In his final start of the regular season, Clayton Kershaw turned in a complete performance as the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League West title for a second consecutive season.
Kershaw allowed one run in his eight innings of work as he earned an MLB-best 21st win this season and finished with a 1.77 ERA, becoming the first pitcher to hold the lowest ERA in four straight seasons. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is in the first of a seven-year, $215 million contract, which is the richest for a pitcher in MLB history.
While the annual value of Kershaw’s contract, which he can opt out of after five seasons, is roughly $30 million, he’s earning $22 million this season — with $18 million coming by way of signing bonus. However, according to FanGraphs, Kershaw’s value for 2014, which takes into account WAR and what a player would make as a free agent, is $39.8 million.
FanGraphs lists Kershaw’s WAR at 7.2, good for second-best overall behind Mike Trout (8.0). After a slow first month back from shoulder inflammation that sidelined him throughout April, Kershaw went on an 11-game winning streak.
Included in that stretch was a streak of 41 consecutive scoreless innings and his first career no-hitter. Kershaw’s k/9 ratio is a career-high 10.85 and he held opponents to a .196 batting average.
Kershaw’s historic season has all but secured a third Cy Young Award in the last four years and likely an MVP award as well. Should Kershaw’s season be enough to convince voters to look past the stigma of him playing once every five days, Kershaw would become the first National League pitcher to be awarded the MVP award since Bob Gibson in 1968.
Sandy Koufax won the NL MVP with a 25-5 record and 1.88 ERA in 1963. The next step for Kershaw is carrying over his success into the postseason as the Dodgers look to build on reaching Game 6 of the NLCS last year.
[h/t to Dodger Insider]