Clayton Kershaw is not only quickly becoming the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, but he's also arguably on the fast track to being one of the premiere starters in all of baseball.
Among the larger criticisms of the Dodgers pitching staff is the lack of a true ace, but Kershaw's performance during his first full two years of service indicates that it's only a matter of time before he fills that void.
Kershaw, who will turn 23 in March, finished the 2010 season at 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts in just over 204 innings of work. His number of wins could have easily been much higher if it weren't for the Dodgers' sluggish bats, which provided the lefty phenom with a mere 3.9 runs per game of offensive support.
One of his most impressive performances of last season came on May 9 when he outdueled Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez to lead Los Angeles to a 1-0 victory. Earning the win, Kershaw threw eight innings of shutout ball while striking out nine, having only surrendered two hits and three walks.
He topped that effort with his first career complete-game shutout against Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants on September 14. During that affair, Kershaw yielded no walks and only four hits as the Dodgers clinched the 1-0 win.
Although he doesn't yet have the track record to prove so, some fans across Dodgertown have already began discussions that rank Kershaw among the greatest left-handed starters in Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers history. It may sound absurd, but Kershaw may become known among the Dodger lefty greats sooner than many would expect.
Surprisingly, amidst the Dodgers' rich pitching heritage that spans 127 years, very few southpaws have experienced any type of dominating, consistent success. It's not difficult in the least for the common Dodger enthusiast to list upwards of 35 right-handed starting pitchers who have proven to be elite, but the task of naming only 10 lefties is extremely challenging.
The following slides highlight 10 of the most successful southpaws in Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers history, as well as offer a bit of commentary regarding their careers as Dodgers.
For those reading this piece who know of any diehard Dodger fans who claim to be historical scholars or statistic addicts, feel free to challenge them to name 10 starting left-handed starting pitchers who deserve to be among the Dodgers elite—the task can certainly make even the most well-informed Dodger enthusiast feel feeble-minded.