By winning his third Cy Young award in four years, Clayton Kershaw has joined some very prestigious company. However, despite his success and reign as the best pitcher in Baseball, failing to deliver the goods for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the postseason is weighing on him, and hurts more than a little in the celebration of this excellence.
Only five other pitchers have won the Cy Young three times in the span of four years since the award was handed out for the first time in 1956: Sandy Koufax (we’ll get to him later), Jim Palmer, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. He won his previous awards in 2011 and 2013. Kershaw missed the first month of the season and is only 26, making his regular season achievement even more remarkable.
Kershaw finished with a 21-3 record in 2014, posting a 1.77 ERA. He led the majors in wins and his ERA while the Dodgers claimed their second consecutive NL West title. He averaged 10.85 strikeouts per nine innings, playing just under 200 innings for the season.
And then came the playoffs. Kershaw has appeared 11 times in postseason games. So far, usually playing for a very loaded Dodgers team, his is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA. This season he got shelled twice in the span of five days against the St. Louis Cardinals, twice picking up the loss as the Dodgers underachieved and got knocked out of the playoffs early. His playoff experience ended giving up 12 hits in 12.2 innings, allowing 11 runs and finishing with an ERA of 7.82.
When Kershaw was carrying on with his remarkable 2014, the comparisons to possibly the biggest Dodgers legend of all, Sandy Koufax, emerged. Baseball is very different these days than it was in the 1960’s, and yet Kershaw seemed like he’d be able to replicate that dominance. But only in the regular season, nothing more. Koufax turned himself into a legend with his performances in the World Series with hardly any rest.
Kershaw might be playing in the same uniform and putting up incredible numbers during the regular season. But he needs to do a lot more in order to earn those comparisons to the best playoff pitcher in history.