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Clayton Kershaw finishes second in National League Cy Young Award voting

The Dodgers' ace captured two first-place votes, but finished second to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets.

Justin K. Aller

As expected, Clayton Kershaw did not win the 2012 National League Cy Young Award, but he did finish second to R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets. Kershaw is the first Dodgers pitcher to finish in the top two in Cy Young balloting in consecutive years since Sandy Koufax, who won back-to-back awards in 1965-1966.

Dickey received 27 of 32 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and 209 total points. The knuckleballer, who turned 38 on Oct. 29, was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA and a National League-best 230 strikeouts. He also led the league with five complete games, three shutouts, and innings pitched (233⅔), and finished third in rWAR (5.6) and sixth in fWAR (4.5).

Dickey is the third Mets pitcher to win the award, and the first since Dwight Gooden's magical 1985 campaign. Tom Seaver won the award in 1969, 1973, and 1975 with the Mets, then with the Reds in 1981 finished second to Fernando Valenzuela in a strike-shortened season.

Dickey struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings in a win at Dodger Stadium on June 29, which came shortly after a major league record five consecutive starts with no earned runs and at least eight strikeouts. A day before that, Dickey described his signature pitch, which he called an "angry knuckleball."

"That may be a difference between me and the Jedi Council of knuckleballers. I tried to be Charlie Hough. I tried to be Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield, and it didn't work," Dickey said. "If a traditional knuckleball is a butterfly, mine is a butterfly on steroids. Because of the velocity, it comes in and breaks late, and darts more."

Kershaw led the majors in ERA (2.53), led the NL in WHIP (1.023), and was second to Dickey with 229 strikeouts. Kershaw was 14-9 on the season, and led the NL in both versions of wins above replacement (6.2 rWAR, 5.5 fWAR). Kershaw allowed 16 runs over his final 12 starts, putting up a 1.55 ERA during that span. He received two first-place votes, 11 second-place votes, 10 third-place votes, one fourth-place vote, six fifth-place votes, and 96 total points.

Bill Center (San Diego Union-Tribune) and Alvin Valdez (Hoy) left Clayton Kershaw out of the top five of their ballots.

After Kershaw's final game of the season, a win over the Giants in the 162nd game of the year, manager Don Mattingly marveled at Kershaw's season.

"It's kind of what we talked about during spring training, with him going out and really throwing the ball well but not getting the same support, but he was really the same as last year when he won the Cy Young Award," Mattingly said. "He won't win the award because he doesn't have enough wins,but he's as good as anybody in the game."

Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals, who led the league in wins (21-8) and put up a 2.89 ERA with 207 strikeouts for the team with the best record in baseball, finished third with 93 points, including one first-place vote.

With his two first-place votes received, Kershaw is just the fourth Dodgers pitcher to receive first-place votes in consecutive years. The last was Orel Hershiser, who received two in 1987, all 24 in unanimously winning the 1988 award, and one first-place vote in 1989.

Valenzuela won the NL Cy Young Award in 1981 with eight of 24 first-place votes, then received one first-place vote in 1982. Sandy Koufax won the major league Cy Young Award unanimously in 1963, 1965, and 1966, capturing 20 first-place votes in all three years, and received one first-place vote in 1964 when he finished third.

Kershaw in 2011 received 27 first-place votes and captured 207 of a possible 224 points, or 92.4% of an award share. Coupled with his two first-place votes and 96 points this year, Kershaw is now second to Koufax in first-place votes in Dodgers history and third in award shares.

Dodgers Cy Young Award shares
Pitcher Wins Top 3 First-place votes Award shares
Sandy Koufax 3 4 61 3.05
Fernando Valenzuela 1 3 18 1.56
Clayton Kershaw 1 2 29 1.35
Orel Hershiser 1 2 27 1.32
Eric Gagne 1 1 28 0.98
Mike Marshall 1 1 17 0.80
Don Drysdale 1 1 14 0.70
Ramon Martinez 0 1 1 0.64
Don Newcombe 1 1 10 0.63
Andy Messersmith 0 1 5 0.56
Don Sutton 0 1 5 0.43

It should be noted that from 1956-1969 the ballots consisted of just on first place vote and from 1956-1966 there was just one Cy Young Award for the major leagues. From 1970-2009, ballots consisted of three names, with points awarded in a 5-3-1 basis. The current format of five names on each ballot, scored on a 7-4-3-2-1 basis, began in 2010.