On May 4th, Kershaw had his worst outing of the 2010 season by far against the Milwaukee Brewers, going 1.1 innings, giving up seven earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three while allowing one home run. While this was not the worst game of Kershaw's career (Game Score of 17), it came very close (Kershaw had a game score of 12 last April 26th against the Rockies in Coors).
Since that start, Kershaw has been magnificent. In 15 starts since May 4th, Kershaw has struck out 102 batters while walking only 32, while giving up four homeruns and allowing 76 hits in 100 innings. To go along with those stats, he's got a 2.34 ERA with a opponent triple slash line of .213/.283/.286. I was curious as to what Kershaw's FIP would be in his last 15 starts, so I just used the standard (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP + 3.2 format.
(4*13+(32+4-3)*3-102*2)/100 + 3.2 = 2.67 FIP
That's pretty damned impressive over 15 starts. This got me thinking what other top pitchers in baseball's FIPs have been in the same time frame. Rather than going by May 9th on for each starter, since each one will have started on a different day, I just went from the 7th start of the year on for each of the starters I looked at. I decided to check Fangraphs.com and use their WAR leader list to decide who's numbers to calculate, and I ended up going with the top 35 pitchers in WAR, with Billingsley thrown in at the end just to see (He's top 50 in WAR for pitchers).
*These values are of 7/26 before any games were played.
There are 36 pitchers on this list. Some of these numbers jumped out at me as very surprising. For one thing, of the top 35 pitchers in WAR in the MLB, Kershaw has the 3rd best FIP over the last 15 starts of the season at 2.67, behind only Josh Johnson (2.03) and Francisco Liriano (2.23). It was really great to see Kershaw's FIP dwarf that of Lincecum (3.51) and Jimenez (3.83) in that time as well. Some of the players on this list have put up a very good last 3 months and some people may not even realize it, such as Brett Myers with a very respectable 3.59 FIP, then Gavin Floyd with a very good 2.92 FIP, and Gallardo with a superb 2.76 FIP. Most of the other pitchers are you might expect them to be. One thing that's also very nice to see is that Billingsley is quietly doing much better than most people think he is, it would just be nice to get those innings up.
Speaking of innings, that is another thing that surprised me a bit to see. It turns out that Kershaw, who everyone knows has a hard time getting past the 5th or 6th inning, has 100 innings pitched in this time, which ranks 9th of the 36 pitchers on this list. He is averaging 6 2/3 innings pitched in his last 15 starts. That is more than Lincecum (96), Jimenez (93), Verlander (93.1), Price (78), and even the guy who some people believe the Dodgers have to get so they can finally have that ace they have wanted oh-so-badly for the last half-decade, Roy Oswalt (89).
Now obviously this is only taking into account about 15 starts for each pitcher out of about 20-22 starts, but I think it is showing the direction some of these pitchers are going in, rather than encompassing the entire season. One fact that people might find interesting from my research is that in this span, Lincecum is out-walking Kershaw 45 to 32. You've got to love seeing that. One of the biggest reasons I have started this from Kershaw's 7th start on, as well as everyone else's 7th start on (Save Cliff Lee because he missed the first month, I took his 2nd start on because he's got 16 starts), because it shows the vast improvement in his control with only 32 walks in 100 innings pitched.
32 walks in his last 100 innings is something I think not many of us thought he would be able to do for at least another couple of years. The national media and fans of other teams, and so-called experts have been saying that Clayton Kershaw is not and cannot be an ace until he brings down the walks and pitches deeper into games, and he will just a good pitcher with ace potential until then.
If the last 15 starts are any indication, Kershaw is well on his way, if not already there.