Since Zack Greinke’s arrival to form a two-headed monster at the top of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation, it was accepted that Clayton Kershaw still reigned supreme.
However, the aces appeared to switch places in some regard last season, with many viewing Greinke as the club’s new No. 1 starter.
That wasn’t to belittle Kershaw, who went on to have a great season in his own right, but more indicative of the historically great year Greinke put forth.
Greinke and Kershaw made up two of the three National League Cy Young Award finalists, which went to Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.
Predictably, Greinke finished second in voting, and Kershaw third. Greinke did win a second consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award, and was named the NL Most Outstanding Pitcher by his peers.
As for Kershaw, ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked him No. 1 in his list of top 10 starting pitchers going into 2016:
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
He already has three Cy Young Awards and two other finishes in the top 3, and while some media and fans fretted over his ERA early in 2015, the Dodgers never did, believing that he was only a couple of small adjustments away from dominating hitters as he had in the past. In the second half, Kershaw had a 1.31 ERA, with 15 walks and 141 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings.
Kershaw’s 2016 season will be his ninth in the big leagues, leaving him just one short of the 10 needed for Hall of Fame consideration, and once he goes past that benchmark, he’ll be a first-ballot lock. Kershaw’s adjusted ERA+ stands at 154, which ties him for the best all time among starting pitchers, with Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw went 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. He had the first 300-strikeout season since 2002, and his 301 strikeouts were 25 more than second-place Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.
Additionally, Kershaw 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). He also had four complete games and three shutouts.
Olney ranked Arrieta, who won the Cy Young award, second and Greinke third. Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.87 WHIP and had one of the most dominant runs in the second half of all-time, going 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA.
Greinke finished 19-3 with MLB-bests 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Along with managing to keep his ERA south of 1.90 for the entire season, Greinke’s 1.66 overall ERA was the lowest since Gregg Maddux had a 1.63 ERA in 1995.