09/26/2011 6:09 PM ET
Clayton Kershaw completes historic 2011 season
Left-hander finishes season positioned to win National League Triple Crown and Cy Young Award
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw completed his historic 2011 season yesterday positioned to become just the 16th National League pitcher to win the league's Triple Crown since 1900. Kershaw leads the Majors with a 2.28 ERA, is tied along with Ian Kennedy for the National League lead with 21 wins and ranks first in the league with 248 strikeouts. The 23-year-old could become the third different Dodger pitcher to achieve the feat, joining Dazzy Vance (1924) and Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965 and 1966). The most recent National League pitcher to capture the Triple Crown was Jake Peavy in 2007.
Kershaw has positioned himself as a leading candidate for the National League Cy Young Award, which will be voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America at the conclusion of the regular season.
The left-hander ranks among the N.L. leaders in opponents' batting average (.207, 1st), winning percentage (.808, 21-5, 2nd), innings pitched (233.1, 2nd), complete games (5, 3rd), shutouts (2, T-2nd) and WHIP (0.98, 1st).
The 2011 campaign was just Kershaw's third complete season at the Major League level and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the youngest Major Leaguer to win more than 20 games in a season since a 20-year-old Dwight Gooden went 24-4 for the 1985 Mets and the youngest Dodger to win 20 since a 21-year-old Ralph Branca went 21-12 for Brooklyn in 1947. Kershaw became one of just four pitchers all-time to reach the 20-win plateau with 240 or more strikeouts in a single season while under the age of 24, joining Gooden (24 wins, 268 strikeouts in 1985), Bert Blyleven (20 W, 258 SO in 1973) and Vida Blue (24 W, 301 SO in 1971).
Kershaw earned his spot in the Los Angeles Dodgers' single-season record books, ranking among team leaders in wins (T-7th), winning percentage (6th), ERA (11th), strikeouts (6th) and opponents' batting average (11th). His 21 victories and 2.28 ERA were the best marks since Orel Hershiser went 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA in 1988 and his strikeout total was the highest for a Dodger since Sandy Koufax struck out 317 in 1966.
The seventh overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft went 12-1 with a 1.31 ERA (15 ER/102.2 IP) in the season's second half and completed the season on a career-long eight-game winning streak, which was the second-longest run in the N.L. this season. He went 8-0 with a 0.96 ERA (7 ER/65.2 IP) and a .192 opponents' batting average over his final nine starts, including a 4-0 record with a 1.30 ERA (5 ER/34.2 IP) in five September starts.
Kershaw earned his first All-Star selection in 2011 and was voted in to the Midsummer Classic via Player Ballot. In the game, he tossed a scoreless inning and needed just eight pitches to set down the side in order by striking out David Ortiz and retiring Robinson Cano and Alex Avila on infield grounders. In a midseason Baseball America survey of National League managers, Kershaw was voted as having the league's third-best fastball, the circuit's best curveball and the third-best pickoff move. The 23-year-old leads the NL with nine pickoffs.
Kershaw was twice tabbed for National League Awards during the season, winning N.L. Pitcher of the Month in July and earning the league's Player of the Week honor for the period of June 20-26. He went 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA in five July starts, tying for the N.L. lead in wins and ranking third in ERA. For his weekly honor, Kershaw went a perfect 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA (2 ER/18.0 IP), a two-hit shutout of the Tigers on June 20 and a complete game victory over the Angels on June 26.
The Dallas native was at his best this season against divisional foes, going 12-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 16 starts. Kershaw went 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA (5 ER/42.0 IP) in six starts against the World Champion San Francisco Giants, including a 4-0 record with a 0.30 ERA (1 ER/30.1 IP) in four head-to-head matchups against former Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum. He became the first Dodger to go 5-0 against the Giants in a single season since Vic Lombardi in 1946.
Kershaw was dominant at Dodger Stadium this season, going 12-1 (.923) with the Majors' lowest home ERA at 1.69 (22 ER/117.1 IP), two shutouts and four complete games in 16 starts. He finished the season by winning his final 11 decisions at home, which ties for the third-longest home winning streak in Los Angeles history.
Kershaw made his first Opening Day start this season, becoming the fifth-youngest Opening Day starter in L.A. Dodger history at 23 years and 12 days. Fernando Valenzuela was younger in 1981 (20, 159) and 1983 (22, 155) and Don Drysdale was younger in 1958 (21, 266) and 1959 (22, 262).
Off the field, Kershaw was named the Dodgers' 2011 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. His charitable work has been focused on an organization called Arise Africa, which raises money to help build orphanages in Zambia. Kershaw made a special visit to that African nation this past offseason with his wife, Ellen, and has donated $100 per strikeout to the organization this season as a part of his "Kershaw's Challenge" program in hopes of building another orphanage for the kids.