By Glen Sparks
Rattling off a list of Clayton Kershaw’s 2014 highights takes some time. The Dodger left-hander is, not surprisingly, the winner of the first-ever Dazzy Vance Award, sponsored by the Dazzy Vance Chronicles.
The Award goes to the National League pitcher who, in this blogger’s opinion, put up the most Dazzy-like numbers during the season. Vance, who played in Brooklyn for most of his great career, made his Hall of Fame reputation as a strikeout pitcher with excellent control. He led the league in strikeouts seven times, strikeout/walk ratio eight times, FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) seven times and WHIP three times. The right-hander also topped the N.L. in ERA three times and wins twice.
Kershaw, pitching about 90 years after Vance, is every bit as dominating. The Dallas native led the league in wins (21) this season and posted the lowest ERA (1.77) since Greg Maddux’ 1.63 in 1995. He also finished first in WAR for pitchers (7.5), WHIP (0.857), FIP (1.81), ERA+ (197), strikeout/nine innings (10.8) and strikeout/walk ratio (7.71).
Amazingly, Kershaw ended up third in the National League in strikeouts (239). “Amazingly” because he missed six starts due to an upper-back issue and still fanned almost as many as league co-leaders Johnny Cueto and Steven Strasburg (242).
Kershaw may never pitch a better game than the one June 18 against the Colorado Rockies. He had every fastball, curveball and slider go his way that night at Dodger Stadium. He struck out 15 and didn’t walk a batter. Only a Hanley Ramirez error on a tough grounder kept Kershaw from recording the 22nd perfect game in modern baseball history (since 1900). He followed up that game by tossing eight shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals (six hits, one walk, eight strikeouts).
Only with a pitcher like Kershaw could Manager Don Mattingly say afterward: “All night (against the Royals), he felt like he was fighting it.”
This should be a busy awards season for Kershaw. He already has been named the 2014 Fangraphs Player of the Year as well as the Baseball America Player of the Year. Unless we see an incredible upset, he will soon add a third Cy Young to his collection and, quite possibly, a Most Valuable Player award