Clayton Kershaw’s 2016: Almost one of the best
By Cary Osborne
Officially, Clayton Kershaw’s 2016 wasn’t one of the greatest pitching seasons in baseball’s modern era (post-1920), because Kershaw fell 13 innings short of qualifying for the ERA title.
And yet, it was great in so many ways.
Allowing one earned run in seven innings today, Kershaw ended the 2016 regular season with a 1.63 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 15.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He had a 0.96 ERA and 0.71 WHIP (28 innings) since returning from the disabled list September 9.
With enough innings, Kershaw would have shattered the all-time strikeouts-to-walks ratio record, set by Phil Hughes in 2014 — 11.6. His WHIP also could have been the all-time best, even including years prior to 1920. Pedro Martinez holds the mark at 0.737 from 2000. Kershaw finished at 0.724.
Greg Maddux has the fifth-best ERA since 1920 — 1.63 in 1995. Kershaw’s was better this year when taking the numbers beyond the hundredths place — 1.6308 to Maddux’s 1.6311. Among starters with a minimum 140 innings pitched, Kershaw’s 2016 is fifth-best since 1920 and sixth-best over the past 100 years.
Above him are:
- Bob Gibson (1968): 1.12
- Dwight Gooden (1985): 1.53
- Grover Cleveland Alexander (1916): 1.55
- Greg Maddux (1994): 1.56
- Luis Tiant (1968): 1.60
Kershaw finished the season 12-4 and walked 11 batters, becoming the first starting pitcher since Bret Saberhagen (1994, 14 wins, 13 walks) to have more wins than walks in a season. Kershaw and Saberhagen are the only pitchers to accomplish the feat in the past 100 years. Christy Mathewson won 24 games and walked 23 in 1914.
Only three starters in big league history have pitched at least 140 innings in a season and walked 11 batters or less — Kershaw, Carlos Silva (2005: nine walks, 188 1/3 innings) and Hal Brown (1963: eight walks, 141 1/3 innings).
In 21 starts, Kershaw walked more than one batter once — he walked two in Pittsburgh on June 26, in his last start before going on the DL. He allowed more than two earned runs in a game twice — five on April 26 in Miami and four on June 26.
Over the last four years, Kershaw has a 1.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings anda 6.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 816 innings.
Sandy Koufax’s final four years (1963-66), his greatest four, are as follows: 1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 and a 4.7 K/BB ratio in 1,192 2/3 innings.