Contract Forecast: Clayton Kershaw
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Contract Forecast: Clayton Kershaw

With a contract set to expire after the 2013 season, Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw is clearly the next major extension forthcoming in MLB. Just 25 years old, and with an impressive resume built up through 5 years of big league ball, Kershaw is not only set to receive a maximum deal - but some think the biggest deal for a pitcher in major league history. The timing of his expiring contract is also in his favor, with recent large deals for colleagues Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and Cole Hamels to be used as a foundation to negotiate from.

Our premium team analyzes these recent signings along with a few more pitchers as "variables" in comparing financially and statistically just how Kershaw holds up - in order to forecast the terms of what his new deal could be.

Quick Points
  • In 2011 Kershaw led the league in ERA, Strikeouts, WHIP, and Wins.
  • At barely 25, Kershaw will be the 2nd youngest player to receive a $100M+ contract (Pujols, 24)
  • With this prediction, the Dodgers are slated to spend $91M+ on Starting Pitching in 2014.
Comparable Starting Pitchers
Kershaw just turned 25 so we'll assume that number for our evaluation purposes. We've located four pitchers who signed deals around this age, all with top contracts and statistical value in recent seasons. To determine a more likely starting point for our Kershaw numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract breakdown listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Felix Hernandez 7 $175 million $25,000,000 26
C.C. Sabathia 9 $212 million $23,587,302 28
Justin Verlander 8 $202 million $25,250,000 29
Cole Hamels 6 $144 million $24,000,000 28
Averages, 7.5 $183,321,428 $24,459,325 27.75

Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.

View the list of Top Average Paid Starting Pitchers in MLB

Because all of these variable pitchers were older than Kershaw at the time of their signings, we'll bring the above contracts down to his age by subtracting from the overall years to make each variable player 25 years old. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
8 $195,417,333 $24,427,167
Statistical Analyzations, Prime Percentage
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the two years prior to signing their second contract by showing Starts, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning), and Wins. While wins is a bit of an arbitrary stat (as it relies on a team performance), it's important to note the pitcher's value in this manner.
Player Starts Innings Strikeouts ERA WHIP Wins
Felix Hernandez (2011-12, SEA) 33 232.5 222.5 3.265 1.181 13.5
C.C. Sabathia (2007-08, MIL) 34.5 247 230 2.96 1.128 18
Justin Verlander (2011-12, DET) 33.5 244.6 244.5 2.52 0.988 20.5
Cole Hamels (2011-12, PHI) 31 215.5 205 2.92 1.055 15.5
Averages 33 234.9 225.5 2.91 1.088 16.875
Clayton Kershaw (2011-12, LAD) 33 230.15 238.5 2.405 1.00 17.5
% Difference 0% -2.02% 5.76% 17.53% 8.09% 3.70%
Overall Prime % 5.51%
Our results show what many of the experts are already noting; Kershaw is right on par if not a step above these elite pitchers in almost all major starting pitching categories. His slight dip in Innings Pitched is nothing more than the Dodgers being careful to preserve their young ace.

We'll factor his Prime Percentage of 5.51%, into our previously determined base value.
Results

Length of the Contract
At 25 and with minimal to no durability issues, Kershaw is looking at a maximum contract from someone in 2013. Our averages output 7.5 years, so we'll round it up to 8.

Value of the Contract
Our initial age-adjusted regression provided an average annual salary close to $24.5M, a figure that would place him 4th highest among active starting pitchers. By factoring in our 5.51% Prime Percentage figure to our original base value we're able to increase the terms to the following forecast:

Spotrac's Prediction: 8 years, $206,184,828

  •  Average annual salary: $25,773,104

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