Players chasing some cool history

Clayton Kershaw

I don't know about you, but what I need right now is a Biogenesis-free zone, a trade-rumor-free zone, a few minutes where I can remind myself that an amazing baseball season is still taking place amid all that other noise.

So voila. I have taken it upon myself to create that zone. We have actual real-life players chasing actual major league history. No kidding. Feel free to briefly tear yourself away from Rumor Central and join us for our annual August History Watch.

Clayton Kershaw

Is this man a baseball player or a walking history book? We'd vote "history book" at this point. If Kershaw just keeps on doing that thing he does for another two months, he's heading for all these historic destinations:

Paging Walter Johnson: If you consult your handy league-leaders listings, you'll notice that Kershaw has the best strikeout ratio (11.01 per nine innings) in the National League. He also has the best walk ratio (just 1.19 per 9) in the NL. How special is that? Glad you asked.

On one hand, it's not as if nobody has ever led his league in both categories in the same year. On the other hand, the only other pitcher to do it since 1900 pulled off that feat as recently as, oh, 101 years ago. That would be Walter Johnson. In 1913. So that's the club -- Kershaw and the Big Train. Pretty cool.

Paging Unit, Mad Dog and Pedro: It's a pretty safe bet that, barring something wacky happening, Kershaw is going to win another Cy Young award this year. That would make four seasons in a row in which he finished either first (2011, '13 and this year) or second (2012).

So who else can say that in the history of this award? Only three modern legends named Greg Maddux (who won four in a row, 1992-95), Randy Johnson (also won four in a row, 1999-2002) and Pedro Martinez (first in the NL in 1997, second in the AL in '98, then first in '99 and 2000). If that's the group you're hanging around with, this just in: You're pretty good.

Paging Hal, Sandy and Mad Dog: For two straight years, you haven't needed a stat sheet to track Kershaw's ERA. You've needed an electron microscope. It was 1.83 last year. It's 1.82 this year. Friends, that's just insane.

Only three other pitchers in the live-ball era have ever spun back-to-back seasons in which they qualified for the ERA title and finished the year with an ERA under 2.00. You're probably familiar with their work: Maddux (1994-95), Sandy Koufax (1963-64) and Hal Newhouser (1945-46).

But how many pitchers in the live-ball era have had an ERA of 1.83 or lower in back-to-back years? Just Maddux (1.56 in '94, 1.63 in '95). And who's the last pitcher to spin off an ERA of 1.83 or better one year then have a lower ERA the next? That would be Eddie Cicotte -- in 1916-17. And that's just crazy.

Never mind, just page Mad Dog: Finally, there's this: If Kershaw goes six innings and gives up no more than four earned runs in his next trip to the mound, it means his ERA will be under 2.00 over his last 100 starts (dating all the way back to July 7, 2011). Yes, I said 100 starts. (He's at 1.96 over his last 99 at the moment.)

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