It seems we don’t always appreciate what we have. There’s that tendency to marvel about what it must have been like to have watched Bob Feller or Walter Johnson, names that are more legends than tangible because they were from a very different era.
There’s also the need from the older generation to expound upon the domination of the likes of Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax when looking to educate the younger folks of what a dominating pitcher was like.
And it all leads to the fact that too often we don’t fully embrace what we have today — until we don’t have the Clayton Kershaws of the world to embrace anymore.
Kershaw is one of those special athletes who in years to come will be so revered by future generations that they will refer to the Kershaw generation of pitchers, much like today the phrase is so often used in discussing the likes of Gibson and Koufax and Feller and Johnson.
The numbers tell the story better than anything.
Kershaw, 29, has already won four National League ERA titles, three NL strikeout titles and three NL Cy Young Awards. He is one of the 15 pitchers who have authored the 34 total 300-strikeout seasons since 1901. The list includes the likes of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, who reached the 300-strikeout level six times apiece during their careers.
Kershaw had 301 strikeouts in 2015 in just 232 2/3 innings. Pedro Martinez, who struck out 313 batters in 213 1/3 innings in 1999 with the Red Sox, is the only pitcher who needed fewer innings than Kershaw to reach 300 strikeouts.
And when Kershaw had that 300-strikeout season, his command of three pitches was apparent. He struck out 98 on a curveball, 101 with a slider and 102 on a fastball, according to Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
Kershaw’s 2.37 career ERA is the 13th lowest since 1901, and the lowest of any pitcher since 1927 who was used primarily as a starter. The next best is Hoyt Wilhelm at 2.52.
Kershaw has allowed a .205 batting average, third lowest since 1901. Willie Mitchell, who pitched from 1909-19, allowed a .200 average, and Nolan Ryan is No. 2 at .204. And he is third all-time, allowing 9.17 baserunners per nine innings, behind Addie Joss (8.94) and Ed Walsh (9.16).