Clayton Kershaw Should Win The NL MVP
Ever since Andrew McCutchen went on the DL, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the NL MVP race. With Mike Trout bound to win it in the AL, the National League version is still up for grabs. Injuries to McCutchen and Paul Goldschmidt have boosted names like Jonathan Lucroy and Giancarlo Stanton into the mix. Though all these players have put together good years, there is, in my mind, one clear cut winner. That, my friends, is Clayton Kershaw.
A lot of debate comes up about a pitcher winning the MVP. The fact that a starter only statistically impacts a maximum 34 regular season games plays as a negative in this argument. I’ll concede that if there was a Trout-like player in the National League, we wouldn’t have a need to discuss this topic, but yet, here we are.
To start off, Kershaw is bound to win the NL Cy Young. Sure, Johnny Cueto is having a tremendous year for the Cincinnati Reds, but he is playing for a fourth place team. What Kershaw has done for the LA Dodgers has been beyond critical. Yes, the Dodgers have a great rotation behind Clayton, but without him, they aren’t favorites to represent the NL come October. So it is easy to contend that Kershaw is the best pitcher in the National League, if not the entire league.
Now let’s look at what Kershaw has done this year to shoot him into the MVP talks:
W-L ERA SO WHIP IP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 14-3 1.86 174 0.84 145.1 6.4
Many people I’ve talked with don’t like the idea of Kershaw taking home the gold. In April, he missed quite a few starts because of a bum shoulder, and due to the fact that he is a pitcher, he hasn’t and won’t produce enough to be considered the most valuable player.
According to ZiPS projections, Clayton is on track to pitch in 191 innings, which is respectable. Also, he is on track for 223 strikeouts, putting him in 7th among all pitchers. His WAR will rise a little to 6.8 if he maintains. Considering he missed approximately 7 starts, his stat line is really impressive. Let’s not forget the no-no he threw this season also.
A pitcher hasn’t won the MVP since Justin Verlander in 2011. Since 1970, only two other starters have won the MVP, Roger Clemens in 1986 and Vida Blue in 1971. When you compare Kershaw’s predicted totals with those of past winner’s, it is difficult to distinguish between them. Take a look:
W-L ERA SO WHIP IP WAR
Justin Verlander 24-5 2.40 250 0.920 251 8.4
Roger Clemens 24-4 2.48 238 0.969 254 8.9
Vida Blue 24-8 1.82 301 0.952 312 9.0
With an exception to wins and WAR, Kershaw is playing at the level of these past winners. His ERA and WHIP numbers are lower than these three and strikeouts aren’t far off. With this taken into consideration, there is no reason Kershaw should be omitted from the talks.
What about the best positional players in the NL? On August 1st, I thought there were six true contenders. Three of them have since been sidelined with injuries (Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Troy Tulowitzki). Two have been solid, but haven’t necessarily put up MVP numbers (Jonathan Lucroy, Jason Heyward). The only one left is Giancarlo Stanton. I like what he brings to Miami. However, the Marlins are hovering above .500, so unless they can stay on the north end of that total, he may be overlooked. When a situation comes where no one player has stood out, pitchers have a chance to take it all.
One final argument I’ve heard is the Cy Young is for pitchers, so leave the MVP for everydayers. The positional players have both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. With that being said, the MVP should be open for all players. This year, don’t be shocked to see Kershaw hoisting the NL hardware.
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