With free agent pitchers like Jorge De la Rosa, Jake Westbrook, and Carl Pavano receiving between 8 and 10 million dollar a year deals on the open market, Clayton Kershaw’s $500,000 a year arm is an owner and general manager’s dream.
Stories of Clayton Kershaw’s jackhammer curveball became somewhat of a legend in the minor leagues as a prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then he became a young phenom with the flashy sideburns, pitching for the Dodgers in the ’08 and ’09 playoffs. Now, the 23 year-old lefty leads the MLB in strikeouts with 173 through August 1st. His 2.72 earned-run average, 1.04 WHIP, and .213 opponent batting average this late in the season are borderline Cy-Young numbers. Also his 12-4 record, with the way the Dodgers hit the ball, is also more than commendable.
I am not a huge fan of numbers like Win-Loss, ERA, and WHIP, though. Kershaw has over 10 strikeouts per nine innings to only 2 walks, and Kershaw’s SABRmetric statistics and non-fielding pitching numbers are just as impressive as his “traditional” numbers. Kershaw has a FIP well under 3 (2.42), and most v aluable play er –esque VORP and WARP numbers at 43.4 and 4.1 respectively. For an explanation of these statistics, visit baseballprospectus.com. What these numbers mean to me as a whole is that Kershaw has won 4 more games, single-handedly, for the Dodgers than a Triple-A call-up would have and has saved them over 43 runs on the hill. To give a reader an even clearer picture of what these numbers mean, compare them to those of baseball’s highest paid pitcher and perennial all-star C.C. Sabathia.
C.C. was an all-star this season and has put up very good numbers for the Yankees. He has the same WARP as Kershaw (4.1) and just slightly worse VORP and FIP numbers at 37.5 and 2.48 respectively. C.C. has been very good, almost as good as the Dodgers’ lefty. Looking at these numbers from an Economist’s point of view; however, I see a glaring difference between the Bronx Bombers’ Southpaw and Lefty from the Left Coast. And that difference is in their respective salaries.
C.C. Sabathia is making over 24 million dollars this season, while Kershaw is reeling in just half a million. One can do the simple math and realize that C.C. is making over 48 times as much as Kershaw to perform slightly worse. Sabathia has performed well this season and the Yankees (I’m sure) can live with his contract being that size. But most baseball teams do not have the luxury of spending 24 million dollars on one player (The Royals ENTIRE payroll is under 40). Thus, Kershaw’s season has been much more incredible and mainly much more valuable to the Dodgers this season.
I can estimate that Kershaw’s true value to the Dodgers is in the area of 16 million dollars (or about 23 times that of his current contract), which would mean he could make even more than that in the open market, because teams historically overpay for starting pitching
While Kershaw is an anomaly among players in the majors making under a million dollars, there is still much to be said about how good he has been for so little. His contract will rise a good deal next year when he is up for arbitration, but not until 2015 when he is finally eligible for free agency will Kershaw’s salary be anywhere near that of Sabathia.