Daily Dodger in Review: Clayton Kershaw, greatness continued

It’s the debut of the third annual almost-Daily Dodger in Review, leading off with the best they have …

CLAYTON KERSHAW, 24, starting pitcher

Final 2012 stats: 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 229 strikeouts, 1.02 WHIP in 227 2/3 innings.

Contract status: Signed for 2013 at $11 million.

The good: Led the major leagues in ERA for the second consecutive year, led the National League in WHIP, and was second in strikeouts (by one) and innings pitched. Yet incredibly, all those numbers were down from last season when he won the NL pitching triple crown and Cy Young award.

The bad: His won-loss record is about the only thing really off his breakout 2011 season (21-5), and it’s not like he was always given the best run support (4.15 runs per nine innings, 13th lowest in NL).

If he didn’t completely duplicate his incredible 2011 second half (12-1, 1.31 ERA), he still went 8-4 with a 1.55 ERA in his last 12 starts.

What’s next: Health, hopefully. Kershaw managed those sterling 2013 numbers despite battling plantar fasciitis the last four months of the season and pitching with a sore hip the last three weeks.

He probably won’t win a second consecutive Cy Young, but he’ll get plenty of votes and likely finish in the top five. He’ll get some first-place votes, too.

The take: Not that anyone doubted it, but Kershaw again showed his mental toughness in pitching his last three starts with a hip so sore that at one point the Dodgers thought he would need off-season surgery. He is that rare starting pitcher who is the team leader.

He’s just entering his prime, and his last two seasons he went 35-14 with a 2.40 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. That’s crazy good. And he doesn’t turn 25 until next March.

Kershaw is arbitration eligible in 2014 and can become a free agent after that season, so the Dodgers are going to have to look at signing him to a long-term contract. The hip might give them temporary pause, but otherwise they’re probably looking at Matt Cain numbers (six years, $127.5 million) or even approaching CC Sabathia (five years, $122 million).

Dodgers controlling partner Mark Walter understandably expressed some concern about handing out long-term contracts to pitchers (“pitchers break”), but Kershaw is a special find.


A list of short-term ideas to improve Dodger Stadium

Dodgers ax hitting coach Dave Hansen; other coaches to return

Red Sox schedule managerial interview with Dodgers’ Tim Wallach