The Dodgers are currently loaded with a lot of young talent all throughout the organization. The king of them all is Clayton Kershaw, who is on pace to be the next Dodger inducted into the baseball hall of fame.
For Clayton Kershaw, there is not much left for him to prove in his big league career. The one blemish on an otherwise stellar career has been his post-season hiccups. Despite a hall of fame worthy career up to this point, his ERA in the post-season is 4.35.
Outside of the post-season, there is nobody in the last decade who can touch the level that Clayton Kershaw has been on. When comparing other starting pitchers, Kershaw is atop the pedestal with every other elite pitcher ranking in tiers below him. Post-season aside, you cannot find a better starting pitcher in the last decade.
How do Kershaw’s first ten big league seasons stack up to the first ten seasons of other hall of fame pitchers? Let’s take a look, courtesy of @HotStoveStats, who pulled all the data together for us to write this article.
Clayton Kershaw: 144-64, 2.36 ERA, 1.002 WHIP, 4.18 K/BB ratio, 57.4 WAR
Pedro Martinez: 132-59, 2.66 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, 4.24 K/BB ratio, 57.1 WAR
Randy Johnson: 124-68, 3.37 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 2.33 K/BB ratio, 37.7 WAR
Sandy Koufax: 112-70, 3.11 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 2.54 K/BB ratio, 34.8 WAR
Nolan Ryan: 122-116, 3.11 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, 1.77 K/BB ratio, 29.0 WAR
Tom Seaver: 82-107, 2.47 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, 3.18 K/BB ratio, 71.2 WAR
While this is only a handful of hall of fame pitchers, these are pitchers I think of when some of the greatest pitchers of the modern era come to mind, and I did not include any pitchers who have PED suspicions because I am strongly against cheaters in sports. As it’s clear, Kershaw has a better ERA and more wins than all of the hall of famers listed above. While wins are not the best stat to judge a pitcher, it’s still important, after all that is the point of the game.
Kershaw also has a better WHIP than Pedro, Randy Johnson, Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Seaver and is second in his strikeout to walk ratio as Pedro just nudged him out. Kershaw finished second in WAR as Tom Seaver beat him out, which points out how remarkably underrated the career of Tom Seaver was.
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Another way to compared these hall of famers is by using the WAR7 statistic. WAR7 is the combined WAR of a player’s best seven seasons. It’s a way to measure the peak of different players although Kershaw’s career still has many more seasons left so he should end up in the 60’s by the time he hangs them up. Here is how the WAR7 stat compares for the same group of players from above:
Kershaw – 48.7
Pedro – 58.2
Seaver – 59.5
Koufax – 46.1
Ryan – 43.3
Johnson – 62.0
Kershaw is a bit shortchanged when it comes to the WAR7 stat because he has only had ten seasons thus far and the WAR7 for the other pitchers is based off their entire career. Kershaw is still in his prime as he turns thirty years old in March, so he could still have a couple more record-breaking seasons before he starts to show signs of decline. By the time his career is over, Kershaw should have a higher WAR7 than all of the starters except for Randy Johnson who still could beat him out by a very slim margin.
It’s easy to see that Clayton Kershaw ranks among the greatest starting pitchers to ever play the game through the first ten seasons of his career. The only thing left he needs to do is carry the Dodgers on his back for a post-season and win a World Series. If Kershaw can accomplish that, then you just might be watching the best starting pitcher to ever toe the rubber. There is still many years of baseball to come for Clayton Kershaw, but if the first ten were any clue of what’s to come, then we are in for a treat as we get to see one of the best pitchers of all time every five games.
I’d like to thank Hot Stove Stats for bringing together all the statistics used for this article. They have a very good blog and on their twitter, they post a lot of very good statistics comparing current and former players. I highly recommend following them on twitter and subscribing to their blog.