2. Best Dodgers starters of all-time: Clayton Kershaw
If I’m not mistaken, Clayton Kershaw is the first active Dodger to appear on one of our best-of lists. We have been privileged to watch a player of his caliber for so long. I was fortunate enough to be at his big league debut. I’d be lying if I said I knew what he would become from that first outing, but to be fair I had recently turned eight and wasn’t exactly a professional scout.
Unlike me, the Dodgers front office knew what they were doing and drafted Kershaw out of high school seventh overall in the 2006 draft. The former Highland Park High School star was coming off of a Gatorade Player of the Year season, and was teammates with future Dodger Shawn Tolleson and Lions quarterback Matt Stafford.
Kershaw cruised through the minor leagues and was one of the most hyped prospects in baseball at the time of his debut. He stuck in the rotation the rest of the season, and pitched out of the bullpen in the playoffs. Kershaw continued to find himself the following season, leading the league in batting average against and amassing a 2.79 ERA, but was also second in the NL in walks. He toed the rubber in game one of the 2009 NLCS, becoming the third youngest player to start a playoff season opener at just 21.
Kershaw continued to hone his control the following season, which allowed him to go deeper into games, and he pitched 200 innings for the first time. His 2011 season really established him as one of the game’s elites, as he won his first Cy Young Award and the pitcher’s Triple Crown. Kershaw was also named to the All-Star team, a feat he would accomplish the next six seasons.
From 2012 to 2015, he never finished lower than third in Cy Young voting, winning it in 2013 and 2014. His historic 2014 effort also earned him NL MVP honors, as he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, .857 WHIP, and 239 strikeouts. Kershaw became the 11th pitcher ever to strikeout 300 batters in a season in 2015, and led the league with 232.2 innings.
Though still his dominant self, 2016 marked the beginning of a series of debilitating back injuries for Kershaw. He had a brief disabled list stint with back pain in 2014, but the herniated disc he suffered in 2016 was the first time in his career he missed considerable time. Although unable to reach the 180 inning mark, Kershaw rebounded with a healthier 2017, leading the MLB in wins with 18. He’s dealt with more back issues and declining velocity the last couple of years, but was still an All-Star in 2019.
His velocity has been back to its Cy Young form in so far this season, which is an encouraging sign. Kershaw’s still going strong but has already compiled the lowest ERA and WHIP in the live ball era, three Cy Youngs, an MVP, eight All-Star appearances, five ERA titles, and a Gold Glove in his relatively short career.