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Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee on pace for historically-great seasons

Jun 29, 2013, 7:55 PM EST

Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres Getty Images

In a piece posted last night, ESPN’s Christina Kahrl notes that lefties Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Cliff Lee of the Phillies are on pace for historically-great seasons, using Wins Above Replacement from Baseball Reference:

3. Just one pitcher in 10 years has produced a season worth 9.0 WAR or better

And that would be Zack Greinke for the Royals in his Cy Young season of 2009. But this season two pitchers might challenge that mark: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (4.5 WAR) and Cliff Lee of the Phillies (4.6 WAR and counting).

For pitchers, piling up big stacks of value from on-field performance is tough, especially in today’s workload-conscious era as teams mitigate risk. But even allowing for that, while there have been 182 pitching seasons worth 9.0 WAR or more, just 30 of those seasons have come since divisional play started in 1969.

Lee came close to crossing the 9-WAR threshold with an 8.6 effort in 2011 with the Phillies. Kershaw’s career-high was 6.5 in 2011.

Kershaw and Lee head a very stacked group of talented National League arms. They are two of eight in the league with an ERA of 2.51 or better. Comparatively, only two starters in the American League have an ERA of 2.51 or better (Clay Buchholz, Hisashi Iwakuma). It will be interesting to see who gets the honor of starting for the National League in the upcoming All-Star Game.

  1. kcroyal - Jun 29, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    Yeah that’s great and all, but they both play for losers, and therefor don’t have The Will To Win.

    • gothapotamus90210 - Jun 29, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      Clever username, Hawk.

    • jimeejohnson - Jun 29, 2013 at 9:31 PM

      Dodgers and Phillies don’t have the will to win? I think you’re lying.

    • derailone76 - Jun 29, 2013 at 9:59 PM

      A Royals fan talking about losers and the will to win? Seriously?

      • phillysoulfan - Jun 30, 2013 at 9:54 AM

        A Royals fan would know. They have seen it enough times

  2. hughhansen - Jun 29, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    Eh, half year WAR shouldn’t be taken too seriously, especially when Fangraphs WAR has Kershaw at 3.0 and Lee at 3.4.

    • Bill Baer - Jun 29, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      FanGraphs WAR is based on FIP, BR WAR is based on actual results.

      (Not saying that one is better than the other, but both have different applications.)

      • ezthinking - Jun 30, 2013 at 2:46 AM

        and all of it is bullshit.

      • tuberippin - Jun 30, 2013 at 3:08 AM

        ^I expect nothing less than idiocy from a man who calls himself “ez thinking.”

      • ezthinking - Jun 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        ^ from “tuberippin.” Awesome.

  3. derailone76 - Jun 29, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    I don’t think either one of them starts the all star game. I’m a Dodger fan, so I’m obviously biased towards Kershaw. But.. with the game being in NY, it seems to me that Harvey should get the nod. He’s certainly pitched well enough.

    • Jeff M. - Jun 30, 2013 at 3:18 AM

      I agree, that would be the classy way to go. Besides, I’d rather have Kershaw save his arm for regular season games.

  4. stex52 - Jun 30, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    I see starting a pitcher in the All-Star game as a form of punishing his team. Let the poor guys rest. Who cares about that silly game anyway?

  5. greymares - Jun 30, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    anybody who’s team has a chance to make the playoffs “cares about that silly game”

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