clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Clayton Kershaw the object of our affection

New, 118 comments

A few articles lately about Clayton Kershaw have stirred some feelings among Dodger fans, MSTI takes the Dodger blogger point of view that is it not unreasonable to expect great things from Clayton Kershaw while ESPN Insider and Seattle Blogger David Cameron asked "Is Clayton Kershaw Already Declining?.

All of us can read what Mike Petriello of MSTI has to say about what he thinks of Kershaw's possible future but only those with an insider account can read what David Cameron has to say.

What we do know is that Cameron only went back 30 years and used a 180 K  year for a 21 year old as his baseline for questioning if Clayton has a golden future or not. I didn't read the article so I won't comment on it but I can comment on the title because that is what I can read.

Jon Weisman didn't quite understand why so many Dodger fans took issue with what Dave Cameron had to say since he felt it was a reasoned article. Maybe Jon forgot he was a Dodger blogger and his readers are Dodger fans, and reason doesn't really apply when you feel rightly or wrongly that one of your own is not getting accolades but warnings of disappointment.  I mean hey, the headline was "Is Clayton Kershaw Already Declining".  I'm fairly open minded, think of myself of even minded but that headline alone irritated the crap out of me. I'd expect Seattle fans would be just as irritated to see me write a headline "Is Chone Figgins going to be the biggest bust of the 2010 Free Agent Class" but put it behind a pay wall so they can only conjecture about what was actually in the article. It would certainly not stop them from dumping on me even if they never read the inside of the column.

Anyway I have my own opinions about Clayton Kershaw. I've seen Dodger pitchers come and go for forty years, yet we have never had a gem like Clayton Kershaw in my lifetime. We had Fernando but Fernando did it with a cunning screwball not with a blazing fastball.  Just to make sure my perception equaled reality I checked to see if we'd ever had a left hander at this age with a K rate and hit rate like this. In 2009 at 21 he led the league with a 6.3 hits per nine innings. Fernando was close but Clayton has been the best, how about in the history of baseball? Would you believe that was the 2nd best H/9 rate in the history of baseball for some one 21 or younger.

 

 

                                                                      
Player H/9 IP Year Age BB SO ERA ERA+ HR OPS OPS+
Vida Blue 6.03 312.0 1971 21 88 301 1.82 185 19 .523 55
Clayton Kershaw 6.26 171.0 2009 21 91 185 2.79 141 7 .588 63
Gary Nolan 6.30 150.0 1968 20 49 111 2.40 132 10 .579 75
Kerry Wood 6.32 166.2 1998 21 85 233 3.40 128 14 .626 68
Dave Boswell 6.38 169.1 1966 21 65 173 3.14 115 19 .612 75
Harry Krause 6.38 213.0 1909 20 49 139 1.39 172 2
Wayne Simpson 6.39 176.0 1970 21 81 119 3.02 138 15 .607 66
Babe Ruth 6.40 323.2 1916 21 118 170 1.75 158 0
Dwight Gooden 6.44 276.2 1985 20 69 268 1.53 228 13 .524 52
Al Mamaux 6.51 251.2 1915 21 96 152 2.04 133 3
Fernando Valenzue 6.55 192.1 1981 20 61 180 2.48 135 11 .549 62
Ray Culp 6.55 203.1 1963 21 102 176 2.97 110 15 .635 91
Dwight Gooden 6.65 218.0 1984 19 73 276 2.60 137 7 .545 59
Hal Newhouser 6.71 183.2 1942 21 114 103 2.45 161 4
Tom Gordon 6.74 163.0 1989 21 86 153 3.64 107 10 .616 74
Wally Bunker 6.77 214.0 1964 19 62 96 2.69 133 17 .595 70
Joe Engel 6.78 164.2 1913 20 85 70 3.06 97 2
Smoky Joe Wood 6.78 160.2 1909 19 43 88 2.18 114 1
Walter Johnson 6.81 256.1 1908 20 53 160 1.65 139 0
Babe Ruth 6.86 217.2 1915 20 85 112 2.44 114 3
Bob Feller 6.88 320.1 1940 21 118 261 2.61 161 13
Bob Feller 6.89 296.2 1939 20 142 246 2.85 154 13
Jim Shaw 6.93 257.0 1914 20 137 164 2.70 104 3
Gary Bell 6.97 182.0 1958 21 73 110 3.31 111 18 .626 73
Jim Scott 6.97 250.1 1909 21 93 135 2.30 102 0
Player H/9 IP Year Age BB SO ERA ERA+ HR OPS OPS+
Dennis Eckersley 7.00 199.1 1976 21 78 200 3.43 101 13 .604 78

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/16/2010.

I don't know about you but when you just had a season in which your hits allowed per nine innings was the 2nd best in history of baseball for the age of 21, I rather concentrate on his future then on his possible decline.

Isn't it cool to see Babe Ruth on this list. I mean come on Babe Ruth. All he did was have the longest scoreless inning streak in the World Series for about fifty years. Oh yeah, he also hit a few home runs. A few other HOF on that list by the way like Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Big Train Walter Johnson, and Dennis Eckersley. Smokey Joe Wood is also on that list, check out his age 22 year old season. Sure Gary Nolan and Wayne Simpson blew their arms out. Thank God, since they were a big part of the Big Red machine that luckly lost some parts.

I'm amazed at how few left handers are on that list. They do tend to take longer but if Clayton can be Vida Blue I think we'd be quite happy. 312 innings at age 21 so while Vida never again accomplished what he did at age 21, don't you think those innings kind of mitigate what happened to him?

Now let us take a look at pitchers who have had a K Rate over 9.0, age 21 or younger.

 

                                                                          
Player SO/9 IP Year Age H BB SO ERA ERA+ HR OPS OPS+
Kerry Wood 12.58 166.2 1998 21 117 85 233 3.40 128 14 .626 68
Dwight Gooden 11.39 218.0 1984 19 161 73 276 2.60 137 7 .545 59
Rick Ankiel 9.98 175.0 2000 20 137 90 194 3.50 134 21 .685 76
Clayton Kershaw 9.74 171.0 2009 21 119 91 185 2.79 141 7 .588 63
Tom Griffin 9.56 188.1 1969 21 156 93 200 3.54 100 19 .660 94
Frank Tanana 9.41 257.1 1975 21 211 73 269 2.62 134 21 .615 79
Dave Boswell 9.19 169.1 1966 21 120 65 173 3.14 115 19 .612 75
Sam McDowell 9.19 173.1 1964 21 148 100 177 2.70 133 8 .639 86
Dennis Eckersley 9.03 199.1 1976 21 155 78 200 3.43 101 13 .604 78

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/16/2010.

Only three left handers on that list, and one of them is the man I'm really interested in. When I said I'd never seen a Dodger pitcher like Clayton Kershaw at the age of 21 I meant exactly that. However I did see a pitcher who Clayton Kershaw reminded me of, and sure enough there he is two names below Claytons. Frank Tanana was the best young left handed pitcher I've ever seen until I saw Clayton Kershaw pitch on April 16th, 2009 the most dominant game I'd ever seen at Dodger Stadium. For those of you who don't have a clue who Frank Tanana is take a moment to look at his major league numbers. Notice the gross amount of innings from age 20 - 24. Right there you'd say this man was one of the most overworked arms in the history of baseball. That was nothing, take a look at his minor league numbers, 349 minor league innings by the age of 19. No wonder his arm exploded at the age of 24 but until that arm blew up Frank had a curve and fastball that was the envy of anyone not named Nolan Ryan. Only because he was the teammate of Nolan Ryan did he not get the notoriety he deserved. He was better then Nolan in just about everything except for keeping that shoulder together after throwing 1670 professional innings by the age of 24. 1670 professional innings. It is a mind boggling number. What is great about Frank Tanana is that he was one of the dominant pitchers of his day and then his arm was gone but his pitching skills weren't. After his arm blew up he came back to pitch another 14 years as a Jamie Moyer type amassing 2700 strike outs

As far as I'm concerned Clayton Kershaw is Frank Tanana without the arm usage. Clayton Kershaw is not going to decline, Clayton is going to soar, and he is the biggest reason to be happy about being a Dodger fan for the next four years.