The lowdown on FA LHP Clayton Kershaw

November 6th, 2022

will go down as one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history. In 15 years with the Dodgers, he's won three National League Cy Young Awards, finished in the top five of Cy Young voting seven times, was the NL's Most Valuable Player in 2014, made eight All-Star teams, collected five ERA titles and won the Triple Crown. After hitting the open market for the first time in 2021, Kershaw is once again due to enter free agency at the conclusion of the 2022 World Series, and while the Dodgers appear hopeful he'll return in 2023, it remains to be seen what the next step will be for the future Hall of Famer.

Here's what you need to know about Kershaw:

Birthdate: March 19, 1988 (Age 35 in 2023)
Primary position: SP
Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 225 pounds
Bats/throws: Left/left
Place of birth: Dallas
School(s): Highland Park (Texas) HS
Drafted: 1st round (7th), 2006, by Dodgers
MLB debut: May 25, 2008
Qualifying offer: Did not receive one

2022: 12-3, 2.28 ERA (184 ERA+), 137 K, 3.8 WAR* in 126 1/3 IP
Career: 197-87, 2.48 ERA (157 ERA+), 2,807 K, 73.1 WAR in 2,581 
*Per Baseball-Reference

Among all left-handed starters in the Expansion Era (since 1961, min. 500 IP), Kershaw is tied for the highest ERA+ (156) and holds the second-lowest career ERA (2.48) and second-lowest WHIP (1.004), trailing only Sandy Koufax in both categories.

Kershaw hasn't broken the 30-start threshold since 2015, and injuries have piled up in recent years. The back issues that have limited his playing time since 2018 made a return in 2022, resulting in two month-long IL stints on the heels of a 2021 season hampered by elbow and forearm injuries.

He's still Clayton Kershaw
From his first full season in 2009 to '17 (the year of his last top-five Cy Young Award finish), Kershaw was the almost-undisputed best pitcher in baseball. For nine seasons, he was good for an average of 203 innings per year. His miniscule 2.25 ERA over that period was the lowest among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings, and it wasn't close (Chris Sale was second at 2.98). He allowed fewer than a baserunner per inning. But when he was able to be on the mound in 2022, Kershaw looked quite a bit like that guy. His 184 ERA+ was fourth-highest among pitchers with at least 20 starts -- for some perspective, NL Cy Young Award frontrunner Sandy Alcantara's ERA+ was 178.

His trophy case is impressive
Kershaw is part of an exclusive group of pitchers to win a league MVP Award, having taken his home in 2014, when he went 21-3 and posted a 1.77 ERA. But the three-Cy Young club he's in is actually even smaller. Only 10 players have won three or more Cy Young Awards in their careers -- 2021 Dodgers teammate and fellow free agent Max Scherzer being the most recent -- and Kershaw owns the distinction of being the youngest to accomplish the feat, at just 26 years old.

His experience comes at a cost
About those innings: Averaging 203 over nine seasons left him with 1,827 1/3 innings over his peak, the sixth-most for any pitcher in that span. Overall, he's surpassed 2,500 career innings, a mark only reached by 39 pitchers since 1990. That's even before you add in almost 200 high-pressure innings in the playoffs. In Kershaw, teams will find a highly experienced 34-year-old, albeit one with a lot of mileage on his arm.

He's made good on the Koufax comps
Comparing Kershaw to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax wouldn't be groundbreaking in 2022. But those early comparisons were on the money. It's not just the uniform, either. In terms of left-handed starters, Kershaw has already proven to be one of the finest in baseball, all before his 35th birthday. In fact, one could argue he's already surpassed his fellow Dodgers legend, throwing 250 more innings than Koufax while posting a lower career ERA.

He's already an all-time great
If it feels impossible that Kershaw is only 34, there's a reason for that. His 15 seasons spent with the Dodgers is tied with Don Drysdale for the second most for any pitcher in franchise history, trailing Don Sutton's 16. We don't need to tell you he's made his mark in Los Angeles, but it might go further than you realize -- per Baseball-Reference, he's already the Dodgers' all-time WAR leader.