Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher you’ve ever seen. You might not agree because social media has you brainwashed into believing his small sample size playoff performance is all that matters, but it’s true.
The Dodgers ace is better than Randy Johnson, better than Greg Maddux, and even better than Pedro Martinez. How do I know that? Numbers.
Statistically speaking, Kershaw doesn’t have much competition in my lifetime (I’m 38). He intimidates hitters more than Roger Clemens and has Maddux’ command.
Kershaw’s numbers are absolutely ridiculous. In 11 seasons, he averages 9.8 K/9. That’s higher than Clemens (8.6) who was known for striking out batters.
As great as The Rocket was (with a little help from steroids, allegedly), he doesn’t even compare in any statistical category other than longevity stats. Kershaw has a lower ERA (2.37 to 3.12), higher K/9 (9.8 to 8.6), lower BB/9 (2.3 to 2.9), and a lower WHIP (1.0 to 1.173).
What about Pedro, the former Red Sox pitcher most consider the best starter in the 1990s? This one is a bit closer, but Kershaw still has an edge.
Pedro had a slightly higher K/9 (10.0) than the Dodgers ace. But his BB/9 was a tad higher (2.4) and his career ERA was more than a half-point higher (2.93).
Martinez, like Kershaw, won three Cy Young awards and had a six-year stretch that is almost unfathomable. From 1997 to 2002, “Peter” posted a 2.20 cumulative ERA in 1,221.3 innings.
While that performance would have alone been good enough for Hall of Fame induction, Kershaw’s run the past six years has been even more impressive.
Since 2013, Clayton has a 2.01 ERA in 1,128.33 innings (as of September 10). And, yes, I realize I chose an arbitrary time frame, but the career numbers also favor Kershaw.
‘But He’s Sucked in the Playoffs’
Just stop. There’s nothing more annoying than listening to clueless baseball fans bash Kershaw because he hasn’t been on the positive side of variance during the playoffs.
He’s pitched in 122 career postseason innings, the equivalent to half an entire season, and his ERA is a pedestrian 4.35. But that ERA is a bit misleading and is partially caused by bad luck. You can dispute that all you want but it’s the truth.
His postseason peripherals are very good. In 122 innings, he’s struck out 139 batters and has a 1.098 WHIP. Those are very good numbers and not stats a so-called “choker” would produce.
What’s caused his inflated postseason ERA is untimely home runs with runners on base. The fact of the matter is he’s paid for nearly every mistake he makes in the playoffs. If you give him 200+ more playoff innings, I guarantee you his ERA will drop significantly and end up closer to his career regular season ERA.
Let’s not forget, Kershaw has pitched some absolute gems in the postseason. Last year, he was brilliant in back-to-back performances to close out the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs and then in Game 1 of the World Series against Houston. In Game 2 of the 2016 NLCS, also against the Cubs, he pitched a seven-inning shutout.
A year earlier, with the Dodgers season on the line, he gave up just one run in seven innings against the New York Mets.
But he’s a choker? Get out of here with that nonsense. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of your lifetime. The numbers don’t lie.