2013 set out as the year of the pitcher, especially in the National League. There were a series of dominant performances in the first half of the season that made picking the All-Star Game starter tougher than making it through the Golden Corral buffet with just one plate. But in the long run, it sorted itself out, in what is becoming a most predictable fashion. Because the cream always does rise to the top, and it is who that is, not only in the NL, but in baseball as a whole.
The Walter Johnson Award for best pitcher of the year was without a doubt the easiest award to select, as for the third straight season; my vote has stayed with the same man. One that made it abundantly clear that the conversation regarding the best pitcher in baseball now starts after him…
2013 National League Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Numbers: 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 236 IP, 232 Ks/52 BB, 3 CG/2 SHO, 0.92 WHIP, .195 BAA
The dominance of Clayton Kershaw has become a standard part of the summer at this point. Yet, despite authoring the pitcher’s Triple Crown two years ago, and then returning in even better form albeit with slightly lesser numbers in 2012, he put together his finest campaign this time around. It started with a foretelling Opening Day complete game, four-hit shutout and continued on to see him reach some impressive historical marks.
For the third consecutive season, he finished with the lowest ERA in the MLB, a feat that had only been accomplished twice before by Lefty Grove and Greg Maddux. His 1.83 mark was 0.36 runs lower than any other pitcher in the NL, and the lowest number since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 in 2000. His 0.92 WHIP led the NL for the third consecutive year, and allowed only 48 earned runs across a career-high 236 innings. For the second time in three years, he topped the NL in strikeouts with 232, topping the 200 K mile marker for the fourth consecutive year.
But the precocious start to Kershaw’s career has put him in truly rare air. His 2.70 career ERA was the lowest of the live ball era ever for a starter that has topped 1,000 career innings. At 25 years old, he has never pitched a full season and had an ERA over 3.00 or struck out less than 185 batters. What’s more is that even in defeat, he often should have won. In the 14 games the Dodgers lost that he started, the team scored only 23 runs total, and in games he was the losing pitcher of record, he surrendered more than three runs only once.
Excellence is the regular order of the day for Kershaw, and the beginning of an all-time great career is well under way.
2. Adam Wainwright-Cardinals: 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 241.2 IP, 223 Ks/35 BB, 5 CG/2 SHO, 1.07 WHIP, .248 BAA
A year removed from his Tommy John comeback season, Wainwright returned to the form that has made him the winningest pitcher of the past five years. The workhorse led the NL in innings pitched, complete games, shutouts and starts.
3. Matt Harvey-Mets: 9-5, 2.27 ERA, 178 IP, 191 Ks/31 BB, 1 CG/1 SHO, 0.93 WHIP, .182 BAA
Harvey was on pace to be the foil to Kershaw’s run atop NL pitchers this season, and authored one of the most dominant season’s in recent history before his year (and the next one) were brought to an end by a torn UCL in his elbow. He struck out more batters than innings pitched 11 times.
4. Jose Fernandez-Marlins: 12-6, 2.19 ERA, 172.2 IP, 187 K’s/58 BB’s, 0 CG/SHO, 0.98 WHIP, .182 BAA
The dominant rookie’s run at 20 years old was something to behold, and saw him finish with the second best ERA in the NL and the lowest batting average against….as well as the Willie Mays ROY Award here.
5. Cliff Lee-Phillies: 14-8, 2.87 ERA, 222.2 IP, 222 Ks/32 BB, 2 CG/1 SHO, 1.01 WHIP, .232 BAA
The always steady Lee was a rare bright spot in the bleak Phllies season. He closed out 2013 with a 3-2 record in September on a 1.85 ERA and giving up only three runs across his two losses.
6. Francisco Liriano-Pirates: 16-8, 3.02 ERA, 161 IP, 163 Ks/63 BB, 2 CG/0 SHO, 1.22 WHIP, .224 BAA
7. Jordan Zimmermann-Nationals: 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 213.1 IP, 161 Ks/40 BB, 4 CG/2 SHO, 1.09 WHIP, .238 BA
8. Zack Greinke-Dodgers: 15-4, 2.63 ERA, 177 IP, 148 Ks/46 BB, 1 CG/1 SHO, 1.11 WHIP, .234 BAA
9. Madison Bumgarner-Giants: 13-9, 2.77 ERA, 201.1 IP, 199 Ks/62 BB, 0 CG/0 ShO, 1.03 WHIP, .203 BAA
10. Mat Latos-Reds: 14-7, 3.16 ERA, 210.2 IP, 187 Ks/58 BBs, 1 CG/0 SHO, 1.21 WHIP, .247 BAA
There has been a slight audible to the Awards revealing mix, as the schedule below will show
November 12: AL/NL Connie Mack Manager of the Year
November 12: AL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player
November 13: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player