This past Monday, MLB Now held a segment in which Brian Kenny argued that, at least, the gap is closer than you’d think between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in regards to who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Looking at the numbers, one could argue that Scherzer could be taken over Kershaw, or that Pitcher 3, whose name you’ll learn later, could be taken over Scherzer .
Kershaw has both beat in ERA and FIP since the 2015 season, rocking a 2.01 and a 2.17 respectively. Scherzer holds a 2.79 ERA and a 2.97 FIP, and Pitcher 3 holds a 3.30 ERA and a 2.89 FIP. This is quite a sizable gap, but one could argue that Kershaw calling the cavernous Dodger Stadium home gives him a bit of an advantage here.
In ERA+, which adjusts for park effects, it’s not particularly close either. Kershaw is sporting an obscene 192, as opposed to Scherzer’s 147, and Pitcher 3’s 123. FIP- tells a similar story, with Kershaw putting up a 55, Scherzer a 74, but Pitcher 3 jumping Scherzer with a 67.
Kershaw owns a 17.5 fWAR in this timeframe, a full 2.1 wins ahead of Pitcher 3 at 15.4 and 2.6 ahead of Scherzer at 14.9, despite innings gaps of 47.2 and 70, respectively. bWAR, however, counts 10.7 for Pitcher 3, 16.4 for Scherzer, and 16.0 for Kershaw.
The conclusion you reach in this conversation is largely dependent on how you view the question. If you see it as, “which pitcher has been the most valuable to their club in recent years,” you will be more willing to consider Scherzer’s volume over the vastly superior output of Clayton Kershaw and the arguably superior output of Pitcher 3, Chris Sale. But if you see it as “which pitcher is the best at pitching?”, there really is no conversation. It’s Clayton Kershaw by a country mile.