Clayton Kershaw Warrants MVP Consideration
The most valuable player debate in each league tends to pick up around this time of the year. Who deserves the award? Which player has made the biggest impact for his team’s success and why? There are many players who deserve the award in the National League: Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, St. Louis’ Yadier Molina and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt. But there is one player who ranks above them.
Clayton Kershaw should be the unanimous Cy-Young award winner in the National League in 2013. However, he should also be considered for the M.V.P. The debate rages on whether or not starting pitchers should be eligible for the award? Yes they should. It’s a similar question if relievers, particularly closers, should be in contention for the Cy-Young? Absolutely they should.
Kershaw is the anchor of a Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation that ranks third in the National League (3.29). Only the Atlanta Braves (3.21) and Pittsburgh Pirates (3.28) are ranked higher. The southpaw’s dominance over the past three years is evident to how important he is for the organization. He’s having an incredible 2013 season, arguably better than Justin Verlander’s 2011 campaign in which he won the American League Cy-Young and M.V.P.
He’s sporting a 1.94 ERA, nearly a half-run better than Verlander’s 2011 M.V.P. season. He will likely have one or two more starts before the end of September. He currently tops the N.L. in strikeouts and innings pitched with 214 in 223 frames. Verlander finished with 250 punch-outs in 251 innings back in ‘11.
A category Kershaw will not eclipse Verlander in from his M.V.P. 2011 season is the wins. The 25-year-old has 14 victories in large part due to a lack of run support early in the year. The bad luck is evident as the Dodgers scored two runs or less in 16 of his 31 starts. In those 16 starts, Kershaw has won four of them, posting a stellar 2.03 ERA.
When he has received run support he hasn’t disappointed. When the Dodgers score at least three runs or more in a game, Kershaw is 10-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 15 starts. He is the epitome of consistency and gets the job done no matter the circumstances. Considering over half of his starts he’s been given two runs or less of support, the 14 wins shouldn’t deter him from MVP consideration.
The Wins Above Replacement stat (WAR) is becoming a commonly-used statistic throughout the league. WAR measures the amount of wins an individual player has added to his club during the season. Kershaw leads the majors with a 7.1 WAR. In comparison, Verlander finished with the best in the A.L. (8.3) in 2011.
Every great team is led by its starting rotation. The five National League teams who are projected to be in the postseason have the top five ERAs. Even the Washington Nationals, who are clawing back into the race with their recent hot stretch, are sixth. Pitching is the key for success with any organization. Kershaw is the best in all of baseball and is playing for one of the best teams.
The Dodgers struggled the first part of the season, winning only 23 games in the first two months. But things turned around for them in a huge way. Entering Wednesday, their magic number to clinch the N.L. West is one. They will be in the playoffs with their talented core which includes Kershaw.
Entering Wednesday, the St. Louis Cardinals would face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the N.L.D.S. As of now they are the lucky team who gets to face Kershaw, who could be the fifth pitcher since 1994 to finish with an ERA under two, and the fifth pitcher in the modern era (1900) to finish with the league’s lowest ERA for three consecutive years.
Every team in the major leagues could only dream of having a starter with the pedigree and the resume that Kershaw owns. Not enough consideration has been given to the ace of the Dodgers’ rotation. It’s about time that changes.
Andrew Vigliotti is the President of Outside Pitch Sports Network and the co-host of the Outside Pitch MLB podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Andrew_Vig