By: Noah Wright
Photos by The Associated Press
Clayton Kershaw, for many years was undisputed, the best starting pitcher in The MLB. Multiple Cy Young awards, an MVP, and a no-hitter has earned him that reputation, but another name has seemingly overtaken Kershaw, the monochromatic ace, Max Scherzer. Scherzer has shown he’s worth the title of best starter in baseball, with multiple Cy Young awards like Kershaw, and 2 no hitters, but how does he stand-up to The Dodger’s ace?
First, let's take a look at Dodger lefty, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in recent history. Since his first full season in 2009, Kershaw has absolutely dominated MLB batters. However, Kershaw truly broke out in 2011. In that season, Kershaw pitched for a 21-5 record, 2.28 ERA, 0.977 WHIP, struck out 248 K’s, and walked just 51 batters, in 233.1 innings. He also had a FIP of just 2.47, and batters did not hit the ball well off of him, as he had just a .53 HR/9, and .204 average against. His effort in 2011 earned him a Cy Young award, and a pitching triple-crown (led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts). Kershaw continued his dominance between 2012, and 2013, finishing 2nd place in Cy Young voting in 2012, and recording a miniscule 1.83 ERA in 2013, which was lower than his FIP (2.39), and a Cy Young in 2013 as well. Kershaw would have his best season in 2014. In 2014, Kershaw won 21 games (lost just 3), recorded a 1.77 ERA (tied for 2nd lowest ERA of active players, and a career low), .0857 WHIP, a 1.81 FIP, while striking out 239 batters against just 31 walks. To top it off, Kershaw threw his first (and only so far) no hitter on June 19th against The Colorado Rockies. He did this in 198.1 innings pitched, and just 27 games started. This is impressive because he started the year on the DL, and wouldn’t start his first regular season game until early May. Kershaw would have another very dominant year in 2015. The 2015 season was highlighted by a career high 11.6 K/9, 2.13 ERA, a 1.99 FIP, and just 42 walks in 232.2 innings. One of the biggest highlights of Kershaw’s 2015 season is that he reached the 300 strikeout single season milestone (struck out 301). The last pitcher before Kershaw to reach that plateau was legendary lefty, Randy Johnson, with 334 K’s. In the next season, Kershaw looked to top his 2016 season, and was on his way of doing so. From the beginning of the season to late June, Kershaw won 11 games (lost just 2), while having a 1.79 ERA, 0.727 WHIP, and 145 K’s (10.8 K/9) to go against just 9 walks, and 3 complete games in his first 121 innings of play (16 starts). Then injuries stuck, and derailed his season. After June 26th (Kershaw’s last start before going on the DL), he would not make another start until September. In 2017, Kershaw has another fantastic year (2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9, 10.4 K/9) but again missed time, and only made 27 starts (175 innings pitched). To sum it up, Kershaw’s career numbers look like this: 2.37 ERA, 1.005 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.4 walks/9, a 2.62 FIP, and has 61.5 WAR in 1979 career innings.
Next, let's look at The Washington Nationals’ ace, Max Scherzer. The former Arizona D-Back prospect has built up his reputation of being one of the best starters in baseball since his breakout year in 2013 with The Detroit Tigers. In that year, Scherzer pitched to a 2.90 ERA, .970 WHIP, while walking just 56 batters, against striking out 240 in 214.1 innings. This effort earned him the first of 3 Cy Youngs in his career. Scherzer would have another ace-worthy season in 2014, recording a 3.15 ERA, striking out 252, and walking just 63 batters. After the 2014 season, Max Scherzer signed a 7 year deal with The Washington Nationals. Since coming to The Nation’s Capital, Scherzer has continued to dominate. In his first year with The Nats, Scherzer recorded a 2.79 ERA a .918 WHIP, while improving his control, walking just 34 (still a career low), and keeping up his strikeout rates (276 strikeouts) in 228.2 innings. His first season was also highlighted by 2 no-hitters, once against The Pittsburgh Pirates on June 22nd, and a second against The New York Mets on October 3rd. The last pitcher do do such a feat: one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, Nolan Ryan in 1973. Scherzer is also just the 4th player ever to do so. In 2016, Scherzer won his second Cy Young award over Cub’s ace Jon Lester, by recording a 2.96 ERA, .968 WHIP, while striking out a career high 284 batters (11.2 K/9 rate), against walking just 56 guys. The right-hander’s best season, however, in 2017. In his 3rd Cy Young season, Scherzer recorded a now career low 2.51 ERA and .902 WHIP. He also reached career highs with 12 K/9 (268 total), and in hits/9 (5.7), while also keeping up impressive control with just 55 walks, all in 200.2 innings. With winning The Cy Young award, Scherzer has finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting every year since 2013. In total, Scherzer has a career 3.26 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 2.5 walks/9, 10.3 K/9, and a 3.22 FIP, to go along with a 46.3 WAR in 1942.1 career innings.
So who’s better? The 2014 MVP, Clayton Kershaw, or the 3 time Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer. To me, you still have to give it to Kershaw. Kershaw has had the better career than Scherzer, as he has a lower ERA, FIP, WHIP, while having slightly better control. One reason I that fans may say Scherzer is the better ace is because of health. Clayton Kershaw has not made 30 starts consistently since between 2009 to 2013. Since 2014, Kershaw has made just one season with more than 30 starts (33 in 2015). While Scherzer has made 30+ every year since 2009. However, I have to still give it to Kershaw. While he may not be the most consistent with health, he has proven that he is the better starter.