Clayton Kershaw faced 29 batters on Tuesday night. Only three reached base. In the process, he completed a remarkable feat: He lowered his career walks plus hits per inning (WHIP) below 1.0. He ended the night at 0.996, passing former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and pushing into a tie for second place with Hall of Famer Ed Walsh.
Kershaw was unaware of the achievement. Still, he offered a characteristic response.
“Well,” he said, “one bad outing, and that will go right back up.”
Kershaw leads the National League with a 0.823 WHIP. He led the league in the statistic in each season from 2011 to 2014. He finished third, by a slim margin, behind Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta in 2015. Last season, Kershaw posted a career-best 0.725 WHIP but did not qualify for the earned-run average title.
For context, only 220 pitchers have produced a single season with a WHIP below 1.0, meaning fewer than one base-runner per inning. Red Sox ace Chris Sale resides nearby with a 1.0496 WHIP. Pedro Martinez finished his career with a 1.0544 WHIP. Trevor Hoffman posted a 1.0584 WHIP. Sandy Koufax? 1.106.
The only pitcher ahead of Kershaw is Addie Joss. He pitched for the Cleveland Bronchos from 1902 to 1910. He dealt with illness for much of his career and died of tuberculosis in the spring of 2011. Joss also worked as a newspaper columnist at the Toledo Blade and designed an electric scoreboard.
As for Kershaw, he saw little reason to celebrate. His mind already was churning toward his next start, this weekend against the Cubs.
“I’m not worried about the career stuff,” Kershaw said. “Eventually, you’ll get to look back on it all. But hopefully I’m right in the middle of all that stuff.”