Clayton Kershaw compiled one of the more historically dominant seasons in 2014 and it’s led to a plethora of awards for the southpaw. Kershaw pitched the Los Angeles Dodgers to a second straight NL West title while simultaneously setting the benchmark for pitchers.
Unfortunately for Kershaw and the Dodgers, he again ran into trouble in the postseason against the St. Louis Cardinals, which took some of the shine off his great year. Kershaw’s postseason struggles were magnified when Madison Bumgarner led the San Francisco Giants to a third World Series title in five years.
For as dominant as Kershaw was throughout the regular season, Bumgarner was essentially on the same level throughout the postseason and particularly in the World Series. Given that the two pitchers are both left-handed, there’s been talk in recent weeks as to who the best may be.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark surveyed a 16-person panel that includes executives and scouts under the following directive:
So these were the rules: They could pick only one ace to build their rotation around for the next five years. And they couldn’t use dollars in their deliberations.
In somewhat of a surprise, the Dodger ace was the overwhelming selection:
• 12 votes – Kershaw
• 2 votes – Bumgarner
• 1 vote – Kershaw for the next five years, Bumgarner for the next 15
• 1 vote – Kershaw to win a game tonight, Bumgarner to win the World Series
While Bumgarner may have left a lasting imrpession with his relief appearance in Game 7 of the World Series, one executive takes into account Kershaw’s sustained greatness:
For the body of his work and the consistency of his work, I think Kershaw is the best,” said an NL scout. “The body of Kershaw’s work outweighs the greatness of Bumgarner in October, even though all of us would love to have both of them.”
One proponent of Bumgarner pointed to the pitcher’s talent and intangibles as a deciding factor for him:
Bumgarner showed me a combination of stuff, command, competitiveness, feel and durability that isn’t often equaled,” the exec said. “He also showed the ability to make an adjustment from a high-percentage fastball guy in his first outing [of that World Series] to a guy who mixed pitches and got ahead and then expertly expanded the zone in his next two outings. Just unbeatable on multiple nights, on the biggest stage. So it would be hard to go with anyone but him.”
Despite missing one month of the regular season, Kershaw led the Majors in wins, complete games, WHIP and for an unprecedented fourth straight year, ERA. He’s expected to win a third Cy Young Award in four years and perhaps his first career MVP award.
Kershaw finished the 2014 season 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. Bumgarner went 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Bumgarner started six more games than Kershaw, but only threw 19 more innings.