Do you realize how good Clayton Kershaw is?

Let’s talk about ERA. Kershaw has the lowest ERA of all time. 

Now let’s look at the guys who are ahead of him (their ERA), when they were born and who was the single season record holder for home runs when they retired (how many they had).

The Record Book

1. Ed Walsh (1.82), 1881, Ned Williamson 27

2. Addie Jose (1.88), 1880, Ned Williamson (27)

3. Jim Devlin (1.90), 1849, Lip Pike (21)

4. Jack Pfirster (2.02), 1878, Ned Williamson (27)

5. Smokey Joe Wood (2.03), 1889, Babe Ruth (1954)

6. Three Finger Brown (2.06), 1876, Ned Williamson (27) 

7. John Ward (2.10), 1860, Ned Williamson (27)

8.  Christy Mathewson (2.13), 1880, Ned Williamson (27)

9. Al Spaulding (2.13), 1850, Ned Williamson (27)

10. Tommy Bond (2.14), 1856, Ned Williamson (27)

11. Rube Waddel (2.16), 1876, Ned Williamson (27)

12. Walter Johnson (2.17), 1887, Babe Ruth (60)

13. Jake Weimer (2.23), 1873, Ned Williamson (27)

14. Orval Overall (2.26), 1881, Ned Williamson (27)

15. Will White (2.28), 1854, Ned Williamson (27)

16. Babe Ruth (2.28), 1895, Babe Ruth (60)

17. Ed Reuhlbach (2.28), 1882, Ned Williamson (27)

18. Jim Scott (2.30), 1888, Ned Williamson (27)

19. Reb Russell (2.33), 1889, Babe Ruth (29)

All of those pitchers were born before 1900.

Of these pitchers, five (Devlin, Spaulding, Bond, White and Ward) were born before the Civil War. Three (Johnson, Ruth and Wood) pitched into the 1920s.

Devlin (3), Ward (7), Weimer (7), Overall (7), Al Spaulding (8), Wood (9), Scott and  Russell didn’t even pitch ten years on the big leagues.

Let’s not just compare him to deadball stars. 

Modern stars

Let’s look at how his 10-year peak compared against other greats, when it comes to ERA over a ten year run. These are the guys I found whose run ended up with an ERA below 3.00.

Roy Halladay, 2002-2011: 2.97

Orel Hershiser*, 1984-1993: 2.95

Steve Carlton, 1972-1981: 2.94

Lefty Grove, 1926-35: 2.87

Roger Clemens, 1985-1994: 2.85

Hal Newhouser, 1942-1951: 2.77

Randy Johnson, 1993-2002: 2.73

Sandy Koufax, 1957-1966: 2.70

Whitey Ford, 1955-1964: 2.69

Juan Marichal, 1962-1971: 2.65

Pedro Martinez, 1997-2006: 2.61

Bob Gibson, 1964-1973: 2.58

Sandy Koufax, 1969-1978: 2.52

Tom Seaver, 1968-1977: 2.46

Greg Maddux, 1992-2001: 2.46

Other stats

Look, I know ERA isn’t everything. But consider what he’s done in other areas. 

He’s second all time in WHIP, behind Hall of Famer Addie Joss, who pitched during the deadball era. He’s third all time in Winning percentage, behind two more deadballers. 

He’s second all time – to Nolan Ryan in hits allowed per nine innings. Only two pitchers who have tossed more innings – Tommy Bond and. Hey Schilling – have better strikeout-to-walk rates. He is 31st all time in FIP. No one ahead of him threw a major league pitch after the Roaring 20s. 

The kid is other worldly. 

*Hershiser isn’t in the Hall of Fame. If you asked me ten years ago if he belonged, I would have laughed. I’m turning around on that. He’s 79th among starting pitchers in JAWs, which is above a dozen or so guys already in. Considering that he won three postseason MVP awards and went 8-3 with a 2.59 ERA with two shutouts makes him a more solid candidate than I realized. 

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Do you realize how good Clayton Kershaw is?

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