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Last week, I took a look at the best 10-year periods in baseball history by position player WAR. As it relates to the modern game, Mike Trout is on one of the greatest 10-year runs in history, and he’s only been at it for eight seasons. Currently, there isn’t a Mike Trout equivalent on the pitching side, but that shouldn’t be surprising – the only player with a more impressive record than Trout over the last 50 years is Barry Bonds. There just isn’t going to be a Trout-like pitcher in every generation because Trout’s talent and production are so rare. But that doesn’t mean that the last decade of Clayton Kershaw isn’t one of the more impressive performances in baseball history.

Over the last 10 seasons, Clayton Kershaw’s 59.1 WAR is the best in baseball among pitchers, four wins clear of Max Scherzer, who is a win ahead of Justin Verlander. Kershaw was actually slightly better from 2009-2018, with 59.8 WAR, which also led baseball. He’s also first in the 10-year periods beginning in 2008 and 2007 despite not playing in the majors in 2007 and not making his debut until late-May of the 2008 season. Kershaw has ended a season as the 10-year WAR leader four times, and is very likely to do so for a fifth time in 2020, but would need to be a couple wins better than Scherzer over the next two seasons to extend that streak to 2021.

Since 1909, only 30 pitchers have ended a season as the game’s 10-year WAR leader. Only eight have more than Kershaw’s four seasons as 10-year WAR leader and only Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens have more than Kershaw over the last 60 years:

Number of Years as 10-Year WAR Leader

If Kershaw is better than Scherzer over the next three seasons, he’ll end up with the same number as Clemens and Johnson above. It’s more possible than probable, but if Kershaw maintains three-to-four win seasons, Scherzer does turn 36 in July and would need to keep things going past his 38th birthday. Here’s what the top-three has looked like over the last 10 years:

10-Year WAR Pitching Leaders Since 2010

Yr End 1st WAR 2nd WAR 3rd WAR
2019 Clayton Kershaw 59 Max Scherzer 55 Justin Verlander 54
2018 Clayton Kershaw 60 Justin Verlander 56 Max Scherzer 51
2017 Clayton Kershaw 58 Justin Verlander 52 Zack Greinke 46
2016 Clayton Kershaw 54 Justin Verlander 52 Félix Hernández 48
2015 Félix Hernández 50 Justin Verlander 49 Clayton Kershaw 47
2014 Félix Hernández 50 Cliff Lee 46 Justin Verlander 46
2013 CC Sabathia 49 Roy Halladay 47 Cliff Lee 46
2012 Roy Halladay 55 CC Sabathia 50 Johan Santana 42
2011 Roy Halladay 59 CC Sabathia 49 Roy Oswalt 47
2010 Roy Halladay 54 Roy Oswalt 48 CC Sabathia 46

Kershaw’s 2009-2018 seasons are the best 10-year runs since the beginning of the 2001 season. They don’t rank as highly over the couple of decades prior, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux all put up careers that might be considered the best in history. Kershaw’s run ranks 69th overall. Here are the top 10-year runs since the beginning of the 1900 season:

Best 10-Year Pitching WAR Since 1900

1st Yr Start Yr End WAR
Walter Johnson 1910 1919 78.2
Randy Johnson 1993 2002 75.5
Randy Johnson 1995 2004 75.3
Walter Johnson 1909 1918 74.9
Walter Johnson 1908 1917 73.0
Greg Maddux 1992 2001 72.3
Greg Maddux 1991 2000 71.9
Pedro Martinez 1996 2005 71.7
Randy Johnson 1997 2006 71.5
Walter Johnson 1911 1920 71.3
Randy Johnson 1994 2003 70.9
Randy Johnson 1992 2001 70.8
Christy Mathewson 1903 1912 70.3

Even Roger Clemens wasn’t good enough to crack this list. Clemens did, however, have a bunch of runs that fall just a bit short of that mark. There are only 116 stretches of at least 55 WAR over a 10-year period, and they were completed by just 24 pitchers:

Pitchers with 55 WAR over 10 Years

Player 55-WAR Decade 60-WAR Decade 65-WAR Decade 70-WAR Decade High
Walter Johnson 10 7 6 4 78.2
Randy Johnson 10 9 7 5 75.5
Greg Maddux 10 8 6 2 72.3
Pedro Martinez 7 6 4 1 71.7
Christy Mathewson 8 5 4 1 70.3
Tom Seaver 6 4 2 0 66.5
Roger Clemens 13 7 2 0 66.3
Bob Gibson 5 5 0 0 64.6
Cy Young 2 2 0 0 64.5
Pete Alexander 5 3 0 0 63.6
Lefty Grove 6 4 0 0 62.9
Bert Blyleven 4 2 0 0 62.8
Gaylord Perry 8 3 0 0 62.4
Fergie Jenkins 5 1 0 0 61.3
Curt Schilling 3 1 0 0 60.4
Clayton Kershaw 3 0 0 0 59.8
Roy Halladay 1 0 0 0 58.9
Kevin Brown 2 0 0 0 58.6
Rube Waddell 1 0 0 0 58.6
Dazzy Vance 2 0 0 0 56.2
Justin Verlander 1 0 0 0 55.8
Steve Carlton 2 0 0 0 55.8
Hal Newhouser 1 0 0 0 55.5
Max Scherzer 1 0 0 0 55.0

Kershaw needs just half a win this season to get to four 55-WAR decades, though he’ll need eight wins over the next two seasons to get to five such decades. Here are the best decades since the start of 1991 (the period ending in 2000):

Pitchers with 55 WAR over 10 Years Since 2000

Pitcher Yr Start Yr End WAR
Randy Johnson 1993 2002 76
Randy Johnson 1995 2004 75
Greg Maddux 1992 2001 72
Greg Maddux 1991 2000 72
Pedro Martinez 1996 2005 72
Randy Johnson 1997 2006 72
Randy Johnson 1994 2003 71
Randy Johnson 1992 2001 71
Randy Johnson 1996 2005 70
Greg Maddux 1993 2002 69
Pedro Martinez 1997 2006 69
Pedro Martinez 1995 2004 69
Pedro Martinez 1994 2003 67
Randy Johnson 1998 2007 66
Greg Maddux 1994 2003 65
Randy Johnson 1991 2000 63
Randy Johnson 1999 2008 62
Pedro Martinez 1998 2007 62
Pedro Martinez 1993 2002 61
Greg Maddux 1995 2004 61
Curt Schilling 1995 2004 60
Clayton Kershaw 2009 2018 60
Curt Schilling 1996 2005 59
Clayton Kershaw 2010 2019 59
Roy Halladay 2002 2011 59
Roger Clemens 1991 2000 59
Roger Clemens 1996 2005 59
Kevin Brown 1992 2001 59
Curt Schilling 1997 2006 58
Clayton Kershaw 2008 2017 58
Kevin Brown 1991 2000 57
Pedro Martinez 1999 2008 56
Roger Clemens 1992 2001 56
Greg Maddux 1996 2005 56
Justin Verlander 2009 2018 56
Roger Clemens 1997 2006 55
Roger Clemens 1995 2004 55
Max Scherzer 2010 2019 55

It’s possible Kershaw’s greatness has been overshadowed by a couple merely above-average seasons. It’s also possible that Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Greg Maddux raised the bar a little too high in terms of what greatness is supposed to look like. In any event, Kershaw’s last 10 years are among the best in baseball history.

Here are the top-three 10-year WARs for pitchers for every year going back to 1909. (After posting the Trout piece, I was made aware of Micheal Stubel’s efforts who has a spreadsheet listing the top-five for every year separated by pitchers and position players if you want even more information.):

10-Year Pitching WAR Leaders from 1909 to 2019

Yr End 1st WAR 2nd WAR 3rd WAR
2019 Clayton Kershaw 59 Max Scherzer 55 Justin Verlander 54
2018 Clayton Kershaw 60 Justin Verlander 56 Max Scherzer 51
2017 Clayton Kershaw 58 Justin Verlander 52 Zack Greinke 46
2016 Clayton Kershaw 54 Justin Verlander 52 Félix Hernández 48
2015 Félix Hernández 50 Justin Verlander 49 Clayton Kershaw 47
2014 Félix Hernández 50 Cliff Lee 46 Justin Verlander 46
2013 CC Sabathia 49 Roy Halladay 47 Cliff Lee 46
2012 Roy Halladay 55 CC Sabathia 50 Johan Santana 42
2011 Roy Halladay 59 CC Sabathia 49 Roy Oswalt 47
2010 Roy Halladay 54 Roy Oswalt 48 CC Sabathia 46
2009 Randy Johnson 53 Roy Halladay 48 Javier Vazquez 48
2008 Randy Johnson 62 Pedro Martinez 56 Mike Mussina 47
2007 Randy Johnson 66 Pedro Martinez 62 Curt Schilling 53
2006 Randy Johnson 72 Pedro Martinez 69 Curt Schilling 58
2005 Pedro Martinez 72 Randy Johnson 70 Curt Schilling 59
2004 Randy Johnson 75 Pedro Martinez 69 Greg Maddux 61
2003 Randy Johnson 71 Pedro Martinez 67 Greg Maddux 65
2002 Randy Johnson 76 Greg Maddux 69 Pedro Martinez 61
2001 Greg Maddux 72 Randy Johnson 71 Kevin Brown 59
2000 Greg Maddux 72 Randy Johnson 63 Roger Clemens 59
1999 Greg Maddux 70 Roger Clemens 63 Randy Johnson 55
1998 Greg Maddux 68 Roger Clemens 65 Kevin Brown 49
1997 Roger Clemens 66 Greg Maddux 64 David Cone 45
1996 Roger Clemens 64 Greg Maddux 58 Mark Langston 41
1995 Roger Clemens 64 Greg Maddux 50 Mark Langston 43
1994 Roger Clemens 64 Bret Saberhagen 46 Dwight Gooden 44
1993 Roger Clemens 64 Dwight Gooden 52 Nolan Ryan 43
1992 Roger Clemens 60 Dwight Gooden 49 Nolan Ryan 45
1991 Roger Clemens 52 Nolan Ryan 45 Dwight Gooden 45
1990 Nolan Ryan 44 Roger Clemens 44 Dwight Gooden 41
1989 Nolan Ryan 44 Bert Blyleven 38 Jack Morris 37
1988 Nolan Ryan 42 Jack Morris 39 Steve Carlton 38
1987 Nolan Ryan 43 Ron Guidry 43 Steve Carlton 42
1986 Steve Carlton 47 Ron Guidry 46 Nolan Ryan 44
1985 Steve Carlton 51 Nolan Ryan 46 Bert Blyleven 44
1984 Steve Carlton 55 Nolan Ryan 44 Bert Blyleven 43
1983 Steve Carlton 56 Bert Blyleven 47 Steve Rogers 47
1982 Bert Blyleven 54 Steve Carlton 53 Nolan Ryan 52
1981 Bert Blyleven 59 Steve Carlton 56 Gaylord Perry 54
1980 Bert Blyleven 63 Tom Seaver 57 Gaylord Perry 56
1979 Tom Seaver 65 Bert Blyleven 63 Gaylord Perry 59
1978 Tom Seaver 65 Gaylord Perry 60 Bert Blyleven 59
1977 Tom Seaver 67 Gaylord Perry 60 Fergie Jenkins 59
1976 Tom Seaver 64 Fergie Jenkins 61 Gaylord Perry 60
1975 Gaylord Perry 62 Fergie Jenkins 59 Tom Seaver 57
1974 Bob Gibson 60 Gaylord Perry 58 Fergie Jenkins 57
1973 Bob Gibson 65 Gaylord Perry 55 Mickey Lolich 50
1972 Bob Gibson 65 Juan Marichal 52 Gaylord Perry 49
1971 Bob Gibson 64 Juan Marichal 52 Sam McDowell 46
1970 Bob Gibson 63 Juan Marichal 51 Jim Bunning 49
1969 Bob Gibson 54 Jim Bunning 51 Juan Marichal 49
1968 Jim Bunning 51 Sandy Koufax 51 Don Drysdale 50
1967 Jim Bunning 54 Sandy Koufax 52 Don Drysdale 50
1966 Sandy Koufax 54 Jim Bunning 51 Don Drysdale 51
1965 Bob Friend 48 Don Drysdale 48 Sandy Koufax 45
1964 Bob Friend 50 Don Drysdale 45 Camilio Pascual 44
1963 Bob Friend 48 Camilio Pascual 40 Whitey Ford 39
1962 Bob Friend 44 Robin Roberts 42 Warren Spahn 39
1961 Robin Roberts 45 Billy Pierce 41 Warren Spahn 41
1960 Robin Roberts 51 Warren Spahn 43 Billy Pierce 43
1959 Robin Roberts 54 Warren Spahn 46 Billy Pierce 44
1958 Robin Roberts 53 Warren Spahn 46 Billy Pierce 43
1957 Robin Roberts 51 Warren Spahn 46 Billy Pierce 40
1956 Warren Spahn 49 Robin Roberts 49 Bob Rush 36
1955 Warren Spahn 47 Robin Roberts 45 Hal Newhouser 35
1954 Warren Spahn 44 Hal Newhouser 43 Robin Roberts 40
1953 Hal Newhouser 50 Warren Spahn 40 Dizzy Trout 34
1952 Hal Newhouser 54 Dizzy Trout 38 Harry Breechen 34
1951 Hal Newhouser 55 Dizzy Trout 38 Harry Breechen 33
1950 Hal Newhouser 56 Dizzy Trout 38 Dutch Leonard 35
1949 Hal Newhouser 55 Dutch Leonard 40 Bob Feller 36
1948 Hal Newhouser 49 Bob Feller 40 Dutch Leonard 39
1947 Hal Newhouser 42 Bobo Newsom 42 Bob Feller 40
1946 Claude Passeau 43 Bobo Newsom 42 Bob Feller 39
1945 Claude Passeau 45 Bobo Newsom 42 Paul Derringer 41
1944 Bobo Newsom 42 Paul Derringer 42 Claude Passeau 40
1943 Paul Derringer 45 Bobo Newsom 41 Tommy Bridges 41
1942 Paul Derringer 46 Tommy Bridges 40 Bobo Newsom 39
1941 Lefty Grove 46 Paul Derringer 46 Dizzy Dean 41
1940 Lefty Grove 51 Paul Derringer 47 Carl Hubbell 42
1939 Lefty Grove 58 Carl Hubbell 45 Paul Derringer 41
1938 Lefty Grove 61 Carl Hubbell 46 Dizzy Dean 39
1937 Lefty Grove 63 Carl Hubbell 45 Wes Ferrell 38
1936 Lefty Grove 62 Carl Hubbell 41 Wes Ferrell 36
1935 Lefty Grove 62 Dazzy Vance 37 Carl Hubbell 35
1934 Lefty Grove 56 Dazzy Vance 44 Earl Whitehall 32
1933 Lefty Grove 54 Dazzy Vance 52 Earl Whitehall 31
1932 Dazzy Vance 55 Lefty Grove 50 George Uhle 36
1931 Dazzy Vance 56 Lefty Grove 42 George Uhle 39
1930 Dazzy Vance 52 George Uhle 39 Eppa Rixey 38
1929 Dazzy Vance 46 Eppa Rixey 42 Pete Alexander 40
1928 Pete Alexander 43 Dazzy Vance 41 Eppa Rixey 41
1927 Stan Covelski 43 Walter Johnson 42 Pete Alexander 40
1926 Stan Covelski 48 Walter Johnson 47 Pete Alexander 45
1925 Walter Johnson 52 Pete Alexander 49 Stan Covelski 47
1924 Walter Johnson 57 Pete Alexander 55 Stan Covelski 44
1923 Pete Alexander 60 Walter Johnson 59 Stan Covelski 40
1922 Walter Johnson 64 Pete Alexander 60 Eddie Cicotte 37
1921 Walter Johnson 70 Pete Alexander 61 Eddie Cicotte 39
1920 Walter Johnson 71 Pete Alexander 64 Eddie Cicotte 42
1919 Walter Johnson 78 Pete Alexander 57 Eddie Cicotte 39
1918 Walter Johnson 75 Pete Alexander 52 Christy Mathewson 38
1917 Walter Johnson 73 Pete Alexander 51 Christy Mathewson 49
1916 Walter Johnson 68 Christy Mathewson 56 Ed Walsh 42
1915 Walter Johnson 60 Christy Mathewson 59 Ed Walsh 47
1914 Christy Mathewson 65 Walter Johnson 51 Ed Walsh 48
1913 Christy Mathewson 68 Ed Walsh 49 Walter Johnson 44
1912 Christy Mathewson 70 Ed Walsh 48 Cy Young 47
1911 Christy Mathewson 68 Cy Young 55 Rube Waddell 51
1910 Christy Mathewson 67 Cy Young 61 Rube Waddell 55
1909 Cy Young 65 Christy Mathewson 59 Rube Waddell 59





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