Clayton Kershaw had a fine season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the best pitching seasons in the last two decades for the franchise. On Thursday the Baseball Writers Association of America named Kershaw the 2011 National League Cy Young Award Winner, capturing a stunning 27 of 32 first-place votes, easily outpacing Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, who won the award in 2010 (and 2003, too).
|Seven points were awarded per first-place vote, four points per second-place vote, three points per third-place vote, two points per fourth-place vote, and one point per fifth-place vote.|
Kershaw is the eighth Dodger to win the Cy Young Award, and the first since Eric Gagne in 2003.
Kershaw led the major leagues with a 2.28 ERA, led the National League with 248 strikeouts, and tied with Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL lead with 21 wins. Kershaw became the third Dodgers pitcher ever to win the pitching triple crown, joining Sandy Koufax (who did it three times: 1963, 1965, and 1966) and Dazzy Vance (1924).
|Dodgers Cy Young Award Winners|
| *only one MLB Cy Young Award
The 23-year old Kershaw became the first Dodger to win 20 games sincein 1990, and with 21 wins had the most victories by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser in 1988, the last Dodgers starting pitcher to capture the Cy Young Award.
Kershaw was the youngest pitcher in baseball to win more than 20 games in a season since 20-year old Dwight Gooden went 24-4 for the 1985 New York Mets, and was the youngest Dodger to win 20 games in as season since 21-year old Ralph Branca went 21-12 in Brooklyn in 1947.
Kershaw also led the NL in WHIP (0.977) batting average allowed (.207), on-base percentage allowed (.256), slugging percentage allowed (.298), and subsequently opponents' OPS (.554). He was in the top four in FIP (2.47, 2nd), xFIP (2.84, 4th), ERA+ (163, 2nd), rWAR (7.0, 2nd), fWAR (6.8, 2nd), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.59, 3rd).
Even when runners did reach base against Kershaw, he found a way to get them out, as his 10 pickoffs were second in baseball to James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Like teammate Matt Kemp, Kershaw has had a busy offseason. Kershaw's peers voted him Outstanding Pitcher in the National League, he was named a Sporting News NL All-Star, he won his first Gold Glove Award, and he even won the Warren Spahn Award, given annually to the top left-handed pitcher in MLB.
There were many memorable performances for Kershaw in 2011. He was 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA against the rival San Francisco Giants, including four wins in four epic battles against two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. There were the back-to-back 11-strikeout complete games in June, two of his career-high five complete games. Nobody in baseball had more starts allowing zero earned runs than the 12 such starts by Kershaw.
Kershaw and his wife Ellen pledged to donate $100 for every strikeout this season to raise money to build an orphanage in Zambia, and the way Kershaw pitched all season it looked like Kershaw's Challenge might just find a home for every single child in the African country.
At 23 years old, 12 days, Kershaw was the fifth-youngest opening day starter in Dodgers history.
Kershaw was 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA on the morning of July 3 when the All-Star rosters were announced, and included Kershaw for the first time. After that, Kershaw allowed 15 earned runs in his final 15 starts, finishing with a 13-1 record, a 1.22 ERA, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than five-to-one over the final three months of the season. He won his final eight decisions.
Back in February, I was excited about the possibilities for Kershaw in 2011:
This is Kershaw's time.
Clayton Kershaw is easily the ace of the Dodgers. He is the one player on the team without a ceiling. No matter what you think of the Dodger offense, with Kershaw on the mound you should feel comfortable that with Kershaw on the mound the Dodgers should win. If he continues to pitch like he did during the last five months of 2010, the Dodgers are in great shape. If, at 23 years old, Kershaw improves on his performance, we are in for a real treat.
It was the third straight season of improvement from Kershaw, and his third consecutive year with both a sub-3.00 ERA and a 130 or better ERA+, putting him in some select company in Dodgers franchise history:
|Dodger Pitchers w/130 ERA+ Three Straight Years|
After picking up his 20th win of the season, on September 20, I reflected on his performance:
I never saw [Sandy] Koufax myself, but my reference point for great Dodger pitching is Orel Hershiser at the end of 1988. Every time Hershiser took the mound, I knew the Dodgers would win. That's how much confidence he inspired. That's the way it is for Kershaw now. I have never felt more confident in the Dodgers than I do with Kershaw on the mound.
It was a fantastic season for Clayton Kershaw, and on Thursday he was recognized for it.