It has been three full seasons now since Clayton Kershaw has won a Cy Young award. With injuries and age catching up to him and other pitchers starting to threaten his status as the best pitcher in the game is Kershaw done winning Cy Youngs?
The great Kershaw is still arguably the best pitcher in the game. The three-time Cy Young winner who last won the award in 2014 was recently named by MLB network as the best SP in the league for the 5th year in a row. Although he was recognized by MLB network as the best pitcher yet again, there are some whispers starting to spread if Kershaw truly is the best in the game still.
For years it was undisputed that he was the best but now guys like Max Scherzer who has won the NL Cy Young the last two years has started to take some of Kershaw’s shine. Michael Wittman recently wrote a piece comparing Kershaw’s first ten MLB seasons to some notable hall of famers and to no one’s surprise Kershaw numbers stack up right there with some of the all-time greats.
However, that is not the debate, Kershaw has already cemented his legacy as one of the greatest pitchers ever, but now that he is ten years in it might not be farfetched to say his best seasons might be passed him. Kershaw will turn 30 years old in March and although age wise he isn’t old he has compiled a lot of innings on the left arm. The workload has started to pile up on Kershaw with him dealing with back injuries the last couple of years.
Kershaw is coming off another great season in which he went 18-4 with a league-leading 2.31 ERA. Kershaw is so great this could actually be considered an off year for him. Imagine that, putting up numbers like that and actually consider it being a down year for you. Kershaw’s 3.07 FIP and 7.0 H/9 were his highest since 2010. He allowed a career-high 23 home runs and didn’t throw a shutout the first time he went a whole season with throwing one since 2009.
Kershaw’s last Cy Young season in 2014 was one of the greatest individual seasons by a pitcher in history. That year he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA in only 27 starts. He lead the league in wins, ERA, CG, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, K/9, K/BB that season. Not only did he win the Cy Young he became this first NL pitcher to win the MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968. Kershaw could’ve easily won the Cy Young the following season if it wasn’t for his then-teammate Zack Greinke and Cubs Jake Arrieta having once in a lifetime seasons.
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Greinke led the league with an incredible 1.66 ERA and 0.844 WHIP while going 19-3. Jake Arrieta went on a historical streak the last couple months of the season and won the Cy Young going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA allowing amazingly low 5.9 H/9. Kershaw ended finishing third behind those two, but he would’ve won the award almost any other year with a stat line of 16-7, 2.13 ERA, league-leading 1.99 FIP and being the first pitcher with 300 strikeouts in a season since Curt Shilling and Randy Johnson since 2002.
Kershaw was well on his way to winning the Cy Young in 2016 after getting off to an 11-2 record with a 1.79 ERA and an incredible 145 strikeouts to only ten walks but back injuries forced to miss two full months of the season. Even with the amount of time that season he still finished 5th in Cy Young voting. There is no doubt that if Kershaw had stayed healthy that season he would’ve easily ran away with the award.
This past season Kershaw finished second to Scherzer and even though Kershaw did lead the league in some categories Scherzer’s durability other statistical advantages over Kershaw made the difference. Kershaw led in Wins, ERA, ERA+, and K/BB ratio. Scherzer lead the league in SO, WHIP, H/9, and WAR. He also had a better FIP and more K/9 than Kershaw.
You could make the argument that injuries have cost Kershaw the last 2 Cy Young awards. It hard to count out a player that is as great and works as hard as Kershaw that if he will ever win another Cy Young, but each year is going to get harder and harder to win it. Kershaw still has a lot of time left in his playing career.
As he gets older expect him to manage his body better. You probably wont see Kershaw pitch as deep into games as he used to. After all his main goal nowadays isn’t individual awards its to win a World Series. But Kershaw is still way too competitive and too great to not be in the running for the Cy Young every year. As humble as he is he still has an ego to be recognized as the best pitcher in the game and I believe he still has a few more Cy Young seasons in him left in him.