I have had several entries into my Top 50 On Cardboard Countdown headed in the wrong direction. Tonight's entry will likely be much higher when I revisit this countdown again in the future. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball at the moment and is still only 25 years old. He seems like one of those players who's been around forever, but still probably has another good decade of baseball on him.
2006 Bowman Sterling Clayton Kershaw Autograph
Kid K has several rookie cards, but most of his rookie cards that are a must have for your collection show up in 2006 products. I believe the "official" rookie cards for Kershaw are technically in the 2008 releases, but I have officially found that people do not care about technicalities with rookie cards. 2006 happened before 2008 and I would recommend any of his Bowman products. I own a copy of his Bowman Sterling, but it's a sticker autograph. Meanwhile his Bowman autograph is not. If you are looking for a regular, non-autographed, rookie card of the Dodgers southpaw I would recommend the Bowman Original. Kind of a hidden treasure. Buy one.
Kershaw is a really really good player. We'll get into that in a few minutes below, but given the level of player he is on the field he is really really under-appreciated in the baseball card biz. First, the Dodgers have a really good collecting fan base. There are plenty of good Dodgers fans with good money to spend on cards of Dodgers players. Kerhaw is a favorite, so those collectors will often drive the price up on Kershaw cards. However, in my opinion Kershaw is starting to gain recognition in the hobby, and with that increased popularity and scarcity in finding tough Kershaw cards. Also higher prices.
It's taken the hobby awhile to catch on to Kershaw's value on the field. After the 2010 season I managed to pick up my second Kershaw autograph, beyond his rookie Bowman Sterling autograph, at a small card shop outside of St. Louis. At the time Kershaw was basically a .500 pitcher with twenty some wins to his name after three seasons. He had also doubled his autographs over his first three seasons, stuck out more than a batter per inning, and posted two seasons with an ERA+ over 130. All of that at the age of 22. Of course, the Cardinals fans had a cool Colby Rasmus autograph in the 2007 Bowman Sterling set to track down at the time, so the card store owner didn't mind parting with this Kershaw autograph for a mere $15.
2007 Bowman Sterling Clayton Kershaw Jersey/Autograph
It's a sticker autograph again, but it's a low run Kershaw autograph for under $20. Most base Kershaw autograph now sell for the $20 neighborhood, but the premium autographs sell for much more. Better yet is the fact that Kershaw has several on-card autographs, including several Allen & Ginters, floating around on the secondary market. Relics of Kershaw are an absolute steal with jumbo pieces available for less than $10, if you are willing to sit around and wait to bid on them. Ignore the $50 Buy It Nows on Ebay.
On The Field Impact-
Has anyone gotten into the EloRater on Baseball Reference? I've always been a little bit curious about what it means, but I recently took a little bit of time to read up on the rankings system and kind of dig the whole concept behind the rankings. To summarize, players are given point values based on their overall statistics. The players are then paired up where they face off and wins and rankings are created. Here's what you need to know about the EloRaters ranking of Kershaw:
- He is the 7th Best Active Pitcher
- He is the only pitcher on the list under 30, with Captain Crunch Sabathia (33) checking in as the second youngest
- Given the six pitchers in front of him all have uncertain futures (Halladay, Hudson, Oswalt, and Santana) or have retired (Rivera and Pettitte) it's not unrealistic for him to be the best active pitcher on this list before 30
- Kershaw already ranks as the 129th all-time best pitcher and is closing in on passing Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Catfish Hunter.
If you like the JAWS system I have been using on my other posts, they actually rank Kershaw slightly lower as the 211 best starting pitcher of all-time, but that's a 25 year old. He should start catching up to the back end of the Hall Fame pitchers on that list soon too. If you just like numbers Kershaw has 4 season with more than 200 strikeouts, three ERA titles, one Cy Young Award with a second place finish and another probable Cy Young on it's way soon. Kershaw has also posted on ERA+ of 161, 150, and 194 the past three seasons.
By the way, he already has the second highest ERA+ of any active player and is already 8th all-time behind guys like Walter Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, and Lefty Grove.
I really like Kershaw the player. I wish he had been around for a little bit different era of baseball cards, so my favorite Kershaw card is....
2013 Bowman 1992 Bowman Reprint Clayton Kershaw
One of the classic Bowman designs and a popular one for Dodgers fans. I also love that the card was taken in Busch Stadium with Red Schoendiesnt's number 2 and Stan Musial's number 6 behind this future Hall of Famer.