Clayton Kershaw is Hurling Toward History
With their 8-2 win over the Padres last night, the Dodgers now have a lead of 16 freaking games in the NL West. Their catcher, Will Smith, hit a grand slam to break the game wide open. But in this 2019 season where everyone hits home runs with ease, and the good teams (Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Twins with their win percents all .611 or better) are really good, a grand slam isn’t really cutting it when it comes to things that impress us anymore. But when I woke up to headlines about Clayton Kershaw suddenly being better than Sandy Koufax, my interest was piqued.
Kershaw had a pretty standard evening when he collected his 10th win of the season, lasting 6, with 5 strikeouts, a season-high 5 walks, and limiting the Padres to 2 runs off of 6 hits. But it became an extraordinary evening when his 5th strikeout pushed him beyond the great Sandy Koufax in all time Dodgers strikeout history.
Koufax, a 3 time Cy Young winner, 6 time all star, and the 1963 NL MVP, retired at age 30 after 12 years on the mound due to arthritis derailing his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 36, making him the youngest player in history to have that honor. He pitched a grand total of 2,324 1/3 innings over his career and racked up 2,396 strikeouts over that time. He is considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
Cue Kershaw: “Hold my beer.”
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 2, 2019
Kershaw, age 31, has also been on the mound for 12 years. (He seemingly has no plans of retiring anytime soon, thankfully.) As of last night, he’s pitched 2,219 1/3 innings and with the aforementioned 5th strikeout, he has now surpassed one of the greatest pitchers of all time for Dodgers strikeouts. 2,397 punch outs give him sole possession of 3rd in Dodgers history, only behind HOF Don Drysdale (2,486 strikeouts after 14 seasons and 3,432 innings pitched) and HOF Don Sutton (3,574 strikeouts after 23 seasons and 5,282 innings pitched). Being just 89 behind Drysdale, it’s likely that I’ll be re-writing this story around May of the 2020 season saying Clayton’s taken over the 2nd spot.
In case you’re wondering, Kershaw has yet to crack the top 40 list in all time strikeouts. The number 1 spot will likely be held by Nolan Ryan for years and years to come, maybe forever, with 5,714 strikeouts after 27 years. The number 2 spot, Randy Johnson is almost a thousand behind him (4,875) after 22 years in the bigs. Kershaw’s sitting at number 48, tied with Kevin Brown, and 4 punch outs behind Dennis Eckersley.
He’s 7th among active players behind:
- 17. CC “Captain Cheeseburger” Sabathia: 3,068 strikeouts, 19 seasons
- 18. Justin Verlander: 2,902 strikeouts, 15 seasons
- 25. Max Scherzer: 2,638 strikeouts, 12 seasons
- 30. Zack Greinke: 2,570 strikeouts, 16 seasons
- 36. Cole Hamels: 2,512 strikeouts, 14 seasons
- 38. King Felix Hernandez: 2,501 strikeouts, 15 seasons
Congratulations, Mr. Kershaw! It’ll be exciting to watch him climb that list. Unless you’re in the NL West.. to whom I extend my condolences for the next umpteefoo seasons.