Clayton Kershaw just recorded his 200th career win for the Los Angeles Dodgers and while he's still pitching in the league at a high level, it offered a moment of reflection for Dodgers and MLB fans. Kershaw has been one of the greatest pitchers of his generation and has accomplished more already than many Hall of Famers did in their entire career.
Despite this, Kershaw continues to be underrated (and underpaid) at this point in his career. Maybe it's because of his previous postseason struggles, or perhaps it's because his prime was so dominant in comparison, but Kershaw is much higher on the MLB totem poll than most analysts give him credit for.
But some analysts are even questioning his Dodgers legacy, which is definitely a step too far. When asked if Kershaw has done enough to be the greatest pitcher in franchise history, Fox Sports' Ben Verlander instead took the time to compare Kershaw to his brother (of course), saying that he still needed another dominant 4-5 year stretch to be in the conversation with Sandy Koufax.
Ben Verlander makes Clayton Kershaw's Dodgers legacy about Justin Verlander because of course he does
We get it. Justin Verlander is a really good pitcher and is also a future Hall of Famer. But the fact that Ben had to so forcefully mention his brother when talking about Kershaw's Dodgers legacy is totally on brand for him. Everything has to be about the Verlanders!
Ben mentions that Kershaw seems much closer to retirement than Justin was at the same point in his career. This completely ignores the fact that Kershaw has been far better in his early and mid-30s than Justin was with the Detroit Tigers.
Justin had a 3.56 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 991.1 innings pitched in his age-30 through 34 seasons. Kershaw had a 2.83 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 646 innings pitched in his age-30 through 34 seasons. Sure, Verlander was more available and pitched more innings but he was hardly above league average in this stretch. Nobody expected him to have this kind of late resurgence.
Plus, as respected and lauded as Sandy Koufax is, the idea that Kershaw already isn't in the conversation is silly. Koufax was undoubtedly the greatest pitcher in franchise history before Kershaw came around, but when you compare overall numbers and accolades, everything favors Kershaw.
Kershaw has the same number of Cy Youngs, MVPs and ERA titles as Koufax. Koufax had more playoff success and has three more World Series as a result, but that's a team accolade. Kershaw has more innings pitched, strikeouts, a better career ERA, a better career WHIP, and more career WAR.
Koufax is an all-timer but let's not disparage Kershaw and act like he isn't in the conversation for being the greatest Dodgers pitcher of all time. And let's definitely not bring Verlander into the conversation.