Will Clayton Kershaw Go Down as Best Pitcher Ever?

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clayton-kershaw-blogRemember he pitches in Hollywood, a place where the folks are madly obsessed with stars. In the Chavez Ravine, Clayton Kershaw is pitching like an ace — he’s a flame-thrower and a reliable strikeout machine. And so, here he is, at age 25, bringing the heat, fanning batters at a high level, with the Dodgers and Braves playing in the NLDS. I’d like to suggest the Dodgers will win the 2013 World Series simply because Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game.

There is no big-league pitcher who is more dominant than Kershaw right now, blowing away hitters ever since he made his major league debut on May 25, 2008. It’s nice how Kershaw has achieved rare and wonderful accomplishments as a Dodger early in his prime. It’s beautiful how Kershaw, the lefty, has achieved cult status because of his unhittable curveball, the meanest pitch in his arsenal. It certainly looks like he’s the best pitcher in baseball, with his blowtorch arm that tells us what we should know about him and why his unhittable pitches have turned him into a growing legend in Hollywood.

Kershaw is likely the hottest thing going in sports, simply because he brings the fire every time he pitches. He’s also the coolest thing going in baseball, simply because Kershaw cooled down Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s hot seat that he was sitting on at the beginning of the regular season when he was very close to being fired. The baby-faced pitcher tossed 104 pitches in seven innings, gave up a run on three hits and struck out 12. Kershaw trumped his remarkable playoff victory by throwing his curveball and reaching 97 mph with his fastball against the Atlanta Braves Thursday night. The Texas native breathes new life into the Dodgers, who beat the Braves 6-1 in the NLDS opener at Turner Field in Atlanta. He isn’t a World Series champion but he’s a perennial All-Star. His fastball hovers around 90 miles per hour, his 12-6 curveball is wicked and he has been lights out for Dodger Blue.

The Dodgers are the obvious pick, probably in five games, and Kershaw could pitch Game 4 on short rest. He has dominated, striking out batters with the fastball, then throwing that nasty curveball that has been nearly untouchable all season. He’s the best left-hander, if not the best pitcher. If he stays healthy, he will ultimately go down as the greatest Dodger pitcher ever. Incredible as he has been on a pitcher’s mound, he possessed great poise, polish and command, and by all measures, he is having his most dazzling season. He is a 25-year-old Cy Young winner who is likely on the verge of winning his second award in his young career. So now he’s often compared to Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, the charmingly Dodgers legend, who was the best strikeout pitcher that people still talk about, but maybe Kershaw is the man who is gradually becoming the Dodgers’ top pitcher.

Why? Because he reached 200 strikeouts on the season, making him the first Dodgers pitcher to achieve such an incredible feat since Koufax 47 years ago with 200 or more strikeouts in four consecutive seasons. He’s a believer, like Koufax was when he played in the majors and became one of the three Dodger pitchers to pile up 200 strikeouts in at least four consecutive seasons. That being said, mind you, Koufax accomplished it in six straight seasons. There are still plenty of people in Los Angeles and across the country who believe Kershaw is on his way to becoming an all-time Dodger great, largely because he’s posting unforeseen numbers and is a rare breed in baseball, with a vast array of pitches that he can essentially throw for strikes, which usually results in victories for the Dodgers.

Now the Dodgers, who have a great chance at winning the World Series, have high hopes and the fans are firm believers. Kershaw, as he should, believes he can beat anybody, and they are looking good right now, especially when he stands on the mound to save the boys in blue, who should be kind to treat him to dinner at a fine restaurant in Beverly Hills somewhere if the Dodgers win the championship by the time it’s all said and done. If he’s a trending topic every day in baseball, particularly in October, it is fine and dandy. And rightfully so Kershaw deserves the spotlight, not only because he’s become famous in the entertainment capital of the world but also because he has great command and the best stuff in the game.

His instant success seems unreal, but he’s as real as it gets and he delivers every time he’s the starter in a rotation that has not disappointed of late, even though the Dodgers are the hottest well-rounded team in baseball — lucky to have a batting lineup that can swing the bats with the emergence of rookie Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig, a healthy Carl Crawford, a red-hot Hanley Ramirez and the October-slugger Juan Uribe. Back in 2006, Kershaw was considered the top high-school pitcher available, and the Dodgers drafted him with the seventh overall pick that year. In the most wonderful barrage of dazzling pitches that Kershaw throws, his curveball is filthy, his slider makes hitters look silly and his fastball is smoking.

649-141WOP.St.55Seems there’s been no one better in the game than Kershaw. Even though he didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday, he was going Hollywood in Georgia on Thursday night in front of a sea of red-clad fans, who witnessed real greatness from a pitcher who is building a legacy in Los Angeles, where he calls home. It wasn’t long ago when Kershaw won 21 games and the Cy Young award. It’s also no secret that Kershaw, who went 15-9 last season, finished second in Cy Young balloting a year ago.

For the third straight season, he’s leading the league in ERA. This is the Kershaw most baseball fans have come to know, although he had only made two starts and a relief appearance for the Dodgers in the 2009 postseason and was roughed up for 14 hits and nine runs in 12.2 innings with 10 strikeouts to eight walks. He surely excels as the No. 1 starter in the rotation, the guy the Dodgers depend on heavily, and he has been an absolute stud for Team LA after coming a long way.

If there’s one thing he’s done well, it was finishing with his MLB-best 1.83 ERA, the lowest by any player with at least 200 strikeouts since Pedro Martinez in 2000. Great pitching, as we know, usually wins World Series, and with Kershaw, the Dodgers could certainly be that team to pull through in the end. If the Dodgers make it that far, this could be a great Fall Classic. That’s where legends are born. And right now, Kershaw is pitching at a higher level than he was in previous seasons.

Please, whatever you do, take him seriously.

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