Clayton Kershaw: No. 6 in NL Cy Young race
This is a really tough one to discuss, given Kershaw's lengthy IL stint. The Dodgers have 45 games remaining, though, so Kershaw could make up to nine more starts before the end of the season. If he's able to do that and his numbers stay on the same pace they are now, Kershaw could actually get a few Cy Young votes, although it's nearly impossible for him to have a chance at winning. If you play the numbers game, you can see that Kershaw's 100.1 innings pitched across 17 starts is an average of 5.9 innings per outing. Assuming he makes nine starts in the rest of the season, he would only finish the year with 153 innings pitched across 26 starts.
Although Justin Verlander only made 28 starts in 2022 en route to the AL Cy Young, and Corbin Burnes made just 28 starts when he won the NL Cy Young in 2021, Verlander and Burnes pitched 175 and 167 innnings respectively. To find an accurate comparison for Kershaw's potential end-of-season numbers, however, a current Dodger had a very comparable season: Lance Lynn in 2021. That year, Lynn also made 28 starts, like Burnes and Verlander, but he only pitched 157 innings. He didn't qualify for the ERA title, but his 2.69 ERA and 163 ERA+ were still enough to get him to third place in AL Cy Young voting, trailing Gerrit Cole and Robbie Ray, whose 2.84 ERA and 157 ERA+ led qualified starters. Lynn's teammate, Carlos Rodón, also had better stats in 2021 than both Ray and Lynn, but pitched even less frequently. His 2.37 ERA and 185 ERA+ were the highest marks among pitchers who got Cy Young votes in 2021, but he only made 24 starts with 132.2 innings pitched, leading him to slide to fifth in AL Cy Young voting.
It looks like Kershaw is going to be on a path similar to Lynn and Rodón in 2021. His innings and starts will probably end up somewhere in between Rodón's 132.2 innings in 24 starts and Lynn's 157 innings in 28 starts. Kershaw's current ERA and ERA+ of 2.51 and 175 actually place him in a perfect hybrid of Lynn and Rodón's 2021. In 2023, the current top five pitchers in the NL Cy Young race are Blake Snell, Zac Gallen, Logan Webb, Justin Steele and Spencer Strider and will likely be ahead of Kershaw as a result of strong overall numbers mixed with far superior volume to Kershaw. But other than that group, I think Kershaw's numbers are strong enough to overcome his disadvantage of fewer innings pitched.
Even with his injury, Kershaw is actually tied for four in the NL in fWAR among pitchers (3.5) with Merill Kelly, and tied for fourth in the NL in bWAR among pitchers (3.1) with Justin Steele. He has a better ERA and WHIP than everyone ahead of him.
Although it's a slim chance, if Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball for the rest of the season and averages six innings while making all of his starts, he could have a legitimate case to win the Cy Young.