Clayton Kershaw, The Pitching Triple Crown & The Cy Young Award

Clayton Kershaw strikes a pose.

Since Cy Young became an award in 1956, there have been 13 pitchers to win the traditional pitching triple crown: that is, leading the league or tying for the league lead in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average. All have one particular trait in common:

Pitching Triple Crown Winners Since 1956
Pitcher Team Year Wins ERA Strikeouts Cy Young Finish 1st Place Votes
Sandy Koufax LAD 1963* 25 1.88 306 1st 20 of 20
Sandy Koufax LAD 1965* 26 2.04 382 1st 20 of 20
Sandy Koufax LAD 1966* 27 1.73 317 1st 20 of 20
Steve Carlton Phi 1972 27 1.97 310 1st 24 of 24
Dwight Gooden NYM 1985 24 1.53 268 1st 24 of 24
Roger Clemens Tor 1997 21 2.05 292 1st 25 of 28
Roger Clemens Tor 1998 20 2.65 271 1st 28 of 28
Pedro Martinez Bos 1999 23 2.07 313 1st 28 of 28
Randy Johnson Ari 2002 24 2.32 334 1st 32 of 32
Johan Santana Min 2006 19 2.77 245 1st 28 of 28
Jake Peavy SD 2007 19 2.54 240 1st 32 of 32
Justin Verlander Det 2011 24 2.40 250 1st 28 of 28
Clayton Kershaw LAD 2011 21 2.28 248 ??? ?? of 32
*There was only one Cy Young Award for both leagues from 1956-1966

I see a trend here that bodes well for Clayton Kershaw when the Baseball Writers Association of America announces the 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner on Thursday at 11 a.m. PST. All 12 triple crown winners aside from Kershaw have taken home the Cy Young Award, and all but Roger Clemens with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 won unanimously. 309 of 312 first-place votes isn't bad.

This is not to say that Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies wouldn't be a worthy choice for this year's award; in fact, quite the contrary. In many ways, it can easily be argued that Halladay should be the favorite. But the difference between Kershaw and Halladay, or even Cliff Lee, was fairly negligible this year, and a close vote wouldn't surprise me.

But if I were a betting man — and I am — I would wager a fair amount of money on Kershaw winning this year's award. We shall find out Thursday.

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