In 2011, Clayton Kershaw had one of the best seasons ever by a Dodgers pitcher and won the National League Triple Crown and the Cy Young Award.  Kershaw had established himself as one of the premiere pitchers in the game and had lofty expectations heading into 2012.

Hampered by plantar fasciitis early in the year and a sore hip late in the season, Kershaw still managed to put together an amazing season that saw him lead the league in ERA for a second straight season, and finish runner up in Cy Young voting to the New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey.

Although Kershaw didn’t match his insane 21 wins from 2011, statistically speaking, Kershaw was still essentially the best pitcher in the NL.

Being a dominant left-handed starter for the Dodgers, Kershaw has often garnered comparisons to Sandy Koufax.  In his fourth full year as a starter, Kershaw continued on a path of greatness further solidifying his spot as one of the elite pitchers in the game today and perhaps as one of the all-time greats to take the mound.

The Numbers:  14-9, 2.53 ERA, 229:63 K:BB, 227.2 innings, 1.02 WHIP, 33 games started

Clayton Kershaw set the bar sky high for himself by winning the Cy Young Award in 2011 and having the most wins in a season by any L.A. Dodger other than Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, or Orel Hershiser.

Although Kershaw’s 14 wins were far off 2011’s total, they were still the second-most of Kershaw’s career.  Kershaw led the National League in ERA for a second consecutive season, and was behind only R.A. Dickey in strikeouts and innings pitched.  Kershaw led the league in WHIP, as well.

Kershaw pitched 200 innings for the third consecutive year, and had a sub-3.00 ERA for the fourth consecutive season.  Kershaw also missed a couple of starts due to his hip issue later in the season, all things considered, it was another amazing season for Kershaw.

Season Highlights

April 21 vs. Astros – After struggling through his first three starts of the season, Clayton got his first win of the year with a seven-inning, nine-strikeout performance against the Astros in Clayton’s home state of Texas.  Staked to an early 1-0 lead, Kershaw held the Astros scoreless en route to a 5-1 Dodgers win.

May 19 vs. Cardinals – Kershaw notched his fourth win in five decisions with his first complete game shutout of the year.  A 6-0 drubbing of the Cardinals.  Locked in a pitcher’s duel with Jake Westbrook for most of the game, the Dodgers exploded for four runs in the 7th inning.  Clayton struck out four and walked none.

June 9 vs. Mariners – Clayton struck out a season-high 12 batters and pitched seven innings of three run ball en route to an 8-3 Dodgers’ victory notching his fifth win of the year.  The win came a day after the Dodgers were no-hit by a combination of six different Mariners pitchers in 1-0 defeat.

July 29 vs. Giants – Kershaw had arguably his best start of the year, throwing a complete game shutout to seal a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.  Kershaw struck out seven and walked only one en route to his eighth win of the year and a 4-0 Dodgers victory.  This would also be the start of a four-game winning streak for Kershaw.

Sept. 28 vs. Rockies – Kershaw delivered again, throwing eight innings of shutout ball while striking out 10 and walking only two en route to his 13th win of the season.  The win not only kept the Dodgers alive in the playoff hunt, it was Kershaw’s first win in more than a month.  Despite giving up only four earned runs in 25 innings, Kershaw had an 0-2 record to show for his work up to that point.

What’s Next?

After making $7.5 million in 2012, Kershaw is scheduled to make $11 million in 2013.  GM Ned Colletti has publicly stated that getting a long-term deal for Kershaw is on the Dodgers agenda for next season.  Kershaw can’t leave L.A until 2014, but if the Dodgers are smart, they will lock Kershaw up long term and make sure he stays in a Dodgers uniform for the foreseeable future.

Over the past two seasons, only Justin Verlander has put up better numbers than Kershaw.  Kershaw will turn 25 before the start of next season and only figures to continue to get better as a pitcher.

Even slowed by a sore hip and foot, Kershaw still put up numbers that led the league in 2012.  Kershaw should continue to develop as one of the premiere pitchers in the game, and provided the Dodgers do the right thing and sign him long term, Kershaw will continue to be the face of the Dodgers pitching staff for years and years to come.

About The Author

Mark was a top 52 finalist for MLB Fan Cave this past offseason. He has also interned for Fox Sports Radio and Universal Sports Network. You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkFabrick.

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