A regular reader of ours, an L.A. native, keeps pounding away about his beloved Dodgers — and like all good partisan fans, he predicted they’d win the N.L. West and then sweep their way through the post-season. “They’re the new Giants,” he said last April, “except that they’re better.”
Such expectations have not been realized: the Dodgers are a single game under .500, and are mired in third place on the left coast — well behind the disappointing Giants, and twelve games out of first place. This hasn’t stopped this fan from continuing his verbal assault. “Yeah,” he says. “But what about Clayton Kershaw? You have to admit, now, c’mon. Kershaw’s the best pitcher in the National League.”
Our tactic has been to ignore this, while reminding him of his April prediction — and what has happened in L.A. since. But at least when it comes to Kershaw, he has a point. If there’s one bit of good news that Nationals fans can take away from their most recent soggy series with the Trolleys (they lost two of three), it’s that at least they didn’t have to face Kershaw. And last night, against San Francisco, Kershaw put himself in the running for the Cy Young, outdueling the McCovey’s Tim Lincecum — and throwing an eight inning, three hit, nine strikeout gem.
Kershaw is now 18-5, and measures up well against the other hurlers in line for the Cy Young: Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The problem is that Kershaw plays for the Dodgers, which shouldn’t make the least bit of difference when it comes to the Cy Young voting — except that it will.
Even so, Kershaw should now be considered a front runner: while he doesn’t have the profile of Halladay, he leads the N.L. in strikeouts (ahead of Lincecum, Halladay, Lee and Kennedy — and in that order), and the fact that he plays for the L.A. Bankrupts could actually be in his favor. He’s pulled off a great season despite the team around him, and he leads the Nationals League in innings, ERA and strikeouts per nine.
Surprisingly (perhaps), Lincecum is in Kershaw’s corner, telling reporters after last night’s game that he supports Kershaw for the award. “The young lefty just keeps getting better and better,” Lincecum told the San Jose Mercury News. “He has incredible stuff, and every season, he’s learning more about how to compete with it.” That’s not faint praise: Lincecum has won two Cy Youngs and is having his own tough year — though he’s “only” 12-12.
Larry Brown, over at Larry Brown Sports, predicted last month that the Dodgers could actually notch that baseball oddity of oddities: they could have a player that wins the Cy Young, and one that is named as MVP — and all for a losing team. “Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw have been so good they have a legitimate shot at becoming the 18th pair of teammates to win the MVP and Cy Young Award,” Brown wrote on September 10. “If they were to take home the hardware, it would mark the first time a losing team had players win both awards.”
Brown makes a good case for Kershaw, and he’s not alone. True Blue L.A. (admittedly, not an objective blog) is plumping for the lefty, while Dodger Thoughts notes that Kershaw is the best nominee among those pitchers from non-contending teams (i.e. Johnny Cueto and Anibal Sanchez).
But Dodger Thoughts isn’t betting on Kershaw: “Kershaw is close enough that a down-the-stretch surge could put him in Trophy Town, but no matter what, he’ll need some dominoes to fall his way.” Maybe, but last night Kershaw was the best pitcher in baseball — and our bet is that, with one more outing like that, he’ll be at the top of the heap.