We know that Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, barring some unforeseen event, will win the American League MVP award this season. But Trout may not even be delivering the most MVP worthy performance in the “city”. Lucky for us, the MVP award is given to one player in each league. The National League MVP for 2014 should be the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
Many around baseball argue that pitchers have their own MVP award: the Cy Young. In most instances position players should win the MVP award and pundits are correct in saying that the Cy Young is the MVP for pitchers. However, in a year like this, with Kershaw having the type of season he’s having, all MVP “rules” go out the window.
Clayton Kershaw is well on his way to collecting his third Cy Young in four years, a feat only Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, and the immortal Sandy Koufax have accomplished since the award was first given in 1956. Kershaw is also leads the majors in ERA and if he can end 2014 with the lowest ERA in baseball he will be the first pitcher EVER to lead the majors in ERA for four consecutive seasons.
We’ve known for awhile that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. But this year has been something extra special. So far this year Kershaw is 14-2 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 163 K’s in 136.1 IP. He also leads in the National League with strikeouts per nine innings (10.8) and least amount of walks per nine innings (1.3). This does not account for his magnificent 41 inning scoreless streak, the fifth longest in MLB history, or that he threw second best game of all-time, and the best no-hitter of all-time according to GameScore, when he no-hit the Colorado Rockies on June 18th.
Yes, Clayton Kershaw is having a season for the ages. But in order to make the case that Kershaw is deserving of the NL MVP award, we have to prove that Kershaw is the MOST VALUABLE player on his team in the league.
The term most valuable is incredibly vague, which is why the debate as to who deserves the award is always hotly contested. Here is what the BBWAA, the group of writers that vote on the award, tells their voters:
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
With that in mind let’s point out that Dodgers are 16-3 this season when Kershaw starts and haven’t lost a game in which he’s pitched since May 28th. Yes, you read that correctly….MAY 28TH! That’s 14 consecutive starts that the Dodgers have won when Kershaw takes the mound. The Dodgers currently have the best record in the National League at 68-52. Without Kershaw on the mound the Dodgers are 52-49. They’re basically a .500 team without Kershaw pitching.
Let’s just say we replace Kershaw with an average pitcher who’s started 19 games this season and his team has gone 10-9 in those games. In this scenario the Dodgers would be 62-58 and 1 game behind the Giants in the NL West standings. Instead, the Dodgers have a 5 game lead in the NL West. That is called value my friends.
It’s not just that Kershaw is the best player in the National League. That’s not really up for debate. He’s probably the best player in baseball along with Trout. But it’s also that there aren’t really any other candidates in the NL that you can make a great case for. Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP, is having another fine year in Pittsburgh, but he’s injured right now and the Pirates may not make the playoffs. Paul Goldschmidt, the runner-up in 2013, was having great season but is out for the year and was playing on one of the worst teams in the National League. Same goes for Troy Tulowitzki, though he may actually return this season, despite being on a team that is 46-72. Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins is having an unbelievable year, but the Marlins aren’t going anywhere. You could make a case for Yasiel Puig, but he’s not even the most valuable player on his own team.
All the signs are pointing towards Kershaw. As they should be. He’s the most valuable player on the best team in the National League. That adds up to three letters…..