Year of the Pitcher: Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw's Historic Seasons

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Year of the Pitcher: Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw's Historic Seasons
Harry How/Getty Images
Justin Verlander may not have led the Tigers to postseason glory, but his performance this year has put him in a distinct group.

While Matt Kemp came up short in his bid for the Triple Crown this season, two pitchers completed the pitching Triple Crown. Both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw led their leagues in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

However, like the hitting Triple Crown, the pitching Triple Crown has a stat that does a poor job at measuring pitching performance: the win.

One need only look at Felix Hernandez’s 2010 season or Russ Ortiz’s 2003 season. Since wins are such a poor measure of pitching performance (not to say ERA and Ks are perfect, but at least they are far more dependent on the pitcher), let’s replace wins with WHIP.

Then the question becomes whether Verlander and Kershaw achieved this version of the pitching Triple Crown and who has claimed that title in the past. Looking at the AL/NL era, let’s see what the numbers say:

 

Year Name Team ERA WHIP K
1901 Cy Young BOS 1.62 0.972 158
1905 Christy Mathewson NYG 1.28 0.933 206
1908 Christy Mathewson (2) NYG 1.43 0.827 259
1912 Walter Johnson WSH 1.39 0.908 303
1913 Walter Johnson (2) WSH 1.14 0.780 243
1915 Pete Alexander PHI 1.22 0.842 241
1916 Pete Alexander (2) PHI 1.55 0.959 167
1918 Walter Johnson (3) WSH 1.27 0.954 162
1918 Hippo Vaughn CHC 1.74 1.006 148
1919 Walter Johnson (4) WSH 1.49 0.985 147
1924 Walter Johnson (5) WSH 2.72 1.116 158
1924 Dazzy Vance BRO 2.16 1.022 262
1928 Dazzy Vance (2) BRO 2.09 1.063 200
1930 Lefty Grove PHA 2.54 1.114 209
1931 Lefty Grove (2) PHA 2.06 1.077 175
1934 Lefty Gomez NYY 2.33 1.133 158
1939 Bucky Walters CIN 2.29 1.125 137
1940 Bob Feller CLE 2.61 1.133 261
1948 Harry Brecheen STL 2.24 1.037 149
1963 Sandy Koufax LAD 1.88 0.875 306
1965 Sandy Koufax (2) LAD 2.04 0.855 382
1968 Bob Gibson STL 1.12 0.853 268
1971 Tom Seaver NYM 1.76 0.946 289
1973 Tom Seaver (2) NYM 2.08 0.976 251
1986 Mike Scott HOU 2.22 0.923 306
1995 Randy Johnson SEA 2.48 1.045 294
1997 Roger Clemens TOR 2.05 1.03 292
1999 Pedro Martinez BOS 2.07 0.923 313
2000 Pedro Martinez (2) BOS 1.74 0.737 284
2001 Randy Johnson (2) ARI 2.49 1.009 372
2002 Pedro Martinez (3) BOS 2.26 0.923 239
2005 Johan Santana MIN 2.61 0.921 265
2006 Johan Santana (2) MIN 2.77 0.997 245
2007 Jake Peavy SDP 2.54 1.061 240
2011 Justin Verlander DET 2.40 0.920 250
2011 Clayton Kershaw LAD 2.28 0.977 248

*Bold for numbers that led all Major League Baseball

 

Not only did Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw pitch fantastically this pas season, they have done something rather rare. Only two other times has a season seen a pitcher win a Triple Crown, and (prepare Tim Kurkjian voice) the last time that happened was in 1924.

It is also the first time that baseball had two Triple Crown pitchers but did not have one achieve the Major League Triple Crown.

Both Verlander and Kershaw gave dominant pitching performances this season. They put themselves in a class with Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez and other pitching legends.

Many called 2011 "The Year of the Pitcher," and these two epitomized why this past season deserves that title.

 

This article comes from the blog 90% is Half Statistical.

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