Is Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Clayton Kershaw the Modern-Day Version of Boston Red Sox Legend Pedro Martinez?

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Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Photo by Ron Reiring.

COMMENTARY | Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Clayton Kershaw has consistently been the best starter, or one of the top three starters, in nearly every season since coming to the big leagues.

His current career ERA of 2.63 is second-lowest of all active pitchers (Mariano Rivera at 2.21 is the lowest) and the lowest of any active starting pitcher. Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez, the only other starting pitchers who come close to Kershaw statistically, have career ERAs a full half-run higher, at 3.12 and 3.19, respectively.

Kershaw's dominance on the mound over his still-young career has been matched by few other pitchers in history. If Kershaw continues this run, he will be placed on the same pedestal as Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens.

But what about the true legends of the game like Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, and Tom Seaver? Is Kershaw really on that level?

The only fair comparison in modern history is Boston Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez, by far the best pitcher of his generation. So how does Kershaw match up with Martinez?

Over Martinez's prime of his career, from 1997-2003, he produced an astounding winning percentage of 76.6, going 118-36 and including a record of 17-8 playing for the hapless Montreal Expos in 1997. Martinez also managed to throw 11 shutouts, put up an ERA of 2.20, a WHIP of 0.94 and a strikeouts per nine innings average of 11.3.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Pedro Martinez's resume, though, is how dominant he was relative to other pitchers in the "steroid era." For instance, during his epic 1999 campaign, one in which he captured his second of three Cy Young Awards, Martinez's ERA of 2.07 was more than a run better than the next closest pitcher in the American League, the Yankees' David Cone, who produced an ERA of 3.44.

As impressive as his season in 1999 was, however, Pedro's numbers in 2000 were absolutely mind-blowing. On an underperforming Boston Red Sox club, Martinez finished the year with an 18-6 record, an ERA of 1.74, 4 shutouts, 284 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.73, leading the American League in every one of those categories, with wins being the only exception.

Incredibly, Boston rival Roger Clemens finished with an ERA of 3.70, good enough for second-best mark in the American League despite being nearly two runs lower than Martinez's ERA. This kind of dominance is simply unmatched by anyone in the modern era, including Kershaw.

Kershaw's career numbers since 2009, his first great season, include a 70-41 record, an ERA of 2.46, an average of 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and a WHIP of 1.05. As good as that stat line is, all of those totals fall short of Martinez's high degree of success when he was in his prime.

Kershaw has also been able to take advantage of playing in an era where no one is hitting 73 home runs, like the steroid-induced Barry Bonds did in 2001, and the fact that the National League West is much less competitive than the American League East was at the height of the Yankees' empire at the end of the 1990s into the early-2000s. Fenway Park is also a much more difficult stadium to pitch in compared to Dodger Stadium, which explains why Martinez's numbers in some of his best seasons were better on the road than at home. Kershaw, on the other hand, has traditionally pitched much better at home.

Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher of the last five seasons but as the numbers prove, he is not anywhere near the level of Pedro Martinez -- a testament to just how amazingly good the 5-foot-11-inch pitcher from the Dominican Republic was during the prime of his illustrious career.

Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy.

Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.

Statistics provided by Baseball-reference.com and MLB.com.

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