Will Clayton Kershaw win another Cy Young Award this year? The odds are against it, considering his record stands at a modest 13-9.
But Kershaw's admittedly-biased catcher, A.J. Ellis, argued on Saturday that his candidacy shouldn't be hurt by the Dodgers' offensive shortcomings.
"It didn't hurt Felix Hernandez a few years ago," Ellis said, pointing to how the Seattle Mariners ace won the award in the American League in 2010 with a 13-12 record.
Kershaw's all-around statistics are barely down from his Cy Young Award season last year.
Through Friday, he led the NL in earned-run average (2.58), as well as walks and hits per innings pitched (1.033). He ranked second in strikeouts (221), innings pitched (2192/3), hits per nine innings (6.842) and shutouts (two).
"The numbers speak for themselves," Ellis said. "It's really hard for starting pitchers to control wins and losses. All you can do is go out there and give your team in the best chance to win the game. I think having the lowest ERA in the National League does that. Our inability to score runs, especially when he pitches, may at the end of the day cost him."
New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is considered the favorite to win the vote of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals and Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds are widely considered the other top candidates.
"I'm not sure he's going to get the same looks because Dickey's a great story this year, and he's got 20 wins," Manager Don Mattingly said. "And that 20 wins is kind of a magic number for a lot of people. But I think it's not hard to argue for him."
Mattingly said that if he had a ballot, he would cast it for his own ace.
"I think he's the best pitcher in baseball," Mattingly said. "You tell me, 'You can have any guy'; I'd take Clayton Kershaw."
In building a case, Mattingly and Ellis talked about the adjustments Kershaw made this year.
"This year, I feel we've used his curveball a lot more," Ellis said. "Last year, his slider was so dominant. He was able to use that at will. He's had to reinvent himself a little bit this year."
That was part of a never-ending cat-and-mouse game between hitters and pitchers, according to Mattingly.
"Last year, they didn't leave his slider alone," Mattingly said. "They just kept swinging at it. Those guys study; those guys work. They go, 'Hey, you can't chase that slider. You have to leave that slider alone.' So, now, all of a sudden, he uses the other side of the plate more. He uses his curveball more. Now, they have to deal with him different."
Cruz is cruising
Like Elian Herrera before him, Luis Cruz was supposed to stop hitting at some point. But Cruz entered Saturday batting .306 after 73 major league games.
"When he first started, I thought that he was going to get exposed at some point," Mattingly said. "But he's shown nothing but being able to handle everything we've given him."
At 28, the late-blooming Cruz has played in more major league games this year than he previously had in his entire career.
"I've seen guys figure it out late," Mattingly said, pointing to players such as Casey Blake and Gary Ward. "Is Louie Cruz one of those guys? Right now, it looks like it."
Cruz is under club control, meaning he will be back with the Dodgers unless they remove him from their 40-man roster.
What has Cruz's performance earned him for next year?
"At very, very least to be talked about being an everyday guy," Mattingly said.