Clayton Kershaw emulating Koufax, but challenging Gibson

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By NEIL DWYER
College Contributor Network

I've been a baseball fan since I was five years old, eagerly awaiting the score in the next day's paper. I've seen 500th home runs, no-hitters, perfect games, guys getting hit in the head, fist fights, bats thrown and drunken fans fall a few rows down while dancing to Cotton Eye Joe.

Until Thursday, I have never, ever seen anyone get an 88-miles-per-hour fastball directly in the face like Giancarlo Stanton did in Milwaukee. I have to imagine Rocky taking a 200-pound punch from Drago or anyone facing Mike Tyson would have a rough idea what it feels like.

The Marlins were all but eliminated from the playoff hunt anyway; but now for the final few weeks of the season, why would anyone watch the Fish now?

They lost their ace, Jose Fernandez, back in June, and now they've lost the best slugger in the National League -- maybe in all of baseball since Miguel Cabrera's had a down year -- and Mike Trout isn't at the point yet where he's hitting moonshots.

Think about that for a second, Stanton has hit moonshots in National League ballparks, including his own Marlins Park, where the corner outfield spots are measured at 330-feet-plus. I would pay an opposing pitcher to throw him an eephus pitch just to see if he could break the glass windows.

Regardless, the entire sequence in Milwaukee was tough to watch; he went down like a Family Guy character taking a punch to the face and Mike Fiers had that awful remorseful look on his face after he threw that pitch.

This indeed changes the whole framework of the NL MVP race. I felt that Clayton Kershaw should've been the number one candidate all along because we're living in the 1960s all over again when it comes to baseball. Offensive numbers are way down; we don't see the 50-home-run season anymore. That's why Stanton is so fun to watch -- it's because he's a novelty and hits moonshots that remind me of Mo Vaughn.

It's funny how Joe Torre actually made the bold move of comparing Kershaw to Sandy Koufax all the way back in 2008.

"There was a left-handed pitcher in this organization with only a fastball and curve, and he was pretty good...but I don't want to put that kind of pressure on him," said Torre.

Indeed, Kershaw has the nasty curve like Koufax and locates the corners like Koufax did. Now, this season he's well on his way to a third Cy Young in four years and will probably become the first NL pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968 to win the MVP and Cy Young in the same season.

Here's one more Kershaw stat that flies off the screen. His ERA is all the way down to 1.70. Now, obviously he can't do it this year, but could this era be the perfect storm of great pitching and weak hitting where Kershaw could possibly challenge Bob Gibson's all time 1968 single-season ERA record of 1.12?

Probably the biggest obstacle would be the bullpen culture of mixing and matching specialty relievers -- something that wasn't there in 1968. Gibson pitched 28 complete games across his career, while Kershaw's total? Six. Even crazier, Gibson pitched 13 complete game shutouts that season to attain that number compared to Clayton's career high of two in a single season.

But if you asked me if any pitcher in baseball could get anywhere close to challenging Gibson, it's number 22. Can he do it? The numbers and my head say no, but my heart says yes.


Neil Dwyer is a senior at the University of Miami who loves the Yankees, Giants, 'Canes and screaming about all three. Follow him on Twitter: @neildwyer1993
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