Since 1893, there have been eight pitchers who have had at least 100 starts from their age-23 through age-26 seasons and recorded an ERA as low as 2.16.
Chronologically, seven of the eight hurlers organize themselves in the following manner: Doc White (1902-05), Noodles Hahn ('02-05), Addie Joss ('03-06), Christy Mathewson ('04-07), Ed Reulbach ('06-09), Walter Johnson ('11-14) and Ernie Shore ('14-1917).
Notice a pattern? All were dead-ball era moundsmen.
The arc jumps decades, however, with the eighth member of the group, for Clayton Kershaw -- thanks in part to the extraordinary first half he has put together and owing much more to the even more extraordinary run he has been on since the start of the 2011 season -- holds a (insert chosen superlative here) 2.16 ERA, better (at the moment) than any live-ball era pitcher has compiled under these criteria involving stats and age.
Kershaw still has a half-season to go, of course, and we all get to watch and see if he can stay below Hal Newhouser's 2.20 from 1944-47, Tom Seaver's 2.25 from '68-71 and Jim Palmer's 2.47 from '69-72.
A new streak begins
A solo homer from Chase Headley with two outs in the sixth inning ended Kershaw's scoreless-innings streak at 41, but the Dodgers left-hander allowed only two other hits, fanned 11 and came away with a complete-game victory in Los Angeles' 2-1 win over San Diego.
Clayton's amazing first half
|Stat||Kershaw, 2014||Kershaw rank||Lowest mark|
|ERA||1.78||t-38th||Gibson: 1.06, 1968|
|WHIP||0.830||6th*||Martinez: 0.774, 2000|
|K/9||11.77||12th*||Johnson: 13.70, 2001|
|K:BB||9.69||6th*||Lee: 15.17, 2010|
|OPS against||.515||t-32nd||Gibson: .459, 1968|
With his streak concluding with 41 scoreless innings, Kershaw claims a comfortable third spot for the longest by a Dodgers pitcher since the club moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. Orel Hershiser's 59-inning streak in '88 leads, and Don Drysdale's 58-inning run in '68 was the all-time MLB record until Hershiser's streak topped it. Kershaw also produced the longest streak since the D-backs' Brandon Webb authored a 42-inning run in 2007. In addition to Hershiser, Drysdale and Webb, there have been 10 other pitchers who have authored streaks of at least 42 scoreless innings.
Kershaw has gone at least eight innings and allowed no more than three hits in his past two starts. The only Dodgers pitcher since 1914 to have three consecutive starts with this combination: Sandy Koufax, in July 1963.
Kershaw has also picked up a win and fanned at least seven batters in each of his past eight outings. He is the third pitcher since 1914 to be able to make such a claim about his work within the frame of a single season, joining Koufax in '66 and Juan Marichal in '67. In 1999-2000, Randy Johnson put together nine straight appearances of this kind, with two coming at the tail end of 1999 before he opened with seven in a row in 2000.
Kazmir wraps up impressive half
Athletics southpaw Scott Kazmir allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings, added nine K's with one walk and improved to 11-3 as Oakland won a 6-1 decision over San Francisco.
In addition to his 11 wins (tied for second most in the American League), Kazmir also owns a 2.38 ERA (third), a 0.980 WHIP (third), a .577 OPS against (fourth) and has allowed 6.75 hits per nine (tied for fourth).
Among A's pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched by the All-Star break, his 2.38 ERA is tied for 10th lowest, his 0.980 WHIP is the fifth lowest, his 6.75 hits per nine is tied for the 11th lowest and his .577 OPS against is the ninth lowest.
Among all pitchers with at least 100 innings by the All-Star break, Kazmir is one of 34 to have an ERA below 2.40, a WHIP below 1.00 and a K/9 rate of at least 8.00 (Kazmir is at 8.28 per nine).
• Vida Blue is the only other Athletics pitcher to be among the 34. In the first half of the 1971 season, Blue compiled a 1.42 ERA, a 0.922 WHIP and 9.18 K's per nine in 184 1/3 innings.
Lester enjoying home cooking
In registering his 20th career double-digit strikeout game, Red Sox southpaw Jon Lester fanned 12 with no walks in Boston's 4-3 win over Cleveland.
Since 1914, Bruce Hurst (14 strikeouts on May 16, 1986) was the only other Boston left-hander to have a game with at least 12 K's and no walks. Lester has had three games with at least 12 strikeouts this season, with all three coming at Fenway Park. He's the third pitcher since 1914 to have at least three such games in a season at Fenway, joining Pedro Martinez (five in '99; three each in 2000 and '01) and Roger Clemens (three each in '87 and '88).
Since 1914, Koufax's 10 such outings at Dodger Stadium in '65 are the most for any pitcher in his home ballpark in one year.
Trout led the way with four hits (including a home run), four RBIs and three runs scored. Catching up with his current standing for all players in history through their age-22 seasons, Trout is tied with Johnny Bench for the 31st most with 502 hits, tied with Joe Kelley for 15th most with 321 runs, ranked 13th with 83 home runs, ranked 11th with 201 extra-base hits, ranked seventh with 238 walks, ranked fourth among those with at least 1,500 plate appearances with a .950 OPS and ranked second with a 169 OPS+.
In the Angels' victory, leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and fell a homer shy of the cycle. Calhoun owns a 1.009 OPS in his 183 plate appearances batting leadoff this year. That figure is the highest for any player with at least 150 plate appearances in the leadoff spot in 2014. Carlos Gomez ranks second (.933), followed by Ian Kinsler (.863), Coco Crisp (.833) and Jose Altuve (.828).
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.