Sabathia (117).
Kershaw is 11th on the active wins list with 144, and every player ahead of him has played at least two more seasons and is at least two years older.
Of all active Major League pitchers, Clayton Kershaw is the closest thing to Hall of Fame sure thing.