Fun With Numbers: The G-Minus and Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is a fantastic pitcher. He pitched his ass off last year, and beat out Roy Halladay for the National League Cy Young, winning 27 of the 32 first place votes. As a Giants fan, I feared starts against him more than any other pitcher, and for good reason. Still, it’s interesting to think about how much Kershaw’s starts against the Giants contributed to his Cy Young win, as he had the benefit of pitching against an awful Giants lineup.

How would he have done if he hadn’t gotten to pitch against the Giants? Let’s examine his stats with those starts removed, or as I like to call it, the G-.

Kershaw in 2011:

233.1 IP, 59 ER, 2.28 ERA

Kershaw was clearly dominant. He finished 21-5, best in the league in ERA, second in ERA+ among qualified starters, second in K/9 among qualified starters, and led the league in strikeouts. He pitched five complete games – two shutouts – and had 25 Quality Starts in 33 starts total, second only to Matt Cain.

Kershaw against the Giants in 2011:

42 IP, 5 ER, 1.07 ERA

Kershaw kicked the Giants’ butt last year. In four of his six starts against the Giants, he gave up zero earned runs, and gave up just one run in another.

Kershaw’s 2011 G-:

191.1 IP, 55 ER, 2.54 ERA

Without his starts against the Giants, Kershaw’s ERA goes from best in the league to just incredibly good. A 2.54 ERA would have placed Kershaw roughly third in the league in ERA, behind Halladay and Cliff Lee, and ahead of Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum.

Kershaw career numbers:

851 IP, 270 ER, 2.86 ERA

Kershaw ranks second in ERA since 2008, when he came into the league behind – you guessed it – Roy Halladay.

Kershaw’s career numbers against the Giants:

93 IP, 15 ER, 1.45 ERA

While 2011 was Kershaw’s most dominant year against the Giants, but he has routinely killed them, pitching quality starts in 12 of 13 starts against the Giants.

Kershaw’s career G-:

758 IP, 255 ER, 3.03 ERA

Without his Giants starts, Kershaw’s ERA balloons by 0.17, putting him tied for fifth with Johan Santana, just behind Adam Wainwright and ahead of C.C. Sabathia and Matt Cain.

All of the relevant caveats apply, particularly that every pitcher gets to face bad lineups and that ERA’s not a perfect stat, but it’s hard to deny that getting to face the Giants in 2011 helped Kershaw’s Cy Young candidacy a whole lot.