Not many teams can claim to have a true, lockdown, no doubt about it ace. The Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, the Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, the San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, and the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard are all generally regarded as five of the best pitchers in the MLB.
However, one name looms large above all, that name of course being Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw is far and away the best pitcher in the league, and really, to argue anything else would be an exercise in futility.
It is rare to see a talent such as Kershaw perform at such an incredible rate for an extended period of time. He appeared to reach his peak in 2014 when he won the National League Cy Young award as well the NL MVP. He became only the 10th pitcher ever to win both the Cy Young and MVP award in the same season.
However, the way he has been pitching this year, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that he is on track to earn his fourth Cy Young as well as a second MVP trophy. Winning a second MVP would put him in very rare air as only two other pitchers have won the MVP more than once. The pitchers being, Hal Newhouser in 1944 and 1945 and Carl Hubbell in 1933 as well as 1936. Both Newhouser and Hubbell won their respective MVP’s well before the mound was lowered to accommodate hitters and make it harder on pitchers. So Kershaw is performing at historic levels at a time, in theory, that is catered to the batters.
In his 2014 MVP year, Kershaw’s basic stats were:
- 21-3 record
- 1.77 ERA
- .857 WHIP
- 239 Strikeouts
- 31 Walks
Through about a third of this current season, Kershaw holds a 8-1 record, .146 ERA, .647 WHIP, and already has 109 strikeouts to just 6 walks. So if he holds steady with these stats he will finish the 2016 season with better overall numbers than his MVP year. Whether or not he can continue this level of production is the million dollar question. But, Kershaw has given us no indication that his health will deteriorate or that he will fall off a cliff production-wise.
While there are many other factors that go into the MVP vote, if you were to go purely by stats, it is easy to determine if Kershaw is primed for another run at the award. This is how he stacks up against the 10 other pitchers to win both the Cy Young and MVP in the same season.
*** indicates pitcher was a closer, all stats from Baseball-Reference.com
- Clayton Kershaw, 2016, 8-1 (.889)
- Clayton Kershaw, 2014, 21-3 (.875)
- Dennis Eckersley, 1992, 7-1 (.875)***
- Roger Clemons, 1986, 24-4 (.857)
- Denny McLain, 1968, 31-6 (.838)
- Sandy Koufax, 1963, 25-5 (.833)
- Justin Verlander, 2011, 24-5 (.828)
- Don Newcombe, 1956, 27-7 (.794)
- Willie Hernandez, 1984, 9-3 (.750)***
- Bob Gibson, 1968, 22-9 (.710)
- Rollie Fingers, 1981, 6-3 (.667)***
- Rollie Fingers, 1981, 1.04***
- Bob Gibson, 1968, 1.12
- Clayton Kershaw, 2016, 1.46
- Clayton Kershaw, 2014, 1.77
- Sandy Koufax, 1963, 1.88
- Dennis Eckersley, 1992, 1.91***
- Willie Hernandez, 1984, 1.92***
- Denny McLain, 1968, 1.96
- Justin Verlander, 2011, 2.40
- Roger Clemons, 1986, 2.48
- Don Newcombe, 1956, 3.06
- Clayton Kershaw, 2016, .647
- Bob Gibson, 1968, .853
- Clayton Kershaw, 2014, .857
- Rollie Fingers, 1981, .872***
- Sandy Koufax, 1963, .875
- Denny McLain, 1968, .905
- Dennis Eckersley, 1992, .913***
- Justin Verlander, 2011, .920
- Willie Hernandez, 1984, .941***
- Roger Clemons, 1986, .969
- Don Newcombe, 1956, .989
- Sandy Koufax, 1963, 306
- Denny McLain, 1968, 280
- Bob Gibson, 1968, 268
- Just Verlander, 2011, 250
- Clayton Kershaw, 2014, 239
- Roger Clemons, 1986, 238
- Don Newcombe, 1956, 139
- Willie Hernandez, 1984, 112
- Clayton Kershaw, 2016, 109
- Dennis Eckerlsley, 1992, 93
- Rollie Fingers, 1981, 61***
- Clayton Kershaw, 2016, 6
- Dennis Eckersley, 1992, 11***
- Rollie Fingers, 1981, 13***
- Clayton Kershaw, 2014, 31
- Willie Hernandez, 1984, 36***
- Don Newcombe, 1956, 46
- Justin Verlander, 2011, 57
- Sandy Koufax, 1963, 58
- Bob Gibson, 1962, 62
- Denny McLain, 1968, 63
- Roger Clemons, 1986, 67
If his current numbers hold up, Kershaw would be at the top, or very close to it in all of these categories. This would not only place the 2016 season as Kershaw’s personal best, but also as one of the most dominant for a pitcher ever. But this is really nothing new for the lefty, as throughout his career, he has made a habit of putting up numbers that are hard to fathom.
So if he can maintain this current level of production, and end up with one of the most statistically impressive seasons ever, there is no rational reason why he shouldn’t be awarded both the Cy Young and MVP. However, when it comes to the MVP vote, being rational has proven to be difficult for the voters. A pitcher winning the award is seldom seen and a pitcher winning it twice, is almost inconceivable in the modern era. Then there are the issues of semantics, and what does “valuable” really mean, and should the teams record be taken into account, etc…
The Dodgers know this feeling all too well, as they have already been burned by the stigma that the MVP has to come from a playoff team. In 2011, Matt Kemp finished 2nd to the Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun in MVP voting, despite having more home runs, RBI’s, stolen bases and a higher batting average and on base percentage. But, the Dodgers were 82-79 and finished third in the NL West while the Brewers were 96-66 and won their NL Central division.
The Dodgers currently sit at 32-28 and are in 2nd place in the NL West. If they can’t turn it on as the season goes by, voters will again be forced to decide if a teams record is more important than the actual numbers. If we were going by the numbers alone, it would appear that we are heading for a no brainer come November. However, things are rarely that straight forward in baseball and there will certainly be some controversy on the matter the deeper into the the season we get.
I’m no gambling man, but watching his magnificent career unfold, I’ve learned to never bet against Kershaw. If I did have to wager however, I would bet on Kershaw leaving voters no choice but to hand him his fourth Cy Young AND his second MVP on a gold platter, regardless of the Dodgers overall record. It is, after all, and individual award, and there is no better individual player in the entire league, than Clayton Edward Kershaw.