In a familiar feeling of anguish and disappointment, the Dodgers once again saw their season filled with hopes and expectations come to an end at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite a gargantuan $240 million payroll, the club many picked to win the 2014 World Series mustered just a single postseason victory. Some blame skipper Don Mattingly and his decisions from the dugout. Others blame general manager Ned Colletti and his inability to bolster a shaky bullpen. Then there are some who cast their fingers to the ace of the rotation, the gem of a squad that otherwise consisted of some of the highest paid players in the league, and otherwise did not live up to expectations — Clayton Kershaw.
Having dominated Game 1 of the NLDS until the dreaded seventh inning, no one was harder on Kershaw than himself, though many tried. Then, off three days’ rest, Kershaw went again and was lights-out again until that same seventh inning. In a game where $240 million worth of lineup produced only a pair of runs, it was Kershaw who took the brunt of blame.
However, as in any sport, losing demands the process of soaking it in, focusing on the positives — which, in the case of Kershaw’s 2014, considerably outweighed the negatives — and moving on. In this spirit, we take a look at five supreme aspects of Kershaw’s 2014 season.
5.) Led the Majors in wins
Despite missing a month after Opening Day in Sydney, Australia, Kershaw earned a spectacular record of 21-3. This record is something even pitchers lucky enough not to miss any time through the regular season consider out of reach. Earning one more win than St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright, Kershaw, unlike the compared Cardinal, limited his losses to three. This, despite a vastly underachieving Dodgers lineup, which did not have a batter listed among the top 15 in the league. Wainwright, meanwhile, suffered nine losses through the regular season.
4.) Led the Majors in ERA
The only pitcher in the entire league to sport an earned run average under 2.0, Kershaw’s 1.77 ERA stood as a colossus to others’. The next lowest ERA in the Majors belonged to Felix Hernandez at a more-than-impressive 2.14. Many outstanding pitchers in this league look at a sporadic lack of run support and end up losing their “stuff” as they watch their ERA balloon by the end of the regular season. Great pitchers, meanwhile, maintain their dominance and take control of close games.
3.) Led the Majors in complete games
Baseball fans will argue until they’re blue in the face over how much the statistic of pitch-count matters. Some say it is a crucial stat to look at through a game to dictate a pitcher’s fatigue before disaster sets in. Others claim it is a waste of screen space. The bottom line is pitch count is a highly included aspect of the game nowadays, and managers, coaches and broadcasters alike watch it like hawks. The fact that Kershaw threw six complete games in 2014, considering his month away from the game, is astounding. This means he consistently managed to throw over 100 pitches per game and make them count. Wainwright again came in second, tying with Houston’s Dallas Keuchel for five complete games.
2.) Led the Majors in strikeouts per nine innings
Averaging 10.85 strikeouts per nine innings, Kershaw edged the White Sox’ Chris Sale, who managed 10.76. This means that while he finished third in the National League in total strikeouts, the average of time he spent on the mount relied more on fanning batters at the plate than relying completely on the defense around him. Besides, Kershaw finished with 239 strikeouts; just three fewer than Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg.
1.) Threw his first no-hitter
Yes. It should have been a perfect game, if a certain infielder had completed a throw to first base late in the game. That being said, throwing his first no-hitter on June 18, Kershaw all but tightened his grip on the NL Cy Young Award. In the effort, he matched a career high with 15 strikeouts. What was perhaps more unprecedented was the fact that he followed up that performance with eight shutout innings in a 2-0 win over Kansas City. Folks have an easy time in an understandably frustrating postseason to forget this monumental milestone in a still-young career.