With about a month left to go in the season, the NL Cy Young looks like Clayton Kershaw’s to lose, but in addition to that, he may bring home some more hardware as the possible 2013 NL MVP.
Clayton Kershaw pitching against the Miami Marlins (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
The 25-year-old lefty for the Los Angeles Dodgers is having a season to remember. Ignore his 13-7 record. What you get in 198.1 innings pitched this season is a staggering 207 ERA+ and 0.857 WHIP. It’s hard to imagine a better pitcher on the planet at the moment. He hasn’t always gotten run support this season, but when he has, the Dodgers have cruised.
Yet it’s the age old debate on whether pitchers should be considered for MVP awards or not. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won the AL MVP in 2011. Critics will say he won because of his 24-5 record. His ERA+ of 172 and 0.920 WHIP are both currently surpassed by Kershaw. However, Verlander did have a WHIP of 8.4 in 2011. So far Kershaw’s is 7.1.
Keep in mind the last time any pitcher had won an MVP in either league was Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley for the Oakland A’s in 1992. The last time a starting pitcher claimed the award was Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox in 1986. If Kershaw claims the MVP, he would be the first NL pitcher since Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968.
Gibson’s MVP season was historic, revolutionary, even. They lowered the mound for pitchers after how good he was. Kershaw is putting his name in the history books with everything he is doing this season himself.
People are going to argue that pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP because they only play every five days and that takes away from a position player. That shouldn’t mean anything, though. One could very well make a case that, in addition to his ridiculous numbers, Kershaw has been more valuable to the Dodgers than any player has been to any team.
Brian Kenny of MLB Network is a critic of wins and losses and with good reason. We see pitchers pitch their heart out but their record washes out everything they did on a given day at the mound. If critics complained Verlander got the MVP because of his 24-5 record, just imagine the uproar if Kershaw got the MVP with his record being good, but nothing special.
We must remember that pitchers are players too, and they are not, and should not, be ineligible to win the MVP award. Despite the Dodgers running away with things in the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks are not completely dead, at least not as far as the wild card is concerned. They may point to Paul Goldschmidt’s 157 OPS+ and if triple crown stats still mean anything, him leading the NL in home runs (31) and RBI (101).
Cardinal fans would say Yadier Molina is a good candidate for MVP and despite playing in 107 games this season, qualifies for the batting title and having an outstanding season behind the plate.
At 76-54, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an identical record and share first place with the Cincinnati Reds. Andrew McCutchen finished in 3rd place in NL MVP voting last year and he has a case to claim the hardware this year.
It’s a very complicated process. At this point, Kershaw is almost certainly going to win the Cy Young, maybe even unanimously but the MVP won’t come that easy. He has a really good case for the latter award and should not be dismissed from the conversation based on the position he plays.
That said, there are those from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who most likely are going to dismiss Kershaw for that very reason. Whether he wins it or not, critics alike are going to put in their two cents.
In any event though, let the debate begin!