Few pitchers were as dominant as Clayton Kershaw during this past decade, I mean the accolades speak for themselves. From 2010 through 2019, Kershaw had 156 wins, 8 All-Star appearances, 3 Cy-Young Awards, 1 MVP, and the list goes on. Dodgers fans have been truly fortunate to witness one of the greatest pitchers of all-time play his prime here in Los Angeles.
But as the calendar shifts toward a new decade, there is a changing of the guard that has some fans excited while other fans refuse to accept it. Love it or hate it, Dodgers fans, Clayton Kershaw is no longer the best pitcher in LA.
But should this mean that Kershaw is no longer an ace? The short answer is it shouldn’t. However, people across baseball seem to think that Kershaw no longer has that next-level stuff to be considered a top tier pitcher. Marc Carig and Andy McCullough of The Athletic put out a piece today ranking the top 60 pitchers from 2019 and placing them into tiers based on responses and scores by 20 different executives from around baseball.
The scores were meant to determine which pitchers could be considered Aces, which were on the verge, and which were a part of the rest. To no one’s surprise, Walker Buehler scored higher than Kershaw, thanks in large part to the huge upside for his young career. But as for Kershaw, only 6 out of the 20 execs still viewed him as an ace while one said he wouldn’t trust him in a game seven.
His playoff struggles don’t build a good case for him, but Clayton Kershaw is still a very good pitcher. And should he be required to pitch in a game seven because Buehler pitched in game 6, I would be just as confident in his ability to give us 6 solid innings as any other guy on the list. He may not have the same life on his fastball or his vintage low ERA, but Kershaw’s ability to adapt and evolve has extended his prime further than that of most pitchers.
Enjoy it While You Can
As a die-hard Dodgers fan who’s seen the entirety of Clayton Kershaw’s career, the mere thought that he is no longer the ace of the staff seems like blasphemy. But the truth is his career was never going to last forever and there would never be a good time to pass the mantle. However long Kershaw has left, he has proven that he will give it everything he has, even if it isn’t as the best arm in the rotation. This season will mark the 9th time that he is given the ball on Opening Day, and very likely the last. Buehler is ready to take the throne, and that’s the way it should be. It’s the circle of life and all we can do is appreciate the memories that we get to enjoy along the way.
2010 began with a young Dodger barely beginning to hit his stride and becoming the face of the franchise. 2020 will begin in much the same way, with Walker Buehler prepared to take on the role of the man who did it better than anyone for so long.