For the fifth consecutive season, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was ranked the best starting pitcher in baseball by MLB Network’s The Shredder. He also placed first in MLB host Brian Kenny’s and analyst John Smoltz’s respective lists.
On the contrary, Kershaw dropped in ESPN’s rankings. Despite spending some time on the disabled list with a back injury, the 29-year-old still enjoyed another dominant season.
“Being one of the best pitchers in the history of the game, there’s no doubt,” Smoltz said on ranking Kershaw No. 1.
“No one is going to argue that. But I think over time though if other guys have been able to pick up their game, win a couple of Cy Youngs, pitch more innings, then I think you can slip a position and it’s not the end of the world that he may not be No. 1 on some people’s lists.
“But he is the best pitcher in the game. But I think though the concerns are going to start piling up only if the dip in innings continues to go in a direction where the back or certain things start catching up. I don’t believe they will, he’s too good of a worker and certainly will have a reason to get back to 220-230 innings, he’s got some contract stuff coming up so there’s a lot of incentives.”
In 175 innings pitched last season, Kershaw led the National League in wins (18), ERA (2.31) and strikeouts (180). Furthermore, he posted a 3.07 FIP and 0.95 WHIP while leading the league with a 6.73 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Among the many accolades for Kershaw included his eighth consecutive All-Star appearance, a second-place finish in Cy Young voting and top-20 placement in MVP voting.
It was the second consecutive season in which Kershaw dealt with back issues. That led to him logging less than 200 innings pitched for the second straight year as well.
Kershaw allowed 14 runs in 33 innings during the postseason — good for a modest 3.82 ERA — but additionally posted a perfect 3-0 record over three series. Granted, he didn’t take the loss in Game 5 of the World Series.
Dating back to the 2013 season, Kershaw ranks first among qualified pitchers in nearly every major statistical category. That includes ERA (1.95), FIP (2.21), xFIP (2.44) and FanGraphs’ WAR (34.4).
Assuming Kershaw stays healthy and maintains his usual elite production in 2018, he’ll have the opportunity to opt out of his seven-year contract and test free agency in the offseason.
The upcoming class figures to be historic, with Kershaw potentially joining the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Andrew Miller on the open market.
|Rank||The Shredder||Brian Kenny||John Smoltz|
|1||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||Corey Kluber (CLE)||Max Scherzer (WSH)|
|2||Corey Kluber (CLE)||Max Scherzer (WSH)||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)|
|3||Chris Sale (BOS)||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||Corey Kluber (CLE)|
|4||Max Scherzer (WSH)||Chris Sale (BOS)||Chris Sale (BOS)|
|5||Stephen Strasburg (WSH)||Justin Verlander (HOU)||Justin Verlander (HOU)|
|6||Madison Bumgarner (SF)||Noah Syndergaard (NYM)||Zack Greinke (AZ)|
|7||Noah Syndergaard (NYM)||Madison Bumgarner (SF)||Stephen Strasburg (WSH)|
|8||Carlos Carrasco (CLE)||Zack Greinke (AZ)||Jacob DeGrom (NYM)|
|9||Justin Verlander (HOU)||Kyle Hendricks (CHC)||Carlos Carrasco (CLE)|
|10||Kyle Hendricks (CHC)||Stephen Strasburg (WSH)||Carlos Martinez (STL)|