Is it possible that we are watching the greatest hitter and pitcher of all time in the same city at the peak of their stardom? Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw continue to amaze baseball fans from around the country. Yesterday alone, Trout hit his league leading 15th home run while Kershaw threw nine innings of one run ball, while striking out 10 Cardinals and allowing only three hits. While Trout paces the Junior League in home runs, average, on-base percentage, slugging, and WAR, Kershaw has equally been able to dominate the Senior Circuit by leading the league in innings, wins, WAR, ERA, and WHIP. Since entering the league, each of these stars have accumulated draw dropping statistics and collected numerous awards to demonstrate their excellence. Even though they have dominated their respective leagues, their low key demeanor keeps them underrated among non-baseball fans. Although neither player has reached their 30th birthday, it is time to consider if we are actually watching the greatest pitcher and position player to ever play baseball.
Even though Kershaw has only completed eight full seasons, he has the credentials and excellence to be considered one of the greatest pitchers. Kershaw has become the greatest pitcher of this generation and potentially ever because he has an mid to upper 90s fastball, deadly slider, and the nastiest curveball in baseball. Along with his trio of excellent offerings, Kershaw may be the most accurate pitcher to ever command the mound. In terms of statistics, Kershaw’s speak for themselves. Kershaw’s ability to limit runs allowed him to lead the league in ERA four straight seasons between 2011 and 2014. In addition, he is on pace to claim the ERA crown once again as his 2.01 ERA leads the entire NL. Since becoming a full time starter in 2009 at age 21, Kershaw has never had an ERA over 3.00 and over the past five seasons, his ERA has never risen above a microscopic 2.13.Among starting pitchers who have pitched 1500 innings, Kershaw has the lowest ERA in the history of MLB, 2.35. Along with his tendency to limit runs unlike any starter to ever grace the diamond, Kershaw is one of the premier strikeout pitchers. Kershaw is set to become the ninth pitcher to accumulate 2000 strikeouts before age 30 and he demonstrates no diminishing in his skills. In 2015, became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002 to accumulate over 300 strikeouts in a season. Kershaw is more unique than any other strikeout pitcher in the history of baseball because of his incredible control. Although he only pitched 150 innings last season due to a back injury, Kershaw posted a SO/BB ratio of 15.64. In order to truly appreciate his dominance, the next closest competitor to Kershaw was Phil Hughes with a ratio of 11.63. This season, Kershaw’s dominance is not as historical, but he still possesses a ratio of 9.00, which would rank as the 7th best mark in history. Kershaw’s amazing peak and ability to maintain his success for multiple seasons has him rivaling great pitchers with similar peaks such as Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Sandy Koufax.
Along with his numbers, which solely alone put him in the discussion as the best ever, his awards give legitimacy to his success. Over the past six seasons, he has finished top five in Cy Young voting each year and won the award three times. In addition, he is currently on pace to win his fourth award, which would put him along the greats. Kershaw’s potential fourth Cy Young would tie him with Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux and put him only one award behind Randy Johnson and three behind Roger Clemens. Although Kershaw is unlikely to reach Clemens, especially without the use of steroids, he should be able to continue his extreme success over the next few because of his smooth delivery and tendency to remain healthy. Kershaw has separated himself from many of his peers because he claimed the MVP in 2014. Kershaw was the first starting pitcher to win the NL MVP award since all the way back in 1968 when Bob Gibson won during the year of the pitcher.
While Kershaw has left hitters in fear, Trout has given pitchers nightmares about the best way to get out the young right hand power hitter. Trout has only completed five seasons in the major leagues. However, these five years may be the best five consecutive seasons in major league history let alone the best start to a career. Trout has been amazing because he is a true five tool player that can dominate a game in a number of different ways. Through his career, he has led the league in runs four times, walks twice, RBI, OBP, slugging, and steal once and is currently leading the league in home runs and average. Even though he has played for historically bad teams in Los Angeles and receives little protection in the lineup, he has consistently recorded numbers that continue to boggle the mind of baseball fans. Over the past five seasons, he has averaged 116 runs, 178 hits, 34 doubles, 33 home runs, 96 RBI, 28 stolen bases, .310/.410/.564, and 9.6 WAR. Somehow Trout continues to improve as he has increased his power numbers and stolen base numbers while decreasing his strikeout percentage. In addition to his offensive prowess, Trout is a dynamic defensive player and plays a premium position, center field. When compared to players of similar age, he is favorably compared to Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr, Ty Cobb, and Alex Rodriguez.
Similar to Kershaw, Trout has the hardware to compare with the best hitters to ever step into a batters box. During his short five year career, he has already won two MVP awards, rookie of the year award, five silver sluggers, and finished second in the MVP voting three times. If the Angels were more competitive, Trout easily would have claimed two more MVP awards since his statistics were better than Miguel Cabrera’s and Josh Donaldson’s numbers in 2012 and 2015, respectively. The amazing aspect of Trout is that all of these achievements have occurred before his 25 birthday. Although the Angels look to be not competitive once again, Trout will be in the MVP discussion throughout the season and should win his second consecutive award. One more award would put Trout in a tie for the second most MVPs in major league history. The only player ahead of Trout would be PED user Barry Bonds. By the end of his prime, Trout should collect at least one or two more MVP awards, which would put him in rarified air.