I tend to think Clayton Kershaw doesn’t get enough attention in discussions about baseball’s best young pitchers and so his brilliant complete-game, 1-0 shutout of the Giants last night provides a perfect opportunity to heap praise on the Dodgers southpaw.
Kershaw has followed up his 2.79 ERA in 30 starts as a 21-year-old last season with a 2.85 ERA in 30 starts this season, and during that time he’s the only starting pitcher in baseball to allow fewer than 7.0 hits per nine innings.
As you might expect from someone who’s that tough to hit Kershaw has shown an exceptional ability to miss bats with 486 strikeouts in 471 career innings, including 201 in 192.1 frames this season.
Here’s a list of all the pitchers in baseball history who’ve started at least 75 games through age 22 while striking out more than a batter per inning:
Sam McDowell 9.52
Clayton Kershaw 9.29
That’s it. That’s the entire list. Kershaw and “Sudden” Sam McDowell, who’s one of the great flamethrowers of all time and led the league in strikeouts five times in six seasons during the 1960s. If you want to lower the threshold to 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings you can also add Dwight Gooden and Felix Hernandez to the list.
In addition to racking up strikeouts Kershaw has also made great strides with his control this season, cutting his walks by 25 percent from 4.8 to 3.6 per nine innings. If he can maintain the missed bats and make more progress in walk rate next season–say, to somewhere in the 2.5-3.0 range–Kershaw has a shot to emerge as one of the truly elite pitchers in all of baseball before many of the guys in that class were even in the majors.
Despite already having three seasons and nearly 500 innings of 3.15 ERA work under his belt Kershaw is still the youngest pitcher in baseball to make at least 25 starts this season. He has a chance to be scary good.
People are the absolute worst sometimes. The latest example: someone stole one of Jose Fernandez’s high school jerseys, which had been displayed in his old high school’s dugout for a vigil last night.
That report comes from Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times who covered the vigil at Alonso High School in Tampa yesterday. Her story of the vigil is here. Today she has been tweeting about the theft of the jersey. She spoke to Alonso High school’s principal who, in a bit of understatement, called the theft the “lowest of the low.”
The high school had one more Fernandez jersey remaining and has put it on display in the school. In the meantime, spread this story far and wide so that whatever vulture who stole it can’t sell it.
In an earlier post I made a joke about the Indians starting Dennis Martinez if forced to play a meaningless (for them) game on Monday against the Tigers. On Twitter, one of my followers, Ray Fink, asked a great question: If you had to hand the ball to a Hall of Fame-eligible pitcher to give you three innings, who would it be?
The Hall of Fame-eligible part gets rid of the recently-retired ringers, requiring a guy who has been off the scene for at least five years, ensuring that there’s a good bit of rust. I love questions like these.
My immediate answer was Mike Mussina. My thinking being that of all of the great pitchers fitting these parameters, he’s the most likely to have stayed in good shape. I mean, Greg Maddux probably still has the best pitching IQ on the planet, but he’s let himself go a bit, right? Mussina strikes me as a guy who still wakes up and does crunches and stuff.
If you extend it to December, however, you may get a better answer, because that’s when Tim Wakefield becomes eligible for the Hall. I realize a knuckleball requires practice to maintain the right touch and subtlety to the delivery, but it also requires the least raw physical effort. Jim Bouton went well more than five years without throwing his less-than-Wakefield-quality knuckler and was still able to make a comeback. I think Tim could be passable.
Then there’s Roger Clemens. I didn’t see his numbers for that National Baseball Congress tourney this summer and I realize he’s getting a bit thick around the middle, but I’m sure he can still bring it enough to not embarrass himself. Beyond the frosted tips, anyway.
So: who is your Space Cowboys-style reclamation project? Who is the old legend you dust off for one last job?