“I'm extremely thankful and humbled by this award,” said Kershaw. “The company that I'm in now... just to be mentioned with some of those guys. I'm just in awe. I never thought I'd be here.
Kershaw is the eighth different Dodger pitcher to win the Cy Young Award and a Dodger has now won the award 10 times, both of which are the most among Major League teams. He becomes the first Los Angeles pitcher to win the award since Eric Gagné in 2003 and the first Dodger starter to take home the Cy Young since Orel Hershiser in 1988. The Dodgers’ previous Cy Young Award winners were Valenzuela (1981), Mike Marshall (1974), Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965, 1966), Don Drysdale (1962) and Don Newcombe, who won the inaugural award in 1956.
Kershaw has already been recognized this offseason by earning the Players Choice Award as the National League’s Outstanding Pitcher, capturing a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, being selected as a Sporting News NL All-Star and winning the Warren Spahn Award as the game’s best left-handed pitcher. Kershaw was also a finalist for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet for his charitable work off the field.
In 2011, the Dallas native became just the 16th National League pitcher to win the league’s Triple Crown since 1900. Kershaw led the Majors with a 2.28 ERA, tied with Arizona’s Ian Kennedy for the N.L. lead with 21 wins and ranked first in the league with 248 strikeouts. He became just the third different Dodger pitcher to achieve the feat, joining Dazzy Vance (1924) and Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965 and 1966). The last National League pitcher to capture the Triple Crown was Jake Peavy in 2007.
The left-hander ranked among the N.L. leaders in opponents’ batting average (.207, 1st), winning percentage (.808, 21-5, 2nd), innings pitched (233.1, 3rd), complete games (5, 3rd), shutouts (2, T-2nd), WHIP (0.98, 1st) and pickoffs (9, 1st).
This past season was just Kershaw’s third complete season at the Major League level as he became the youngest Major Leaguer to win more than 20 games in a season since Gooden went 24-4 for the 1985 Mets and the youngest Dodger to win 20 since a 21-year-old Ralph Branca went 21-12 for Brooklyn in 1947. Kershaw became one of just four pitchers since 1970 to reach the 20-win plateau with 240 or more strikeouts in a single season while under the age of 24, joining Gooden (24 wins, 268 strikeouts in 1985), Bert Blyleven (20 W, 258 SO in 1973) and Vida Blue (24 W, 301 SO in 1971).
Following his offseason trip to Zambia, Kershaw along with his wife, Ellen, started the Kershaw’s Challenge program (www.kershawschallenge.com) and this past season donated $100 for each of his league-leading 248 strikeouts to Arise Africa, an organization that helps to build orphanages in the African nation. The couple has been writing a book, Arise, about their life together and charitable endeavors in Africa and it will release in January 2012 after they return from their second trip to Zambia.
Kershaw earned his spot in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ single-season record books, ranking among team leaders in wins (T-7th), winning percentage (6th), ERA (11th), strikeouts (6th) and opponents’ batting average (11th). His 21 victories and 2.28 ERA were the best marks since Orel Hershiser went 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA in 1988 and his strikeout total was the highest for a Dodger since Sandy Koufax struck out 317 in 1966.
The seventh overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft earned his first All-Star selection in 2011 and was voted in to the Midsummer Classic via Player Ballot. In the game, he tossed a scoreless inning and needed just eight pitches to set down the side in order by striking out David Ortiz and retiring Robinson Cano and Alex Avila on infield grounders.
Kershaw was twice tabbed for National League Awards during the season, winning N.L. Pitcher of the Month in July and earning the league’s Player of the Week honor for the period of June 20-26. He went 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA in five July starts, tying for the N.L. lead in wins and ranking third in ERA. For his weekly honor, Kershaw went a perfect 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA (2 ER/18.0 IP), a two-hit shutout of the Tigers on June 20 and a complete game victory over the Angels on June 26.
Kershaw made his first Opening Day start this season, becoming the fifth-youngest Opening Day starter in L.A. Dodger history at 23 years and 12 days. Fernando Valenzuela was younger in 1981 (20, 159) and 1983 (22, 155) and Don Drysdale was younger in 1958 (21, 266) and 1959 (22, 262).