Commentary

Kershaw: "Koufax is a great teacher"

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace talks about his Cy Young season

Updated: December 4, 2011, 1:47 PM ET
By Clayton Kershaw, as told to Molly Knight | ESPN The Magazine

Clayton KershawHarry How/Getty ImagesKershaw led the NL in wins, WHIP, ERA and strikeouts in 2011.

IT ALL CAME TOGETHER for me this year. I commanded the strike zone better and threw off-speed pitches for strikes more consistently.

REGARDLESS OF WINNING THE CY YOUNG, I have one goal that never changes, and that's to win every start. This year, I had 21 wins and five losses in 33 starts. The only time I'll be satisfied is if I go 33-0, so there's room for improvement. My changeup needs to be better. Until I feel comfortable throwing that pitch -- or any pitch -- in any count, I've got stuff to work on.

TWO DAYS BEFORE I'M SCHEDULED TO START, I watch video and prepare for the lineup I think I'm going to face -- see where the hitter stands in the box and study what he tries to do. On a day I start, I have a turkey sandwich for lunch. I don't consider it a ritual, but I'm anxious on those days.

I'VE BEEN FORTUNATE my whole career because I've had great guys to learn from. Greg Maddux and Derek Lowe my first year in 2008, then Wolfie [Randy Wolf], and this year I had Teddy [Lilly]. I try to learn from all the veteran guys.

SANDY KOUFAX is a great teacher. He just talks about competitiveness and being aggressive -- about stride length, power, how to spin the breaking ball. The way he explains pitching is simple, which is something you don't see a lot. A lot of the greats can't explain how they do it. And from the way he conducts himself, you would never know he pitched a day in the big leagues. I admire that.

I WATCH all the pitchers I admire. I love watching Cliff Lee. It looks easy for him when he's on the mound; he's almost like an artist. He knows exactly how to get guys out. And I voted for Roy Halladay for the Players Choice Award. That type of consistency can't be taken for granted.

I'M HAPPY that the Dodgers ownership situation is settled now and that everybody can move on. No disrespect to Mr. McCourt; he always treated me well. But it'll be great not to have to answer questions about it anymore.

I'M A BIG TAYLOR SWIFT FAN. I really like her song "Mean."

MY CHARITY WORK in Zambia puts everything in perspective. A lot of people in this country think money buys happiness, but you see these kids in Africa, and when their basic needs are met, they're the happiest kids ever. Going over there last off-season showed me what's really important. Baseball can get a little glamorous at times, so you've got to be able to come back down to earth.

Molly Knight is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine. She interviewed Kershaw on Nov. 14, 2011. Follow The Mag on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.