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Gastelum: Kershaw deserves it (Sept. 29)

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Cy Young race is all about names. So we are going to play a little game — sort of like one of those dating shows that nobody watches — where you’ll get three of your dream contestants and have to choose one blindly, except you (hopefully) aren’t desperate for a match.

Contestant #1 is 13-14 this year with a 2.74 ERA (fifth in the NL) with 220 strikeouts (third in the NL) and opposing hitters are hitting .222 against him.

Contestant #2 is 19-6 this year with a 2.35 ERA (second in the NL) with 220 strikeouts (third in the NL) and opposing hitters are hitting .239 against him.

Contestant #3 is 21-5 this year with a 2.28 ERA (first in the NL) with 248 strikeouts (first in the NL) and opposing hitters are hitting .207 against him.

Yeah, I would probably choose Contestant #3 too, but would you keep that pick if you knew the others were famous supermodels (or pitchers, same difference) — even though Contestant #3 is probably the better pick for you?

After the curtains are raised, Contestant #1 walks out sporting that atrocious San Francisco Giants cap with the nickname “Big Time Timmy-Jim:” Tim Lincecum.

Rumor is Contestant #2 is a doctor, going by Doc, and comes out with a red Philadelphia cap even though we all swear he is Canadian: Roy Halladay.

And then we see #3, a 23-year old kid by the name of Clayton who is probably still kicked out of bars, with a scruffy Teen Wolf beard under a Dodgers cap: Clayton Kershaw.

Now that the contestants have been revealed, it seems easy to go with the first two because they are the bigger names each with two Cy Young awards to their names.

To start with Contestant #1, Lincecum added another great year to his young résumé. But his record was plagued by poor run support from a Giants offense that unfortunately lost do-it-all catching phenom Buster Posey midway through the year. Nonetheless, the University of Washington product is undoubtedly worthy of Cy Young contention — and a thorough washing of the grimiest hair since Severus Snape.

But, this year, Kershaw was the better pitcher. The two youngsters were the center of a superb pitcher’s duel that has turned into one of the game’s best pitching rivalries. Vin Scully even likened it to the colossal Koufax-Marichal battles of old. In the rivals’ five meetings, Kershaw was 4-0 and went 5-0 overall against the Giants this season with a 0.59 ERA — not bad for the biggest rivalry west of Fenway Park.

To put it simply, Kershaw was a Giant-killer, and those five wins could have been enough to push the defending world champions into the wild card slot.

Halladay remains a bigger giant to push out of the Cy Young spotlight. The stats are closer to that of Kershaw’s, but Halladay made only seven of his 32 starts against teams that entered the final week of the season in playoff contention. Last year’s Cy Young winner, the Doc finished with a 1-4 record in these seven meetings. Kershaw, meanwhile, was 12-3 in 18 meetings with teams in playoff contention, including a 12-1 record at home with a 1.72 ERA. Personally, Cliff Lee appears better suited to be the Phillies Cy Young contender than Doc, but the pull of Halladay’s name serves its purpose as a black hole on an outstanding staff.

Kershaw became the Dodgers’ 16th 20-game winner and accounted for a whopping 26 percent of the team’s 81 wins. The southpaw only lost once post-All Star break and only twice since April.

And to save the best for last, Kershaw won the NL Triple Crown for pitching, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts. The Texas native combined with Detroit’s AL Triple Crown winner Justin Verlander to become the first duo since 1924 to have Triple Crowns in each league.

And no, I’m not writing this piece while wearing a medium-sized, away No. 22 Clayton Kershaw jersey with a spaghetti sauce stain on it.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.