Justin Verlander did not capitalize on his chance to win the World Series in his Game 6 start. Clayton Kershaw will likely see the mound at some point in tonight’s Game 7. When the dust settles in Los Angeles, either the Astros or Dodgers will be world champions, meaning either Verlander or Kershaw will remain ringless.
Verlander has a 188-114 record, a 3.46 ERA, and 1.194 WHIP. He’s won the MVP, the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year, and made six All-Star teams. The hard-throwing righthander has tossed two no-hitters and led the American League in strikeouts four times. In the postseason he’s posted a 11-6/3.07/1.015 split. Through it all he’s been a workhorse, a throwback to another era.
Kerhsaw has a 144-64 record, a 2.36 ERA, and 1.002 WHIP. He’s won the Cy Young three times, the MVP once, and made seven All-Star teams. The unhittable lefty has led the National League in ERA five times and in WHIP four times. His postseason demons are well chronicled (7-7/4.50/1.102). Through it all he’s been must-see television and devastated opposing hitters with his command and otherworldly curveball.
These two are currently the best active starting pitchers not to have won a title. Only one will remain after tonight. That pitcher will continue to exist among this select company — the best to have never won a World Series.
In the expansion era, three pitchers have amassed 300 wins without winning the ultimate prize: Don Sutton (324), Phil Niekro (318), and Gaylord Perry (314). Fergie Jenkins (284) and Juan Marichal (243), were similarly brilliant. As was Jim Bunning. All six are in the Hall of Fame.
Verlander and Kershaw easily hold the No. 1 and 2 spots among active players. Felix Hernandez is slightly less accomplished but still stellar. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Corey Kluber are well on their way to joining Hernandez.
Johan Santana is also an intriguing name. Though his career floundered toward the end and was plauged by injuries, he still finished with a 3.20 ERA.
Perhaps what’s striking when looking through the names of those who fell short is how few major stars fit the bill. There are a few reasons for this.
First, a dominant pitcher helps facilitate success. Superior pitching is a recipe for success in October. Secondly, there’s been a bit of a trend over the last few decades in which Hall of Fame starting pitchers have won rings with new teams toward the back end of their careers (Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez).
Kershaw and Verlander will be Hall of Famers barring some sort of career-ending injury. We can set aside the silly narratives about legacy because both will be just fine through the lens of common sense. But both would love to not be a part of this group anymore and to join another fraternity — the one with world championships to their name.