The King of Swing and Miss
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is about to return to the team after a month-long stay on the disable list, and the Dodgers couldn’t be happier. They sit 18-14 through Sunday, which slots the club into 3rd place in the NL West, 2.5 games behind the Giants. Kershaw has made only one start this season, a March 22 start against the Diamondbacks in Australia where he allowed only one run in 6 2/3 innings. The Dodgers aren’t used to the lefty missing time, as Kershaw has started at least 30 games in every season since 2009.
Kershaw has become a modern-day Sandy Koufax in his six years as a major league baseball player, racking up two Cy Young awards, three ERA crowns, three All-Star nods and a Golden Glove. He’s become known as the best pitcher in baseball over the last few years, but it’s also interesting to check in on how the beginning of his career holds up when compared to some of the all-time greats. Unsurprisingly, it looks to hold up just fine.
As I did earlier, Kershaw will be compared to Koufax a lot throughout his career. Both are Dodger lefties, and so far Kershaw blows ol’ Sandy out of the water. Kershaw is 26 years old and has already built up an impressive resume, while Koufax was barely getting off the ground in 1962 when he was at that same age. However, Koufax is known for the last five seasons of his career so the comparison is unfair. Sandy was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball from 1962-1966 before having to retire.
A more apt comparison would be Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, The Mets great broke into the league and was quite good from the age of 23 on. By age 26, Seaver had amasses 1379 innings pitched, with an ERA+ OF 149. Today, Kershaw has a ERA+ of 147 over 1186 innings pitched. As much as Seaver was known for picking up Ks, Kershaw actually averages 1.5 more per nine innings. Of course, it’s hard to compare two pitchers in different eras because that could explain why Seaver has more innings pitched, therefore stretching him out longer in games would result in a lower K per 9 rate. It’s hard, but that’s the fun.
Now will Kershaw go on to pitch for 20 years, being one of the game’s best for over a decade? Maybe not. But he’s on his way to a Hall of Fame plaque, and the Dodgers would be hard-pressed to find a better guy to anchor the rotation of a team expected to win a World Series sooner rather than later. There’s an electricity in the air at Dodger Stadium when Kershaw is on the mound, much like Pedro at Fenway in the 90s. It’s harder to get a ticket to the game every fifth game, but seeing Kershaw in person is a must. If you don’t, you likely be telling people you did in 20 years.