Key Stats: Understatement of the year forthcoming… Clayton Kershaw is good. Only 24 and entering his 5th season of MLB duty, you have to ask how much better can he get? You would assume at some point he can’t get any better and would hit a plateau of excellence. He ran away with the Cy Young last year for the NL with a 21-5 record, 2.28 ERA, 248 K, 54 BB and a 0.98 WHIP. It’s easy to look at that line and think “Regression”, so you look at his peripherals to see if you can get away with that. You see his FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA are all under 3.00…”Ha!” You think, “He will regress this year… all the way back to an ERA around 2.70…sigh” You look at the K’s…248 is a lot, and a strikeout percentage of 27 is high… “He can’t reach that number again” you think, “27% is unsustainable for a starter.” Then you look at his innings pitched over his career and see they have been going up by about 30 each year for the last three seasons… if that continues it would put him right around the 251 that Verlander had last season.* “Damn…He could have 248 again…”
Skeptics Say: I spent the majority of this piece looking for something bad to say about Kershaw… All I could come up with is his career ERA in April is 4.63 and WHIP is 1.44…So April is his worst month. If he gets off to a slow start again this season, don’t worry about it. Or maybe try and work a trade for him at the end of April if he has had a couple bad outings.
Peer Comparison: Despite the praise I have for Kershaw so far, I have gone on record to say I think Zack Greinke is the NL Cy Young Award winner this upcoming season. Bold? Not really, he is a trendy pick to have a great year, but I may be eating those words after this comparison. I don’t have fancy equations to show how a player projects, I can only look at past performance and make an educated guess. Below are their 2011 ERA's and peripherals:
Obviously that doesn't tell the whole story. It does show us that Greinke perhaps pitched a bit better than we thought, and Kershaw for as good as he was, may have been slightly lucky. Other things to take into account, both player increased their K% from '10 to '11... Kershaw's is probably a better indicator of future success than Greinke since the latter's jumped by almost 9%, which isn't something I would expect Greinke could sustain. Greinke did post a career best swinging strike rate, but that was accompanied with the huge jump in K rate last season. Kershaw on the other hand, just maintained his status quo. Kershaw also bettered Greinke's first pitch strike rate by 4%. In what could be a career year for Greinke, he was only able to manage what Kershaw has done for the last three years. On draft day however, Kershaw is too rich for my blood. I don't want a pitcher in the 2nd or third round of a draft, nor do I want to pay over $26 or $27 dollars for one. Greinke however can be had for a much more reasonable price and provide a better value on your investment.
Rotation Outlook: Kershaw is obviously the ace of the dodgers staff. The ownership situation has hindered the ability of the club to make any significant off season moves. While they weren't splashy, they did lock up Kemp long term and they signed players that won't hurt them. Which is fine for Kershaw, considering you could field a little league team behind him and he would still give you a chance to win.
What They're Saying: CBS Sportsline- #2 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com - #3 Starting Pitcher & #17 Overall; RotoChamp - #7 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP - #3 Starting Pitcher and #17 Overall
Projection: Can an ERA under 3.00 really be considered regression... I guess so if it was previously 2.28
18-5, 2.78 ERA, 241 K's, 1.06 WHIP in 230 IP
*I don't see the Dodgers letting him go much more than 230 innings considering how young he still is even though his arm could probably handle it. They don't need him to go more than that.