Los Angeles Dodgers aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke have teamed up to produce one of the best starting pitching duos in recent history over the past few years. As similar as the two are in their work ethic, poise, and many other facets that make them elite pitchers, there is one area in which they couldn't be more dissimilar.
In the year following Kershaw's MVP and Cy Young Award season, Greinke has done his best to dethrone Kershaw, a blueprint that he laid on the table in spring training.
"I'll tell you what, if I throw like that this year, Kersh better watch out," Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who is out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, recalled Greinke saying in spring training.
That declaration has become prophesy, as Greinke has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers' No. 1 for the year. Not that Kershaw isn't far behind, though, as he has dominated as usual this season despite a rocky start.
The healthy competition between the two has made them dominate the stat boards.
Kershaw leads MLB in strikeouts (212); Greinke leads MLB in ERA (1.58) by a wide margin and in the slash-line trifecta of opponent batting average (.193), on-base percentage (.236), and slugging percentage (.271); Kershaw leads the NL in strikeouts per nine innings (11.29) and ranks second in MLB in strikeout to walk ratio (6.63).
As similar as they are in their on-field success, they take quite divergent paths to get there.
While Kershaw is known to follow a strict routine down to the minute on the days on which he pitches, Greinke hardly adheres to a routine and relies on instinct to determine his pre-game ritual.
"He describes his routine as being based on feel," McCarthy writes in a guest column for ESPN.com. "Some days that means he needs to do eight sets of squats. Other days it means using a foam roller for an hour in a far corner of the weight room while reading a magazine. He disappears for hours at a time. He wanders around carrying a plate of food as if he's at an outdoor cocktail party.
"He'll watch video when a certain player happens to be on his mind. A 'routine' like this is usually a major red flag about a player. The best players in the game typically are known to live and die by their routines, but nobody knows what Zack needs better than Zack, so his anti-routine is never called into question."
Adding that anecdote into the cauldron further solidifies the notion that Kershaw and Greinke are the ultimate yin and yang.
Lefty vs. righty; jerky motion vs. slow, calm motion; regimented vs. instinctual.
Opposite, yet completely complementary forces.