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Daily Dodger in review: Clayton Kershaw, an ace delivered

October 11, 2011 |  9:49 am

, 23, starting pitcher

Final 2011 stats: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, 0.98 WHIP in 233 1/3 innings.

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible.

The good: Is everything going too far? He won the pitcher’s triple crown –- leading the National League in wins (tied with Ian Kennedy), ERA and strikeouts. And just as a little bonus, he also led in WHIP and opponents' batting average (.207). An absolute breakout season.

The bad: The dude lost five games (three in April). He lost one by a run and another 3-0. He really only had two shaky games all season, and that’s in 33 starts.

What’s next: An N.L. Cy Young Award, hopefully. Roy Halladay put up numbers that were almost as impressive, but they were a tad below in almost every category. Plus with Halladay’s teammate, Cliff Lee, also pitching well and possibly splitting some Philadelphia-driven votes, Kershaw should be the favorite.

The take: And I probably should mention again, he’s 23 years old. It boggles the mind, really. Given his 2011 season and his youth, his future is about as exciting as can be imagined.

You look at his numbers from last season and wonder just where he is supposed to improve. But there’s no reason to suspect he won’t maintain his status and even up his game.

The thing about Kershaw is, he’s not just left-handed, he doesn’t just have great stuff, he’s remarkably mature. He has great mental discipline, a hunger to succeed and a calmness about him that belies his youth. He does that one thing all coaches want but too seldom receive -- he learns from his mistakes.

As much as a starting pitcher can be, as much as a 23-year-old can be, Kershaw has emerged as the team leader.

There are cautionary tales galore of getting too excited about young pitchers, and we probably need to take a breath, but the future appears at least as bright as the present. Which is only the best in the National League.


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Photo: Clayton Kershaw. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images