2013 Dodgers player profile: Clayton Kershaw, the crown jewel

Stephen Dunn

How will the Dodgers' staff ace do in his age-25 season?

Clayton Kershaw comes to camp in 2013 as he has in each of the last four years, as the leader of the pitching staff. Though manager Don Mattingly hasn't officially named Kershaw opening day starter yet, it seemed Tuesday that it was only a formality, as Mattingly simply hadn't talked to Kershaw about it yet.

But whether he starts opening day or not, Kershaw is the best pitcher the Dodgers have, and the best one they have had in some time. He seems a likely candidate to soon become the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, a subject that dominated talk with Kershaw on Tuesday, the first day of camp.

"I feel great," Kershaw said. "More than anything for the contract stuff, it's just a matter of getting to the spring and getting ready for the season. That's my only concern, getting ready for April 1. All that stuff will take care of itself."

It's hard to blame him for wanting to keep his focus on the mound, as that focus has produced results. Here's what Kershaw has to shoot for in his age-25 campaign.

Best Dodgers age-25 seasons (1901-2012)
Player Year IP W-L BB K ERA ERA+ rWAR
Nap Rucker 1910 320⅓ 17-18 84 147 2.58 117 6.9
Bill Singer 1969 315⅔ 20-12 74 247 2.34 142 6.4
Van Lingle Mungo 1936 311⅔ 18-19 118 238 3.35 124 6.0
Sandy Koufax 1961 255⅔ 18-13 96 269 3.52 122 5.3
Fernando Valenzuela 1986 269⅓ 21-11 85 242 3.14 110 5.1
Hugh Casey 1939 227⅓ 15-10 54 79 2.93 139 5.1
Don Drysdale* 1962 314⅓ 25-9 78 232 2.83 128 5.0
*won Cy Young Award; source: Baseball-Reference

Kershaw has averaged 6.0 rWAR over the past three seasons.

Trivia

Kershaw is one of just four Dodgers in franchise history to pitch 200 innings in a season and average at least one strikeout per inning, and he is the only one to do it three years in a row (2010-2012). The others who have done it at least once are Sandy Koufax (1961, 1964-65), Hideo Nomo (1996-97), and Chad Billingsley (2009).

Contract Status

Kershaw is making $11 million in 2013 in the final season of a two-year deal, plus an additional $2 million deferred from last season. Kershaw is also eligible for arbitration in 2014, and will be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

Previous Player Profiles

2010: True ace

2011: The face of the franchise

2012: The sky is the limit

Stats

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP
2010 22 204⅓ 3.57 9.34 2.98 3.12
2011 23 233⅓ 2.08 9.57 2.28 2.47
2012 24 227⅔ 2.49 9.05 2.53 2.89
2013 Projections - Age 25 Season
Source IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP
Bill James 222 2.31 8.47 3.45 3.16
ZiPS 221⅔ 2.56 9.46 2.56 2.78

2013 Outlook

My guess is that Kershaw puts up his fifth straight sub-3.00 ERA, and is the leading contender for the Cy Young Award after a 19-7, 2.61 ERA campaign, with 241 strikeouts.

Be sure to guess how you think Kershaw will perform for the Dodgers in 2013. Include ERA, strikeouts, and whatever else you wish to guess.

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