Left in: Southpaws shine in dominant fashion

From award winners to up-and-comers to crafty vets, there's no shortage of lefty talent

Left in: Southpaws shine in dominant fashion

How about those loopy southpaws, huh? They make up roughly one-third of the Major League mound workforce and have this timeworn reputation for being a little bit different, but those crafty lefties are taking command of the spotlight in recent years -- sweeping awards, making World Series history and even going back-to-back into Cooperstown.

If we're living in a golden age for pitching, which the trending numbers continue to say we are, then left-handers are doing more than their share to make the mound glisten with historic brilliance. It's an arms trend that has some legs, too: Tom Glavine a year ago and Randy Johnson this year gained election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the first southpaws to do so via the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot since Steve Carlton in 1994, two very different portsiders paving the way to a new generation of dominance from the left.

With 2015 looming as another possible Year of the Lefty, here's a look at some of the top pitchers who bring it from the left side in the game today:

Top left
The conversation begins and ends with Clayton Kershaw, simply the best pitcher going right now, and he's got a long road ahead in his career at the tender age of 27 as of March. He is defending both the National League Cy Young Award and the NL Most Valuable Player Award, echoing the accomplishment of another famous Dodgers lefty: Sandy Koufax. That's heady territory, but Kershaw's career is off to the type of start that could put him alongside Glavine and Johnson -- and Koufax -- if he can stay on this tremendous track.

Madison Bumgarner isn't too far behind his NL West rival on an individual level at age 25, but he's exactly three World Series titles ahead of Kershaw on a team level with the Giants. What Bumgarner did in October with his 52 2/3 innings of masterful work, including those historic last five frames to clinch it all in Kansas City, elevated him to among the very best.

Miller on Bumgarner's postseason

Sure, Max Scherzer can give you 210 million reasons why having a gifted right arm is a good thing, but don't forget lefty Jon Lester was the first big winner in this offseason's free-agent sweepstakes, signing on with the Cubs for $155 million. Then David Price set an arbitration record with his one-year, $19.75 million deal with the Tigers, another lefty cashing in big. There's a reason for their big paydays: They both have been absolute workhorses at a high level of performance for several years now. They're among the best pitchers in the game, period.

Next left
Atop the cadre of pitchers on the cusp of stardom: Chris Sale. Actually, what the 6-foot-6 White Sox ace has done the last three years has him right there with the best of the best. In 2014, Sale's 2.17 ERA was only .03 behind Felix Hernandez for the American League lead, and his ratios on walks, hits and strikeouts all stood out among the very best in the Majors. He is the next big thing, and he figures to be front and center as the White Sox look to take things to the next level in 2015, leading a rotation that includes another top-flight lefty in Jose Quintana.

Sale's 200th strikeout

Somewhat lost in the glare of Kershaw's brilliance, Hyun-Jin Ryu has been everything that was advertised when he came to the Majors directly from Korea. With two 14-win seasons with the Dodgers under his belt and at age 27 in March a lot of mileage left, the Dodgers have quite the pair of portsiders going forward.

Also making a big impression: The Astros' Dallas Keuchel, who led the AL with five complete games and had 21 quality starts last year, as another big lefty who established himself in the bigs with a breakout season in 2014. Count the Braves' Alex Wood and the Orioles' Wei-Yin Chen among the lefties who are coming onto the scene as top performers.

Long and left
Among a number of veterans who have shown their wares for years from the left side, Cole Hamels has had his name circulating all offseason as a trade possibility. At 31, he's an intriguing potential acquisition, but he remains with the Phillies, alongside another top-flight veteran lefty in Cliff Lee. More germane to the trend of southpaw strength, Hamels' 2.46 ERA last year was a career low.

Hamels' eight strong innings

Also coming from the left with a long resume, Mark Buehrle has remained one of the most consistent mound performers in the game, earning his fifth All-Star nod last year with the Jays. CC Sabathia is another top-flight performer with a contract to show for it, but now he's hoping to get past injury woes that have derailed what was a strong start to his Yankees career. Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals has put together several strong campaigns, and others such as Scott Kazmir of the A's, Jason Vargas of the Royals, C.J. Wilson of the Angels and Francisco Liriano of the Pirates also can be counted among the top veteran lefties, each having his ups and downs along the way.

Left late
The Reds' Aroldis Chapman brings triple-digit heat from the left side in the ninth, becoming one of the most feared closers in the game. But he's not the only one who has shown late-innings portside prowess, as the Twins' Glen Perkins and the Orioles' Zach Britton both had ninth-inning success in 2014, as did Sean Doolittle of the A's and Jake McGee of the Rays. Setup man Andrew Miller earned the biggest payday among left-handed relievers this offseason by signing with the Yankees.

Outlook: Chapman, RP, CIN

And how about what veteran Jeremy Affeldt has done as a member of the three-in-five World Series champion Giants? The last two runs to the title, he has pitched a combined 22 scoreless innings, including 2 1/3 one-hit frames to set up the lefty performance of the year from Bumgarner.

Bumgarner, Kershaw and perhaps a few others truly have a chance to carry the standard for left-handed prowess into 2015 and beyond, but they're not alone on the port side. There is plenty of talent to go around from the left side of the mound these days.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.