Clayton Kershaw: 2014 MLB Cy Young Winner?
As the MLB All-Star game has come and go, this article is going to look ahead to see whether Clayton Kershaw has what it takes to repeat as the NL Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw has taken home the Cy Young hardware two of the past 3 years (2011, 2013) and is looking to add a third. While the LA Dodgers’ ace has had another great season, is it enough for him to claim the award?
Heading into the All-Star weekend, Kershaw had a 41.2 inning stretch of complete dominance. This scoreless streak was ended by a Chase Headley home run; the first run allowed by Kershaw since June 13th. On the season, Kershaw sports a 1.78 era with an 11-2 win-loss record and 126 strikeouts. He is the undeniable ace of the Dodgers’ rotation and is looking to lead them to a division championship and hopefully, playoff glory.
After suffering from lower back inflammation earlier in the season, Kershaw has only pitched 96.1 innings and will need to stay healthy during the second half to pile up enough innings to qualify for the award. Even having missed time, the injury has not affected his performance and should not be an issue the rest of the way.
Much like every year, there is stiff competition for the honor of Cy Young. Here are the top competitors for Kershaw and the NL Cy Young Award (as per http://espn.go.com/mlb/features/cyyoung):
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals:
1.83 ERA, 12-4 W/L, 115 K, 138.0 IP
Cardinals Ace and All-Star game starter, Wainwright is the current favorite for the award according to ESPN.com. As of right now, the biggest advantage that Wainwright has over Kershaw is the amount of innings pitched. While he has the innings on his side, he currently has less than one strikeout per inning, which is not typical of a Cy Young winner. While only one of the last three winners had a K/IP better than one, they were incredibly close. R.A. Dickey was 3 strikeouts off (230 in 233 innings) and Kershaw was 4 strikeouts off (232 in 236 innings). Wainwright does have the statistics to be the winner and with some more strikeouts, he could be very hard beat for the award.
Zach Greinke, LA Dodgers:
2.73 ERA, 11-5 W/L, 127 K, 118.2 IP
Clayton Kershaw’s Dodgers teammate, Greinke is one of the best pitchers in the league this season. Acting as a second ‘ace’ for the Dodgers, Greinke has put up some spectacular numbers. His strikeout numbers and very good, but his ERA (while low) is a bit high in comparison to the other options. Greinke has already surrendered 12 home runs on the year (13 all of last season) and if he can correct this, he will have a big second half and could give Kershaw and Wainwright a run for their money.
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers:
2.58 ERA, 27 SV, 52 K, 45.1 IP
This may be the most interesting option on this list. The last reliever to win the award was Eric Gagne back in 2003 when he recorded 55 saves with a 1.20 ERA and 137 strikeouts. With Rodriguez boasting numbers nowhere near that good, it seems unlikely that he will be seriously considered for the award. However, given a big second half and breaching the 50 save barrier, he would warrant some votes.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds:
2.13 ERA, 10-6 W/L, 141 K, 143.2 IP
Johnny Cueto has been electric during the first half of the year and has great numbers to prove it. After only pitching 60.2 innings in 2013, Cueto came into 2014 with something to prove. He currently has the third lowest era in the National League and is second in strikeouts to Stephen Strasburg (149). Having already pitching 143.2 innings, there is a possibility that his arm beings to tire as the season winds down. If he can maintain his strength and continue his dominance, he will receive votes for the award and could take home the hardware.
Alfredo Simon, Cincinnati Reds:
2.70 ERA, 12-3 W/L, 75 K, 116.2 IP
Johnny Cueto’s teammate, Simon has been arguably the biggest surprise in the MLB this season. While Simon is tied for first in the MLB with 12 wins, there are quite a few problems that he will need to overcome to win the award. The first being that he has surrendered 14 home runs this season. The second issue is that he has never pitched more than 115 innings in his career, and yet has already surpassed that number this season. Similar to Cueto, it is quite possible that his arm gets tired later into the season. Lastly, he does not strikeout very many batters and that will likely be looked at poorly come voting time. Should his arm hold up and he can find some strikeouts while avoiding the long-ball, he should receive some Cy Young votes.
When looking at this list of possible candidates for the Cy Young award, they all have the capabilities to win the award, but there are some with fewer risks than the others. Based on current statistics, health, past results, and season projections, it appears that Wainwright, Kershaw, and Greinke are the most likely to finish on top. If a winner had to be crowned at midseason, it would likely be Wainwright. However, based on the way that Kershaw pitched into the break, he seems poised to take the lead and win the award.