While some have anointed Clayton Kershaw the best pitcher in all of baseball dating back to his winning of the Cy Young Award in 2011, it hasn’t necessarily come without competition from others.
More specifically, Kershaw has been compared to Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals. The two pitchers have led or been the near top of every major pitching statistic in recent seasons and the same holds true this year.
Wainwright is 11-4 with an MLB-best 1.79 ERA and 111 strikeouts. Kershaw is 10-2 with a 1.85 ERA and 115 strikeouts. Although Kershaw is just shy of qualifying for the ERA list, his average would be second-best in the Majors.
With the All-Star Game quickly approaching, the discussion as to which pitcher should draw the start for the National League has began to heat up. On a SportsCenter episode that aired Monday evening, ESPN baseball analyst Rick Sutcliffe compared the two NL standouts.
Sutcliffe labeled Wainwright as a difference maker in the NL Central division over the last seven seasons, but then gave the nod to Kershaw as the best pitcher in baseball:
Karl (Ravech), I was sitting right here with you four years ago and you asked me the question if you could start an organization with any player in baseball, who would it be? It was Clayton Kershaw then, it’s Clayton Kershaw still today.
Asked what separates Kershaw from other pitchers, Sutcliffe praised Kershaw’s ability to win a game on his own:
I think the biggest thing is the fact that he can drive in a run and then shutout the other team. He doesn’t need any help. He’s the perfect National League guy.
As dominant as Kershaw has been in seasons past, he’s arguably in the midst of the best stretch of his career. The left-hander went a perfect 6-0 in June with a 0.82 ERA. Kershaw held opposing hitters to a .165 batting average and collected 61 strikeouts while issuing just four walks in his six June starts.
Turning the calendar to July didn’t appear to faze Kershaw as he threw eight shutout against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. This year will be Kershaw’s fourth All-Star game and he expressed his desire to start, which he’s yet to do in his previous trips.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will manage the NL All-Stars and ultimately will decide on a starter. Kershaw is scheduled for one more start prior to the July 15 game and so too is Wainwright, who pitched Monday and is scheduled for a final first-half start on Saturday.
Perhaps another factor that may influence Matheny’s choice is the Dodgers and Cardinals will begin a three-game series immediately after the All-Star break.
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