If there was any doubt coming into the 2014 baseball season it has been put to rest: Clayton Kershaw is the new gold standard for major league pitchers. The Dodgers’ southpaw hurler picked up his third Cy Young award in four years with one of the most dominating and impressive seasons in recent memory, putting up dazzling statistics that would have surely been even more incredible had he not missed a month at the beginning of the year.
With a third Cy Young to his name Kershaw joins an elite list of pitcher with three or more Cy Youngs including Roger Clemens, Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson and a revered name from Dodgers history, Sandy Koufax. That last name is one which is often mentioned with Kershaw, and the parallels are clear and evident, however Kershaw has yet to rise to Koufax’ level in the postseason.
With a fantastic record of 21-3, an otherworldly ERA of 1.77, and 239 strikeouts in 198 1/3 innings it wasn’t so much a question of whether or not Kershaw would win the award, but rather if there were enough superlatives to describe his season. It’s not hard to imagine his numbers being roughly the same or better with the extra starts he missed at the beginning of the season with more wins and strikeouts a near certainty; however, and very unfortunately, the catastrophic nature of his team’s and his own postseason failures are what will most likely linger in the minds of baseball fans when they look back upon this season.
Postseason disappointment aside, the historic nature of Kershaw’s regular season has him as the front-runner to capture the National League MVP award, and it would not come as a shock to see a starting pitcher who missed a month of the season seize the honor. That alone should illustrate how magnificent Kershaw was this past season, and while arguments can rage whether or not a pitcher is deserving of the award there can be no denying that he deserves no less than serious consideration.
At the age of 26, when many players are only in their first few years if not just beginning their careers, Kershaw is a veteran with three Cy Young awards (a 2nd place finish sandwiched in) and a likely MVP. He has taken the NL ERA and WHIP crowns each of the last four seasons, the top number in strikeouts and wins twice, and has been a workhorse for the staff by logging as many innings as necessary. It’s not hyperbole, though it may be bordering on cliché, to state that fans ought to enjoy watching this young man perform his craft and not take his brilliance for granted.
The 2014 version of Clayton Kershaw was the closest thing to an automatic win that baseball fans have witnessed in more than a generation, and it is unlikely that he will falter in the upcoming years, barring injury. Regardless of his postseason failures this year, there is no doubt that eyes will be glued to televisions in the 2015 season to see if Clayton Kershaw can repeat his mound magic.