Everyone remembers Clayton Kershaw, right? His past four seasons have brought him quite a bit of hardware with three Cy Young Awards, a Most Valuable Player Award, and even a Gold Glove. Over those four seasons, Kershaw leads all Major League starting pitchers in fWAR, ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and WHIP, many of them by a sizable amount. This year, Kershaw has "struggled" and taken a bit of a back seat to guys like Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer, Chris Sale, and others that I'm sure I'm forgetting. All of those pitchers are having outstanding seasons of their own and absolutely deserve the praise they're getting, but let's not forget about Kershaw, who still has a very strong case for being the best pitcher in the game.
First, let's take a look at Kershaw's first half numbers. Over 18 starts, he has gone 6-6 with a 2.85 ERA across 123 innings. Never mind that he has gotten a combined eight runs of support in his six losses this season, there is still for some reason a crowd who believes that pitcher wins and losses are important, and thus ding him for the even record. Let's dig a little deeper though. Kershaw has also put up a 2.39 FIP, 2.07 xFIP, 2.23 SIERA, 11.71 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 5.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those numbers rank, in order, third, first, first, second, and an embarrassing sixth among qualified starters so far in 2015. Remember, this is a down year for him. In his last three starts, he's been extra unhittable, allowing just two earned runs in 23 innings (0.78 ERA) to go with two walks and 29 strikeouts.
The thing that has hurt Kershaw this year has mostly just been luck. His .306 BABIP against is more than 30 points higher than his career .274 BABIP against and his HR/FB% of 14.9 is more than double his career HR/FB% of 7.1. As we get into the second half of the season, I'm fully expecting Kershaw to be one of the top two or three pitchers in baseball, and you should, too. Now, let's take a (slightly abbreviated) look around the NL West.
Arizona Diamondbacks (42-45, 7½ GB)
The week that was: After a strong week that finally brought the Diamondbacks back to .500, they fell flat prior to the All-Star break, getting swept in three games on the road to the New York Mets.
Disabled list: RHP Archie Bradley (15-day, shoulder), C Tuffy Gosewisch (15-day, torn ACL), 2B Philip Gosselin (15-day, thumb), OF Ender Inciarte (15-day, hamstring), C Gerald Laird (60-day, back)
First half MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt was an absolute terror for opposing pitching staffs in the first half, slashing .340/.455/.610 across 386 plate appearances with 20 doubles, a triple, and 21 home runs. That's good for a 183 wRC+, the second best mark in the NL. Goldschmidt has also stolen 16 bases, giving him a shot at a 30/30 season.
Colorado Rockies (39-49, 11 GB)
The week that was: The Rockies closed the first half with a flurry, sweeping a four game series at home over the Atlanta Braves.
Disabled list: LHP Tyler Anderson (60-day, elbow), RHP Christian Bergman (15-day, shoulder), RHP Brooks Brown (15-day, shoulder), RHP Tyler Chatwood (60-day, Tommy John surgery), OF Corey Dickerson (15-day, plantar fasciitis), RHP David Hale (15-day, groin), RHP Jordan Lyles (60-day, toe), 1B Justin Morneau (60-day, concussion), RHP Adam Ottavino (60-day, Tommy John surgery)
First half MVP: Nolan Arenado
In the first half of the season, Arenado has seen his bat improve along with his defense to make him one of the best players in the NL. His .293/.329/.598 slash line in 353 plate appearances includes 22 doubles, three triples, 24 home runs, and is good for a 131 wRC+. What really sets Arenado apart, however, is his defense. His 16 defensive runs saved is the best number in the National League and his Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games is the best among National League infielders. If the Rockies had a better record, he would likely be squarely in the MVP conversation.
Los Angeles Dodgers (51-39, 0 GB)
The week that was: Los Angeles continued to look like the class of the division as they took the final game of four over the Philadelphia Phillies, then won two of three at home against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Upcoming schedule: As the second half gets underway, the Dodgers schedule gets tougher. They travel to Washington for three with the Nationals, then face off against the Atlanta Braves in three games at Turner Field.
Disabled list: OF Carl Crawford (60-day, oblique), RHP Carlos Frias (15-day, back), RHP Chris Hatcher (15-day, oblique), RHP Brandon McCarthy (60-day, Tommy John surgery), LHP Paco Rodriguez (15-day, elbow), RHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (60-day, shoulder)
First half MVP: Zack Greinke
I know, I just wrote all about how great Clayton Kershaw is and now I'm saying Greinke is the first half MVP. In the second half, I expect Kershaw to be the Dodgers' best pitcher, but I'm giving out first half MVP's based on what has already happened and it's pretty tough to beat Greinke's 1.39 first half ERA. On top of that, he came into the All-Star break on a 35⅔ inning scoreless streak. The last time he allowed a run was over a month ago on June 13th and 17 of his 18 first half starts were quality starts -- the lone non-quality start for him came at Coors Field. He's been as good as it gets so far.
San Diego Padres (41-49, 10 GB)
The week that was: San Diego wrapped up the first half by taking two of three over the Rangers on the road in Arlington.
Upcoming schedule: As they try to salvage their season, the Padres open up the second half with six home games within the division. Three are against the Rockies and three are against the Giants.
Disabled list: C Tim Federowicz (60-day, knee), RHP Josh Johnson (60-day, Tommy John surgery), LHP Cory Luebke (60-day, Tommy John surgery), RHP Brandon Morrow (60-day, shoulder) OF Wil Myers (15-day, wrist), 3B Cory Spangenberg (15-day, knee)
First half MVP: Tyson Ross
It has not been a fun first half for the Padres and it left them without a clear cut candidate for first half MVP. Ross gets the nod here for his solid 3.34 ERA, 9.63 strikeouts per nine innings, and 12 quality starts. He has walked way too many hitters -- his 4.49 walks per nine innings is the highest number among qualified pitchers -- but that hasn't stopped him from being San Diego's best pitcher so far.
San Francisco Giants (46-43, 4½ GB)
The week that was: The Giants are trying to maintain contact with the Dodgers at the top of the division, and they did their best at that in sweeping three from the Phillies before the All-Star break.
Upcoming schedule: The second half opens up with the Giants on the road. They'll play three games apiece against the Diamondbacks and Padres.
Disabled list: LHP Jeremy Affeldt (15-day, shoulder), OF Nori Aoki (15-day, broken leg), RHP Tim Hudson (15-day, shoulder), RHP Tim Lincecum (15-day, forearm), IF Marco Scutaro (60-day, back)
First half MVP: Buster Posey
Posey continues to be the best player on the Giants and a probable top 10 finisher in the MVP vote with another fantastic first half. In his 341 plate appearances, he put up a .314/.381/.498 slash line with 14 doubles and 14 home runs, good for a 150 wRC+. That paired with his strong defense behind the plate was good enough for 3.7 fWAR in the first half and makes him an invaluable asset going forward for the defending champs.