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Kershaw coming out of Koufax's shadow

October 25, 2017

Clayton Kershaw has to live in the public shadow of Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. It's not fair, to either pitching great.Kershaw is not Koufax. He never will be. And to be honest, Koufax wasn't the precursor to Kershaw.:: World Series schedule and coverage ::Oh, they are both dominant left-handers.

Clayton Kershaw has to live in the public shadow of Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. It's not fair, to either pitching great.
Kershaw is not Koufax. He never will be. And to be honest, Koufax wasn't the precursor to Kershaw.
:: World Series schedule and coverage ::
Oh, they are both dominant left-handers. They both are Dodgers. Let's stop the comparisons right there, though.
They are products of different eras in the game. The game isn't played in a vacuum. There is a continuing evolution of the game.
How would Kershaw have dealt with an era where every time a baseball hit the ground it wasn't taken out of play? A couple generations of pitchers welcomed a ball that had discoloration, that had become softened by the impact of the bat or even the strong hands of a Gil Hodges, who could break the threads simply by rubbing the ball up.
And how would Koufax have dealt with a generation in which the height of the pitcher's mound was lowered from 15 to 10 inches, flattening out a pitcher's delivery and eliminating some of his power? We will never know.
• Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear
What we do know is Koufax dominated his era, and Kershaw has been the dominant pitcher of his era. And baseball fans should appreciate both.
Kershaw suffers from the mentality some have of struggling to accept that the best is in the present, not the past.
As dominant as Kershaw has been during the regular season, the doubters quickly point to his postseason struggles, overlooking the fact that since 2015, when he was 27, he is 6-2 with a save in 11 appearances. How old was Koufax when he won his first World Series game? He was 27.
That doesn't demean Koufax. The Fall Classic was the only postseason event back in those days.
But that's the point. The game evolves.

But over the rest of time, what can be underscored is that in comparsions to all pitchers in the history of the game, Kershaw stacks up nicely. At the age of 29, he, like Koufax, has won a National League MVP Award and three NL Cy Young Awards. But don't limit the comparisons to one-on-one with two of the greatest pitchers.
Kershaw is writing his own historical context against the entire body of all-time pitchers.
Still in the prime of his career, Kershaw is 144-64 for a .692 winning percentage, which is the third-best mark of all-time. His 2.36 ERA ranks 13th but is the lowest among any pitcher who has thrown a big league pitch in the past 90 years.
And Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series presented by YouTube TV at Dodger Stadium only served to enhance the greatness of Kershaw. He allowed one run -- a fourth-inning Alex Bregman homer -- on three hits without walking a batter and striking out 11 with an 83-pitch effort.

The 11 punchouts equaled the 12th-highest strikeout total in World Series history, six fewer than the record Bob Gibson set in 1968. Koufax is second on the list with 15 in a game in the '63 Fall Classic. Kershaw's 11 strikeouts, however, equaled the third-highest total in the World Series since '69, one shy of the record shared by Tom Seaver of the Mets ('73) and Orlando Hernandez of the Yankees (2000). The significance of '69? That's the year Major League Baseball, in an effort to beef up offense, lowered the mound.
Kershaw's 11 strikeouts matched a record for a starting pitcher in a World Series game in which he did not walk a batter (Don Newcombe, 1949 Brooklyn Dodgers, Game 1).
At the age of 29, Kershaw has established himself as one of the most impactful pitchers in baseball history. He has had what folks need to understand is incomparable.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for