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Kershaw's season rivals Gibson's stellar '68

Dodgers ace first dual winner of NL Cy Young, MVP Awards since Cardinals great
MLB.com

When the subject is pitching dominance for a Major League season, somebody usually comes to mind: Greg Maddux. Despite his unassuming ways and his underwhelming fastball, this right-handed Picasso on the mound for the Braves was in the vicinity of evolving into Bob Gibson of 1968. Twice, in fact, and you can take your pick of seasons.

There was 1994, when Maddux made hitters look silly and feel even worse along the way to a 1.56 ERA. The following year, his ERA was slightly less stifling at 1.63, but he was more potent overall. Maddux won 90 percent of his games (19-2) while leading the Majors in at least nine of the major pitching categories listed by Baseball-Reference.com.

When the subject is pitching dominance for a Major League season, somebody usually comes to mind: Greg Maddux. Despite his unassuming ways and his underwhelming fastball, this right-handed Picasso on the mound for the Braves was in the vicinity of evolving into Bob Gibson of 1968. Twice, in fact, and you can take your pick of seasons.

There was 1994, when Maddux made hitters look silly and feel even worse along the way to a 1.56 ERA. The following year, his ERA was slightly less stifling at 1.63, but he was more potent overall. Maddux won 90 percent of his games (19-2) while leading the Majors in at least nine of the major pitching categories listed by Baseball-Reference.com.

Clayton Kershaw's 2014 surpassed everything I just typed, but I'm only talking about those back-to-back seasons for Maddux. I'm not going there with the masterpiece that was Gibson's 1968. Then again, if you compare what Kershaw did this season for the Dodgers to The Pitching Performance for the Ages by the man they called Gibby with the Cardinals, you could make a case of 1a and 1b regarding which season was better.

Nobody ever will top Gibson's 1968, though.

I think.

I mean, somebody would have to pitch beyond extraordinary for a regular season, because Gibson used his scary fastball and an even more frightening slider in 1968 to finish with one of baseball's magic numbers: 1.12. That was his ERA, which ranks along the lines of 56 (Joe DiMaggio's consecutive-game hitting streak), 511 (Cy Young's victory mark) and 755 (Hank Aaron's overall home run total as the untainted leader in that category).

In addition to Gibson's ridiculous ERA back then, he did a bunch of other miraculous things to become a rare winner of both the National League's Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards.

Sound familiar? Kershaw was crowned this week as the first dual winner of both of those NL Awards since Gibson, which makes sense. In so many ways, Kershaw's 2014 resembled Gibson's 1968, and it starts with the big picture, which involves those awards. Kershaw and Gibson were so overwhelmingly impressive during their respective seasons that they captured baseball's two most prestigious honors given by each league without much competition. Actually, they had no competition. They both were unanimous Cy Young Award winners, and while Gibson received 86 percent of the vote to become the NL's MVP in 1968, Kershaw was the choice this season on 85 percent of the ballots.

Video: Clayton Kershaw wins National League MVP and Cy Young

Now about their seasons ...

No question, we have to take into consideration we're discussing two different eras. Relievers were an afterthought during the height of Gibson's career. As a result, starting pitchers had loftier numbers back then in categories such as innings pitched and complete games. Not only that, Gibson did his wonderful thing during "The Year of the Pitcher," when the whole game was in a hitting slump for nearly a decade. That's likely why Denny McLain also won Cy Young and MVP honors in 1968, but only in the AL for the Tigers.

Even so, comparisons still work involving Gibson and Kershaw. While Gibson spent the summer of 1968 with a streak of 47 consecutive scoreless innings, Kershaw went 41 straight innings last season without allowing a run. That's an easy comparison. As for the tougher ones, more than a few numbers are lopsided regarding Kershaw versus Gibson. It goes back to the different eras. But here's the equalizer: Gibson performed far beyond his peers in 1968, and the same was true last season for Kershaw.

Take, for instance, that Gibson owned 28 complete games in 1968 compared to six in 2014 for Kershaw. That sounds like a staggering difference, but now we'll apply the equalizer: While Gibson finished two games behind Juan Marichal back then for second place in the Major Leagues in that category, Kershaw just topped all of baseball in complete games.

Let's move to shutouts. In 1968, Gibson led the Majors with 13, and he finished three shy of tying Grover Alexander's all-time record. Kershaw had just two, but you know what? The Dodgers left-hander was one shutout shy of tying Henderson Alvarez, Rick Porcello and Adam Wainwright for the Major League lead this season in that category.

We also can't forget about the similarities between Gibson and Kershaw regarding all of those crazy facts, events and oddities of dominance during their seasons that don't fit a specific category. While five of Gibson's nine losses against 22 victories in 1968 were 1-0 games, Kershaw allowed three runs or fewer in 26 of his 27 starts. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kershaw faced just three batters in 2014 with the bases loaded, and he retired all of them. In contrast, Gibson showcased his ability to stifle hitters by a stretch in 1968 in which he spent nearly two months allowing only two earned runs.

Video: Must C Classic: Kershaw tosses no-hitter

Back and forth, we could go, but we'll end with this: The no-hitter. It's the one Kershaw hurled this season against the notoriously hard-ripping Rockies, and it's among the most impressive no-hitters ever. According to some baseball historians, it is THE best. Kershaw struck out 15 batters, and he walked none. The only baserunner in the game came through an error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez, which means Kershaw virtually retired all 28 men he faced.

Gibson never did anything like that in 1968.

Just saying.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw