Is Clayton Kershaw the Next Sandy Koufax?

With Dodgers great Sandy Koufax in attendance at Dodger Stadium in LA on Tuesday evening, Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw continued to show why he is the preeminent pitcher in Major League Baseball. Kershaw went eight innings against the National League East-leading Washington Nationals, giving up only three hits, including a solo home run to Bryce Harper for his only run allowed.

Kershaw walked two and struck out eight. He has now recorded 200 strikeouts or more in five consecutive seasons, matching Mr. Koufax as the only Dodgers pitchers in history to complete this fete. Mr. Koufax did it in six straight. Kershaw also picked up his 17th win of the season, leading the majors. This is also quite remarkable because he missed six weeks earlier in the season with a back injury. His 23 starts trail 13 league-leaders by six.

Kershaw’s 1.70 ERA leads the league as well. He is 41 points ahead of second place Chris Sale of the White Sox. His .850 winning percentage also leads baseball, 64 points over Sale. Kershaw’s 0.83 WHIP also leads the majors, eight points better than Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners. Because of the injury and the six weeks on the disabled list, he does not even crack the top 40 in innings pitched, yet leads the majors with six complete games and is tied with six other pitchers with two shutouts. His BA-against, OBP-against and OPS-against all lead the majors.

Kershaw is well on his way to winning his second consecutive Cy Young award and third overall. There is also a lot of talk in the media that he should, at the very least, garner votes for the NL MVP. I agree. With the tight race in the NL West against the San Francisco Giants, I don’t think the Dodgers would be in control if not for Kershaw. When he returned from the disabled list in mid-May, the Dodgers were barely floating above .500 and the Giants were in control of the division.

At 26 years of age, Kershaw is indeed building a one-man dynasty. In comparison to the one-and-only Mr. Koufax, the Hall-of-Famer was building his own dynasty starting at the age of 26. From 1962-66, Mr. Koufax collected three major league ERA titles, struck out 26.8 of all batters he faced, collected a 0.93 WHIP and won nearly 77 percent of his decisions. Mr. Koufax retired at the age of 30, after 11-plus seasons with the Dodgers.

By comparison, Kershaw is on his way to a fourth consecutive major league ERA title, struck out 26.7 percent of his batters faced (yes, that is exactly 0.1 lower than Mr. Koufax), has collected a 0.99 WHIP and won nearly 69 percent of his decisions. The similarities are eerie, yet only solidify Kershaw’s place among the greats. And it bears repeating that he is only 26!

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