Clayton Kershaw blanked the Rockies for six innings Friday to improve to 16-9 on the season and lower his MLB-best ERA to 1.83.
Kershaw is the first to qualify for the ERA title with an ERA under 2.00 since Roger Clemens came in at 1.87 for the Astros in 2005. His mark is the lowest since Pedro Martinez put up a 1.74 for Boston in 2000.
It will be Kershaw’s third straight NL ERA and WHIP titles. He’s also set to lead the league in strikeouts for a second time with 232 in 236 innings. His second Cy Young is pretty much assured, as well.
There’s also a good case for Kershaw being at the heart of the MVP mix, particularly given that there aren’t any dominant hitters in the National League this year. Alas, his modest win total is sure to doom him there. Not only has Kershaw been limited to 16 wins, but the Dodgers are a mere 19-14 in his 33 starts. That’s a .576 winning percentage that’s practically identical to their .575 mark when he doesn’t pitch.
Of course, it’s not Kershaw’s fault that he’s received such terrible run support; the Dodgers have scored a total of 23 runs in those 14 starts of his they didn’t win. But it’s quite a dent in a claim that he’s the NL’s MVP when his team has been just as good when he doesn’t pitch.
It’s really a moot subject anyway. While the statistically inclined will advance cases for starting pitchers in the MVP balloting, the fact is that no NL starter has finished in the top five since Greg Maddux came in third in 1995.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.