The drama-soaked Los Angeles Dodgers must think it to themselves every day: thanks for boring Clayton Kershaw. Meant in the best way possible, of course.
No pitcher in baseball has been as dependably excellent as the team's left-handed ace since, oh, before 1920.
The team's publicity department prints a note every time Kershaw pitches, citing the fact that the 25-year-old Texan has the lowest career earned-run average (2.68) of any pitcher who has started at least 100 games and pitched 1,000 innings in the last 93 years. Better than Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (2.75), Sandy Koufax (2.76) or anybody.
Of course, Kershaw presumably has another 10 years or more to improve upon, or lose, that distinction. For now, the Dodgers simply count their lucky stars.
The team has been a geyser of theatre this season, from their terrible start to their sizzling last 20 games, which has pulled them into the play-off chase.
LA have seen the prolonged slump of star Matt Kemp and the rise of a new phenomenon, Yasiel Puig.
Never-ending injuries and rumours that manager Don Mattingly would be fired spiced the first half.
Kershaw? He goes into the All-Star break as the only regular starter in either league with an ERA under 2, at 1.98. His record of 8-6 would be significantly better if the Dodgers used their regular bats when he pitched, instead of rolled-up newspapers. Kershaw gets less support (3.15 runs per game) than Adam Sandler on an Oscar nomination ballot. He has allowed one or zero runs in 11 of 20 starts, and as many as four runs only twice.
Even his losses are gems, like the seven innings (three runs, 10 strikeouts) he spun in a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies last week.
"Typical Clayton," Mattingly said. "He gave us a chance to win all night long."
It is why the Dodgers are quietly trying to sign him to a long-term contract, which could make him the first US$200 million (Dh734.4m) pitcher, surpassing Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and his seven-year, $180m deal. Otherwise, Kershaw will be a free agent after 2014.
Asked about Kershaw earlier this year, San Diego Padres manager Bud Black said he has watched the six-year veteran "grow before our eyes, every year".
Black cited the lefty's increased assortment of pitches "mixed with an outstanding command and a deceptive delivery. There's also a competitiveness that we can see…that makes him who he is."
Who he is? Someone asked third-time All-Star Kershaw about his stellar first half and his personal expectations. He answered each question with a variation on the same theme.
"Just win games," he said. "That's all we're trying to do."
Boring, maybe, but a virtue nonetheless.
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