Twelve seasons, a lifetime 2.44 ERA, a National League MVP Award, three Cy Youngs — Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw has been so great for so long that it's easy to take him for granted.
But hey, what are birthdays for if not to be celebrated? Kershaw turned 32 years old on Thursday, so it's as good a time as any to look back on some of his greatest achievements.
Here are nine times the southpaw left his mark on baseball history.
The night he was pretty much perfect.
This was Kershaw at his very best, reducing the highest-scoring offense in the National League to rubble with a performance for the ages on June 18, 2014, vs. the Rockies.
The left-hander allowed nary a hit or a walk, and the only Colorado hitter to reach base was Corey Dickerson on Hanley Ramirez's seventh-inning throwing error. At the time, Kershaw's outing — which included a career-best 15 strikeouts — was the second-highest Game Score (102 on the Bill James scale) on record.
Kershaw's no-hitter was part of a longer stretch of sheer dominance that began earlier in the month. Kershaw would go on to throw …
… 41 straight scoreless innings.
Kershaw's streak began on June 13, 2014, against the D-backs, as he held Arizona scoreless over his final four innings of work in a seven-inning gem. He followed that up with his no-no, and added three more scoreless starts to run his streak to 36 straight innings without allowing a run.
It was more of the same over his first five frames against the Padres on July 10, before Chase Headley's sixth-inning home run put an end to the streak. Kershaw's 41-inning scoreless streak is tied for the eighth longest in the live-ball era (since 1920).
Kershaw had a 1.78 ERA after his start on July 10, which was his final outing of the first half. Believe it or not, he improved on that mark after the All-Star break (1.76 ERA), en route to his …
… fourth consecutive Major League ERA title, an all-time record.
Félix Hernández gave Kershaw a run for his money, and the two aces were separated by 0.13 runs after both started on Aug. 16, 2014. But Kershaw was relentless, going 7-0 with a 1.53 ERA over his final seven starts. Hernández had a chance to make things interesting in late September, but the King's rough start on Sept. 23 (4 2/3 IP, four earned runs) effectively ended the race.
For good measure, Kershaw held the Giants to one run over eight innings the next day. He also put the Dodgers on the board in the fifth inning with his first career triple, and Los Angeles went on to clinch the NL West title. Kershaw became the first pitcher in history to lead MLB in ERA in four straight seasons.
Kershaw finished 2014 with a 21-3 record, a 1.77 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 198 1/3 innings. In November, the Baseball Writers' Association of America recognized his brilliance by making him the 10th player ever to win …
… MVP and Cy Young Awards in the same season.
On Nov. 12, 2014, Kershaw was named the NL Cy Young Award winner for the third time in his career, making him the ninth pitcher with three or more Cy Youngs. A day later, he won the NL MVP Award, edging Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen in a close race.
Kershaw was the first pitcher to claim NL MVP honors since Bob Gibson in 1968, and he became only the second pitcher to be named MVP of either league since Roger Clemens in '86.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout earned 2014 American League MVP honors unanimously, setting up a historic showdown the next season, when Kershaw …
… struck out Trout in an all-MVP matchup.
Aug. 1, 2015, wasn't the first time Kershaw and Trout squared off, but it was a special occasion nonetheless, marking the first time in MLB history that the reigning MVP Award winners faced each other in a batter vs. pitcher matchup during the regular season. At the time, Kershaw was in the midst of another epic scoreless streak that would ultimately reach 37 innings.
Kershaw got the better of his counterpart in a four-pitch at-bat, dropping in a rainbow curve to catch Trout looking at strike three.
Trout's strikeout gave Kershaw 186 K's on the year. He would tally another 115 as he …
… reached the 300-strikeout mark.
From 1993-2002, there were 11 300-strikeout seasons, all by either Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, or Pedro Martinez. After 2002, when Johnson and Schilling both recorded more than 300 K's for the D-backs, MLB went 13 years without another.
Kershaw ended the drought in 2015, racking up 301 K's in 232 2/3 innings. He entered his final start of the year on Oct. 4 needing six strikeouts to reach the magic number. Kershaw got there by the third inning, whiffing Melvin Upton Jr. for his 300th strikeout.
The 2015 campaign concluded a run of six straight 200-K seasons for Kershaw, who has been steadily climbing the Dodgers' leaderboard in recent years. In 2019, Kershaw eclipsed a Hall of Famer when he …
… passed the legendary Sandy Koufax.
Don Sutton. Don Drysdale. Clayton Kershaw. That's how the Dodgers' all-time strikeout list has read since Aug. 2, 2019, when Kershaw surpassed Koufax's total (2,396). Kershaw ended 2019 with 2,464 career K's, 22 shy of Drysdale and 232 away from Sutton.
Part of what makes Kershaw so tough to hit is that he doesn't just have outstanding stuff, he also has pinpoint control. In fact, Kershaw has walked only 5.1% of the batters he has faced since the beginning of 2011, and he leads all pitchers (min. 2,000 innings) with a 5.6 K/BB ratio in that span. In 2016, he set a record by …
… notching his 150th K of the year with only nine walks.
After spending more than two months on the injured list with a back issue, Kershaw returned to the mound against the Marlins on Sept. 9, 2016, and fanned five batters with no walks in three innings. When he whiffed Marcell Ozuna with his final pitch of the night, Kershaw became the first pitcher ever to reach the 150-strikeout mark with fewer than 10 walks in a season.
Kershaw concluded the season with a 15.6 K/BB ratio, the best in the modern era (since 1900) for a pitcher who threw at least 140 innings.
While Kershaw's string of eight straight Opening Day starts isn't among the longest in history, the southpaw did pull off a first-game rarity in 2013, becoming the second pitcher to …
… throw a "Maddux" on Opening Day.
Bartolo Colon threw the first Opening Day "Maddux" — a complete game shutout on fewer than 100 pitches, named after Hall of Famer Greg Maddux — on record (accurate pitch count data available since 1988) for the Indians in 2002.
Kershaw matched the feat 11 years later, blanking the Giants on 94 pitches with seven K's and no walks in a complete-game four-hitter on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium.
Overall, Kershaw has been masterful on Opening Day, going 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA in his eight starts.