The Los Angeles Dodgers ace pitcher and permanent fixture in the Cy Young Award voting, Clayton Kershaw, is making it harder for voters to think about any other pitcher in the National League. Even more than that, Kershaw’s eight scoreless innings on Thursday made a bold statement, reminding everyone that he is not only the best pitcher in the National League, as my colleague at Rant Sports, Thom Tsang, eloquently argued, but also the best overall player.
First, let’s examine the history of pitchers winning MVP awards. There has only been one pitcher in the last 20 years to win the award as the now struggling Justin Verlander won in 2011. So that begs a fairly simple question: how does Kershaw’s 2013 campaign compare to Verlander’s 2011 season? The two pitchers’ stat lines are compared below:
Clayton Kershaw 2013: 27 Starts, 13-7, 1.72 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 7.0 WAR, 8.6 SO/9IP
Justin Verlander 2011: 34 Starts, 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 8.4 WAR, 9.0 SO/9IP
Certainly Verlander has many more wins than Kershaw, but this is not something I, nor anyone else, has not already addressed. Don’t forget how bad the Dodgers had been, and also how little run support Kershaw gets, which has recently risen to a still measly 3.26 runs on average. Comparatively, Verlander’s dominant 2011 Detroit Tigers gave him 4.56 runs of support per start and, through 27 starts – the same number Kershaw has thus far in 2013 – Verlander only had an 18-5 record. Also, Kershaw still has a chance to get at least a few more wins, as the season still has around 40 games remaining.
Thus, Kershaw’s 2013 season is easily comparable to Verlander’s 2011. Now, let’s take a look at how Kershaw compares to the other 2013 NL MVP contenders.
Kershaw has a higher WAR than any other player in the NL, and the next closest player, Carlos Gomez, does not even have the other statistics to back up being an MVP candidate. Behind Gomez in WAR are Andrew McCutchen (6.4) of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Paul Goldschimdt of the Arizona Diamondbacks (5.6). Here are their season stats:
Andrew McCutchen: .319 BA, .395 OBP, .511 SLG, 17 HR, 72 RBI, 26 Steals
Paul Goldschmidt: .296 BA, .393 OBP, .549 SLG, 31 HR, 100 RBI, 13 Steals
Both players have great stats, ranking near or at the top of many of the major categories, but neither are on pace to break any records or win the Triple Crown. Also, the fact that both of these players have similar numbers detracts from their shine, and gives Kershaw that much more of a chance to state his case.
Finally, neither of these position players has to go out on the field every five days, knowing that they have to be nearly perfect each and every start in order to keep their team afloat. Goldschimdt and McCutchen benefit from the ability to play every day, and to balance out their averages more easily than Kershaw. For this reason, and the fact that Kershaw also leads all of MLB in multiple pitching categories, Kershaw deserves to win the NL MVP Award at this point in the season.
I would love to hear why you think I am right, wrong or any other thoughts you may have on the subject. Please leave a comment below and thanks for reading.