Award front-runners: Kershaw complicating Cy Young conversation

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

A few years ago, after Clayton Kershaw won his first Cy Young Award, ESPN asked if we could tag along during one of his winter workouts. Kershaw arrived at the indoor football practice facility for his old high school, Highland Park in Dallas, and he was alone.

No personal trainer. No public relations person. No workout guru. No entourage. Nobody assigned to hold his glove. Nobody but Kershaw, who put himself through a few hours of work lifting weights, running sprints and long-tossing into a net.

Kershaw is not about frills. He is about substance, and so it makes sense that Kershaw generated an old-fashioned complete game win Wednesday night as the Dodgers squeezed the Giants again -- likely out of the NL West race. Kershaw threw 132 pitches and struck out 15 batters in what may be remembered as one of the final nails in San Francisco's playoff hopes.

Last week, two evaluators who saw Kershaw work against the Cubs said they believe he is throwing the ball better than at any point in his career, because he commanded the ball inside to right-handed hitters, as well as outside. "I've never seen him able to control that side of the strike zone that well," said one of the staffers.

Kershaw's recent performances continue to complicate what will be an increasingly difficult choice for the National League Cy Young Award voters, among Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta.

A look at some category leaders in the NL:

ERA: 1. Greinke 1.59; 2. Arrieta 2.11; 3. Kershaw 2.18

WHIP: 1. Greinke 0.85; 2. Kershaw 0.90; 3. Arrieta 0.94

Innings: 1. Kershaw 194; 2. Greinke 186 2/3; 3. Max Scherzer 184; 4. Arrieta 183

Strikeouts: 1. Kershaw 251; 2. Scherzer 219; 3. Madison Bumgarner 200; 4. Arrieta 190

xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching): 1. Kershaw 2.05; 2. Arrieta 2.74; 3. Bumgarner 2.91

fWAR (Fangraphs' WAR): 1. Kershaw 7.1; 2. Arrieta 5.4; 3. Greinke 5.3

Wins (I wouldn't factor them into a ballot, but some writers would): 1. Arrieta 17; 2. Bumgarner 16; 3. Greinke 15 (tied with Gerrit Cole and Michael Wacha)

Following Kershaw's effort against the Giants, I'd rank the NL Cy Young ballot this way, if I had a vote (full disclosure: I haven't had a vote for any award since 1996).

1. Kershaw
2. Greinke
3. Arrieta