Although Clayton Kershaw’s season ended in disappointment as he was again unable to get past the St. Louis Cardinals in the postseason, he won a third NL Cy Young Award in four years and his first career MVP Award.
After being considered by many the undisputed best pitcher in baseball, Kershaw’s standing took a hit with his struggles and Madison Bumgarner’s rise in the postseason.
Nonetheless, Kershaw was the overwhelming favorite as the pitcher scouts and executives would select to build their rotation around for the next five years. In his latest series ranking starting pitchers, ESPN’s Buster Olney also gave the Dodger ace the No. 1 spot:
He knows better than anyone that he has the “Yeah, but …” hurdle in front of him, as in, “Yeah, but he hasn’t had success in the postseason.” Until he gets another shot at October, he’ll have to settle for being the best pitcher on the planet from April through September, the part of the year he has mastered.
If you need a reminder, Kershaw led the majors in ERA in each of the past four seasons — he’s the first pitcher ever to do that — while winning three Cy Young Awards and finishing second in the other season. He needs two more wins to reach 100, and oh, by the way, he’s just 26 years old.
Kershaw led all pitchers in adjusted ERA+ in 2014 by a staggering difference, like a marathoner winning an elite race by five minutes. And again, this was a year in which so many pitchers thrived.
Kershaw’s hardware was certainly deserved as he led the Majors in wins, ERA, ERA+, among other categories. The ERA title was his fourth consecutive, becoming the first pitcher in history to do so.
Olney also ranked relief pitchers and placed Kenley Jansen eighth on the list:
He just seems to get better and better, pitching with more confidence, and while the Dodgers’ bullpen as a whole had its problems last season, he held up his end of things. Jansen, a 27-year-old converted catcher with a nasty cut fastball, generated 101 strikeouts in 65? innings.
In his first season as the Dodgers’ full-time closer, Jansen earned 44 saves as he worked his way up the franchise’s all-time list of saves leaders. The 27 year old currently sits in fifth place with 106 saves.
Yasiel Puig made Olney’s list of top center fielders, ranking him fifth in the group. As for right fielders, Olney ranked Matt Kemp sixth-best.