Clayton Kershaw Will Have a Better Career Than Sandy Koufax

Harold FriendChief Writer INovember 27, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws the ball during the 1st inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on September 25, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Kent Horner/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw  has joined Don Drysdale (1962), Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965-66), Mike Marshall (1974), Fernando Valenzuela (1981) Orel Hershiser (1988) and Eric Gagne (2003) as Los Angeles Dodgers who have been Cy Young Award winners.

The award was instituted in 1956, when there was one winner for both leagues. Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers was the recipient. He won 27 games while losing seven.

Kershaw, who is only 23 years old, led National League pitchers with 248 strikeouts, a 2.28 ERA and a 0.977 WHIP. He tied Ian Kennedy with 21 wins.

This past season, Kershaw developed a slider to go along with his great fastball and his curve. He depended more on the change of pace than he had in the past.

Because Kershaw is now a Cy Young Award winner, it's not premature to compare him to Sandy Koufax.

Yes, it's patently unfair to compare him to the greatest pitcher of all time—and this is coming from a New York Yankees fan whom Koufax made suffer in 1963—but no one dominated like Koufax from 1963 to' 66.

When he was 25 years old in 1961, Koufax had his first good season, winning 18 games and leading the league with 269 strikeouts. He won the ERA title in 1962 with a 2.54 mark, after which he had his four magnificent seasons.

From 1963 to '66, Koufax averaged 24 wins, only seven defeats, 38 starts, 22 complete games, eight shutouts (amazing), an incredible 1.86 ERA with a 172 ERA+, 307 strikeouts and a 0.909 WHIP.  Please read this again. It is truly fantastic.

Baseball has changed drastically since the 1960s. Kershaw is facing bigger, stronger hitters overall compared to those that Koufax faced, although the top hitters—such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Pete Rose and Willie Stargell—were better than most of today's top hitters.

One example is that Kershaw struck out 248 batters. National League teams averaged 1,181 strikeouts in 2011.

In 1963, Koufax's first dominant season, he had 306 strikeouts. National League teams averaged 955 strikeouts that year.

Kershaw faced teams that averaged 143  home runs. In 1963, National League teams averaged 122 home runs.

In 2011, the league had a 3.81 ERA. In 1963, the league had a 3.29 ERA.

We could go on forever. As Mark Twain, quoting Benjamin Disraeli said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

The Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans are more than satisfied with Clayton Kershaw. He has come on the scene when the Dodgers are emerging from severe mismanagement that resulted in terrible financial problems.

Kershaw probably won't match Koufax's dominating seasons, but he should have many fine years ahead of him that will probably result in a superior overall career when compared to Koufax.

If I had to win one game, it's Koufax. For a long, dominating career, it probably will be Kershaw.