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2013 Dodgers review: Clayton Kershaw

A look back at a season from the Dodgers' ace left-hander that we won't soon forget.

Lisa Blumenfeld

Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday will win his second Cy Young Award, and the only question is whether or not the vote will be unanimous. Here is a look back at the Dodgers' best player in 2013.

What went right

I was tempted to simply write "2013" here and be done with it, but Kershaw's campaign deserves more than that. Kershaw put up a signature season this year, and it seems like the only downside is that he has set the bar impossibly high for himself. Simple excellence won't be enough anymore for Kershaw.

Kershaw had a 1.83 ERA in 2013, the lowest mark since Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 ERA in 2000. Kershaw led the major leagues in ERA for a third straight year and led the National League in WHIP for a third straight time. His 232 strikeouts paced the NL for the second time in three seasons (falling short by one strikeout in 2012 to make it three straight there as well), and pitched a career-best 236 innings.

He carried that into the playoffs, allowing just one earned run against the Braves in the NLDS, including no earned runs allowed in six innings of Game 4 on three days rest to help close out the series. Including the postseason Kershaw put up a 1.95 ERA in 259 innings, the most thrown by a Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser pitched 309⅔ innings including the postseason in 1988.

Kershaw had 10 starts in which he didn't allow any runs. If you remove those starts his ERA was 2.75, which would have been seventh in MLB.

After the break Kershaw's ERA was a miniscule 1.59, allowing 19 runs in 13 starts. He won NL Pitcher of the Month honors in July with a 1.34 ERA to go along with 43 strikeouts and just two walks, then put up a 1.01 ERA during August.

Kershaw also drove in 10 runs at the plate, just the third Dodgers pitcher in the last 34 years with double-digit RBI, joining Randy Wolf (2009) and Fernando Valenzuela (1990). None of those RBI were more memorable than opening day, when Kershaw not only pitched a shutout to beat the Giants but also broke a scoreless tie in the eighth inning with his first career home run.

In Kershaw's last 81 regular season starts, dating back to July 2011 and totaling 574⅓ innings, his ERA is 1.99. His 2.60 career ERA is the best among starting pitchers since 1920 with at least 1,000 innings.

What went wrong

Game 6 of the NLCS was shocking, not so much that the Dodgers lost but that Kershaw had the floodgates open on him. It was a less than ideal spot to have one of his worst career starts, allowing seven runs in the game while not recording an out in the fifth inning.

Kershaw lost all four of his starts against the Cardinals in 2013, including two during the NLCS, with a 5.09 ERA. The Padres beat Kershaw in his first three starts against him this season, but he rebounded with seven shutout innings an 10 strikeouts in his penultimate start of the regular season.

Despite his microscopic 1.83 ERA, Kershaw somehow lost nine games. That was mostly thanks to poor run support, as the Dodgers scored two runs or less in 16 of his 33 starts.

Kershaw in June put up a 2.65 ERA, a mark that would have ranked fifth in the major leagues in 2013. That was his worst month.

2014 status

Kershaw is eligible for salary arbitration, and has one year to go before hitting free agency. Most of the focus this winter will be to avoid all of that and come to a long-term contract extension that will keep Kershaw in the fold for most of the next decade.