Julio Urias finished as an NL Cy Young finalist in 2022. Walker Buehler is a Cy Young candidate when healthy. Tony Gonsolin was in the conversation last season until an injury derailed his campaign. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching rotation features no shortage of potential. However, will 2023 be Clayton Kershaw’s season once again?
Kershaw is already a future Hall of Famer who’s won 3 NL Cy Young awards. He even took home MVP honors during his magical 2014 campaign. However, he hasn’t finished within the top 3 in Cy Young voting since 2017 and last earned a vote in 2020. He may have been in the conversation in 2022 had injuries not limited him to only 22 starts for the Dodgers. But with Clayton Kershaw set to remain in LA for the 2023 campaign, he will be in line for a superb season.
And the NL Cy Young will not be out of reach. Without further ado, here are 3 reasons Clayton Kershaw will win the 2023 NL Cy Young award.
Clayton Kershaw is still a tremendous pitcher
Clayton Kershaw might not pump 100 MPH like other pitchers in today’s game. But he’s done a tremendous job of working with pitching coach Mark Prior and reinventing himself as he’s grown older. The fact of the matter is that the 34-year old is still an impressive pitcher.
Some people looked past his 2022 and made the preposterous claim that it was a down season. But Kershaw finished the year with a sparkling 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He added 137 strikeouts in 126.1 innings pitched for the Dodgers.
There is no question that Kershaw still has plenty of gas left in the tank. But there’s more to the story than his surface numbers.
Underlying numbers don’t lie
The underlying numbers tell the full story. Kershaw posted a strikeout/9 ratio of 9.8, which is also his career total. His hits/9 and home runs/9 marks were also on par with his career.
Clayton Kershaw’s WAR was surprisingly his highest mark since 2017, as he posted a 3.8 pitching WAR in 2022.
Finally, his strikeout percentage of 27.8 was on par with his career mark of 27.6 percent. His 4.7 walk percentage was actually lower than his career mark of 6.2 percent. Clayton Kershaw’s hard hit percentage stands out, as he limited opponents to a 33.4 hard hit percentage. That was his lowest mark since 2018.
There are arguments to be made for Julio Urias emerging as the Dodgers’ ace. And it was Walker Buehler, who will miss most of the 2023 season due to injury, who started Opening Day in 2022. But Clayton Kershaw is still the leader of this rotation. When LA struggles, Kershaw is going to step up and give them an opportunity to win.
He’s still an ace in every sense of the word. And Kershaw is someone who loves to see his teammates succeed. If the rest of the rotation performs well in 2023, that will only boost Kershaw’s overall numbers.
The final point to be made is the Dodgers’ World Series aspirations. Notably, Kershaw’s World Series aspirations. The future Hall of Famer would love to cement his legacy with at least one more Fall Classic victory. And he surely wants to prove that he can lead LA to a championship in a non-shortened year.
Dodgers fans can expect Kershaw to be on top of his game in 2023. He will be in the Cy Young conversation as long as he remains healthy.
*All statistics via Kershaw’s Baseball Reference page.