When greatness is right under your nose, it can be easy to miss it.
In fact, it’s typically only years later when you look back and realize how great the thing was in the first place.
I can think of countless examples of this in baseball — most of which fell under the umbrella of steroids — in which a player had an incredibly memorable season that didn’t become incredible until viewed with hindsight.
Lets not let that happen with the season Clayton Kershaw is putting together.
Through 23 starts, Kershaw has a remarkable 1.87 ERA, a microscopic 0.86 WHIP and has amassed a ridiculous 6.1 WAR.
Now let’s put that in perspective.
Since 1997, just two pitchers in either league have submitted an ERA below 2.00 — Roger Clemens (1.87 in 2005) and Pedro Martinez (1.74 in 2000).
In fact, dating back to 1985, only four pitchers have done it: Clemens (1990, 2005), Martinez (1997, 2000), Greg Maddux (1994, 1995) and Kevin Brown (1996).
Looking at WHIP, only two pitchers since 1968 has ever finished a season with a better mark — Clemens and Martinez.
With Kershaw, it’s easy to lose sight of how good he really is simply because he’s been doing it so consistently (as he’s on pace to post a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth consecutive season). He’s also on pace to become just the third pitcher since Koufax to lead the league in ERA three consecutive seasons (and just the second to lead all of MLB in all three seasons).
Oh, and he’s only 25.
As the focus on the Dodgers has shifted recently to guys like Puig and Hanley thanks to the team’s offensive resurgence, it needs to be said that Kershaw is equally as responsible for the recent success.
Since June 22, the beginning of the team’s hot stretch, Kershaw has logged seven starts and allowed just nine earned runs. In fact, Kershaw has gone seven innings twice, eight innings four times and nine innings once.
Over those 55 innings, Kershaw has averaged more than seven strike outs per game while walking just three batters for a remarkable 50/3 K/BB ratio. He has also recorded five of his 10 wins during that stretch despite receiving less than four runs per game in support.
While talks of a contract extension continue to hang over the season (thankfully not providing a distraction) and as prospective numbers continue to grow — let’s remember just how good the guy behind the numbers really is.
Not just “this-season-good”, but we’re talking “all-time-good”.
UPDATE: Kershaw finished 2013 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP before reportedly signing a 7-year, $215 million extension according to ESPN.
In case you missed it, be sure to find out more about the Brian Wilson Signing!