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Clayton Kershaw: More Than Just a Hall of Famer

Kershaw delivers a pitch during Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS CC by 2.0 License

Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best pitchers of this generation and is a clear HOF (if you disagree with this then the stats will prove you wrong.) However, I do not think he necessarily gets the respect he deserves in terms of how good he is compared to the rest of history. I want to change the narrative of Kershaw from “great pitcher” to “one of the best pitchers ever.”

Early Kershaw

After having one of the most dominant high school seasons in America, Clayton Kershaw was drafted 7th overall by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft. Kershaw went to rookie ball as an 18-year-old and had an ERA of 1.95 across 37 innings pitched. Clayton then posted a 2.95 ERA across A and AA as just a 19-year-old. The following season, He posted a 1.91 ERA in AA; during this time Kershaw was 5 years younger than the average AA player. He was then called up to the majors as a 20-year-old in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, the legend of Clayton Kershaw began to take shape. Across 375.1 IP, he racked up an ERA of 2.85. However, Kershaw had yet to get the national recognition that he deserved, which is criminal, considering he had one of the best 3-year stretches to start a career of all time.

From a young age, Kershaw was able to show how good he really was. All three of these other guys were all-stars and placed top 3 in Cy Young voting during this stretch, however, Kershaw had neither yet. This lack of recognition would not continue as Kershaw was about to go on one of the best stretches ever.

A Legend is Born

From 2011 to 2017, Clayton Kershaw put together one of the best primes the game of baseball has ever seen. Kershaw was doing stuff that had flat-out never been done before. As someone who lived through this stretch, I am not sure I understood how great he was until now looking back. The stats speak for themselves…

Clayton Kershaw's Statistics, 2011-2017:

207 GS

1452.0 IP

2.10 ERA

2.36 FIP

0.913 WHIP

10.1 K/9

1.8 BB/9

0.6 HR/9

179 ERA+

47.0 bWAR

7x All-Star

6x Top 3 Cy Young finisher

3x Cy Young winner

1x MVP

Plain and simple dominance from Kershaw during this time period. He was the best pitcher in baseball and scared every team he faced. It is extremely rare to see a pitcher maintain that level of dominance. He was truly an all-around pitcher with no weakness in his game during the regular season. Here’s how Kershaw’s 7-year peak matches up with other all-time peaks.

Statistics during 7-year Peak:

Green = 1st or 2nd among group

Yellow = 3rd or 4th among group

Red = 5th or 6th among group

Based on the numbers displayed above, Kershaw had one of the best peaks of any pitcher. His all-around ability to prevent runs, strike batters out, not allow free passes, and prevent the long ball made him extremely valuable. However, I do not feel like Kershaw is often mentioned in the same conversation as these greats, and that is an extreme disappointment. I am not trying to say Kershaw is better than all these guys, but it is clear that he deserves to be in the same conversation as them.

After his dominant stretch from 2011-2017, Kershaw took a step back from all-time great to just All-Star. From 2018-2021, he posted a 2.96 ERA and was still one of the best pitchers in baseball. However, after a 3.55 ERA in 2021, it was believed that Kershaw was headed down his final decline. However, Kershaw still had some tricks under his sleeve.

The Re-Emergence of Kershaw:

In 2022, at the age of 34, Kershaw posted a 2.28 ERA and was once again named an All-Star. Kershaw was pure dominance in 2022, and it is safe to say that his resurgence during his 15th season came as a surprise to most people. It is very rare to see a declining pitcher turn back the clock as effectively as Kershaw has this year. To show this, I will be comparing Kershaws 15th season to the previously mentioned pitchers’ 15th seasons.

15th Season Among Comparable Pitchers

Green = 1st or 2nd among group

Yellow = 3rd or 4th among group

Red = 5th or 6th among group

It is very clear that, outside of Randy Johnson's absurd season, Kershaw aged better than any other pitcher on that list. His ability to perform at an elite level after everyone thought he was on the way out is admirable. This continues to show how absurd Kershaw's career has been. Kershaw has been more than just a great player; he is truly one of the best to ever do it.

To finish out this story of Kershaw, I will be using a stat that is not extremely common; JAWS. Instead of me explaining it, it will make a whole lot more sense coming from the source. Baseball reference describes JAWS as, “a means to measure a player's Hall of Fame worthiness. A player's JAWS is their career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR. Note that only batting or pitching WAR are used in determining the averages at a given position. The current Hall of Famers are then grouped by position and a position average JAWS is computed.” So this is a stat that can judge Hall of Fame worthiness in just one number. Here is how Kershaw compares to some all-time greats. Keep in mind that Kershaw's career is not over and he still has more in the tank.

The fact that Kershaw is even in the same conversation as these guys is a testament to how great he really is. An important thing to consider is the IP in this. If we take IP per JAWS (divide IP by JAWS), then only Pedro (on this list) produced more JAWS in less IP than Kershaw. That probably sounds confusing, but basically, outside of Pedro, Kershaw was able to do the most in the innings he pitched.

Hopefully, this article can help shed some light on how great this guy performed. He needs to be talked about as among the greatest pitchers of all time. Clayton Kershaw is more than a good pitcher; the next time you are talking about the greatest pitchers ever, Kershaw’s name deserves to be mentioned.



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