Despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is coming off a season in which he missed more than two months due to a back injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace retained his spot atop MLB Network’s The Shredder’s ranking of the top starting pitchers in baseball.
Kershaw was also ranked No. 1 by MLB Network host Brian Kenny and analyst John Smoltz, and was previously named the top starter by ESPN. Kershaw has been ranked the best starting pitcher by The Shredder since prior to the 2014 season. He was No. 3 overall in 2013.
“This guy mechanically, is one of these freaks. When you think about his frame and what he does, he has two different deliveries,” Smoltz said.
“His slider has gone to another level and he can mix in some change of speeds with the curveball. … “Coming back and doing what he did, he has mastered his mechanics and pitches. He’s the best.”
Prior to the bulging disc in his back forcing Kershaw to the disabled list on July 1, he was on pace for a historically dominant season. At the time he was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA, 1.67 FIP and 0.73 WHIP.
Kershaw led the Majors in ERA, complete games (three), complete-game shutouts (three), innings pitched (121) and strikeouts (145), among other categories. What’s more, his 16-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was on pace to shatter Phil Hughes’ MLB record of 11.63, set with the Minnesota Twins in 2014.
Upon returning from the 60-day DL on Sept. 9, Kershaw rounded into his usual form by the end of the regular season. He finished the year 12-4 with a three complete-game shutouts, a 1.69 ERA, 1.80 FIP and 0.73 WHIP.
Though, Kershaw’s 21 starts and 149 innings pitched were both career-lows since his rookie season (2008).
While there have been detractors along the way, Kershaw’s reign as baseball’s best starting pitcher for several years running is clearly seen in statistics.
Among pitchers with a minimum of 900 innings thrown since the start of the 2011 season, he ranks first in ERA (2.06), FIP (2.26), ERA+ (178), opponents’ on-base plus slugging percentage (.535) and strikeout rate (29 percent).
In addition, Kershaw’s 1.88 ERA is tops among starting pitchers with at least 600 innings since 2013. Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta’s 2.69 ERA over that same span is second-best.
When taking into account park factors, Kershaw’s 194 ERA+ is the best mark since 2014 for pitchers with 450 innings. Arrieta is next on the list, with a 160 ERA+.
For the sabermetrically inclined, Kershaw’s 1.92 FIP since 2015 leads all starters (minimum 300 innings). New York Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard trails Kershaw with a 2.72 FIP.
While Kershaw has been a mainstay atop The Shredder rankings, Zack Greinke plummeted from last year’s No. 3 ranking.
|Rank||The Shredder||Brian Kenny||John Smoltz|
|1||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)|
|2||Max Scherzer (WSH)||Corey Kluber (CLE)||Max Scherzer (WSH)|
|3||Madison Bumgarner (SF)||Jon Lester (CHC)||Justin Verlander (DET)|
|4||Jake Arrieta (CHC)||Noah Syndergaard (NYM)||Kyle Hendricks (CHC)|
|5||Jon Lester (CHC)||Madison Bumgarner (SF)||Jon Lester (CHC)|
|6||Corey Kluber (CLE)||Max Scherzer (WSH)||Chris Sale (BOS)|
|7||Chris Sale (BOS)||Johnny Cueto (SF)||Noah Syndergaard (NYM)|
|8||Johnny Cueto (SF)||Chris Sale (BOS)||Madison Bumgarner (SF)|
|9||Noah Syndergaard (NYM)||Justin Verlander (DET)||Corey Kluber (CLE)|
|10||Zack Greinke (ARI)||Zack Greinke (ARI)||Rick Porcello (BOS)|