Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Ranked Top Starting Pitcher By MLB Network
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a season in which he was named the National League MVP and won a second consecutive NL Cy Young Award (third since 2011), Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw failed to meet the grand expectations placed on him in the early stages of the 2015 season.

By late-May, the southpaw was 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA after nine starts. It infamously led to ESPN pondering if it was the ‘beginning of the end’ for Kershaw.

Fast forward to the end of the season and Kershaw had once-again re-established himself as the best pitcher in baseball.

However, some of his success in 2015 was overshadowed by Zack Greinke’s historic season, and Jake Arrieta’s remarkable second half.

Arrieta went on to win the Cy Young, with Greinke finishing in second place, and Kershaw third.

Although he was denied a third Cy Young Award in as many years, and also saw Dallas Keuchel take home the Warren Spahn Award, given annually to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, Kershaw retained his spot as the game’s best starting pitcher right now, as ranked by MLB Network’s The Shredder.

The Shredder is an algorithm that evaluates performance for both offense and defense. It’s the third straight year Kershaw was ranked No. 1 by the system; he checked in third overall in 2013.

Former Atlanta Braves right-hander and current analyst John Smoltz explained why he believes Kershaw embodies the perfect pitcher:

“If you’re going to build a pitcher, this is the one guy. Looking at his mechanics, it’s very unique. He’s strong from the bottom-up. When he throws the pitches he does — the fasatball at 94 or 95 [MPH], commands it on both sides of the plate, his ability to throw that slider, which I think is the difference maker, and then his slow curveball that changes the eye level of the hitter.”

Kershaw finished 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP last season. He had the first 300-strikeout season since 2002, and led in the Majors in FIP (1.99), xFIP (2.09), SIERA (2.24), strikeout percentage (33.8 percent), strikeout-to-walk ratio (29.1 percent) and innings pitched (232.2).

Kershaw also had four complete games and three shutouts. Moreover, since 2011, he ranks first in ERA (2.11), FIP (2.32), ERA+ (173), strikeout percentage (28.8 percent) and RA9-WAR (38.7) among starting pitchers with a minimum of 600 innings pitched.

After failing to make the list entering the 2015 season, Greinke was ranked third heading into his first year with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Complete rankings below:

RankThe ShredderJohn SmoltzBrian Kenny
1Clayon Kershaw (LAD)Clayon Kershaw (LAD)Clayon Kershaw (LAD)
2Jake Arrieta (CHC)Jake Arrieta (CHC)Jake Arrieta (CHC)
3Zack Greinke (ARI)Zack Greinke (ARI)Max Scherzer (WSH)
4David Price (BOS)Chris Sale (CWS)Dallas Keuchel (HOU)
5Chris Sale (CWS)Max Scherzer (WSH)Zack Greinke (ARI)
6Max Scherzer (WSH)Dallas Keuchel (HOU)David Price (BOS)
7Corey Kluber (CLE)Felix Hernandez (SEA)Madison Bumgarner (SF)
8Dallas Keuchel (HOU)Jacob deGrom (NYM)Jacob deGrom (NYM)
9Felix Hernandez (SEA)Adam Wainwright (STL)Chris Sale (CWS)
10Adam Wainwright (STL)Matt Harvey (NYM)Matt Harvey (NYM)