Sunday, August 18, 2013

Forget the Cy Young, Kershaw could be the NL MVP

With the way Clayton Kershaw has been dealing, get ready to hear some serious talk of winning multiple National League awards, including the big one at the top.

After another dominating performance on Saturday, throwing eight innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts as the Dodgers beat the Phillies, 5-0, Buster Olney of ESPN sent out this tweet:

"Clayton Kershaw has a 1.40 ERA in his last 10 starts. Right now -- and there's a long way to go -- I'd put him as NL MVP frontrunner."

I couldn't agree more.

We all know there's going to be a big debate anytime a starting pitcher is involved in the MVP talk.  Fair or not, it's worth wondering if one can win the top award when only playing once every five days.  But with the way Kershaw has completely taken over that fifth day, and with no clear frontrunner emerging with the bat, he may well be in the lead at this point.

First, let's take a look at Kershaw's phenomenal stats.  Through 26 starts, he's 12-7 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, .182 BAA, and 182 K's in 190 1/3 IP.  He's been even better in his last 10, as evidenced by Olney's line above. 

In the National League, he leads in innings pitched, ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP.  He's now fifth in wins (something surprising considering his lack of run support for much of the season), and second in complete games with three.  If you're a believer in WAR, he's tops at 6.7 compared to Andrew McCuthen's and Carlos Gomez's 6.5.  Example after example continues to show how unbelievable he's been this year.

Then there's the other side in that nobody else has clearly stepped up in the MVP lead, ala Miguel Cabrera in the American League.  That's not to say there aren't some great candidates, because there certainly are.  At this point, I'd list McCuthen and Paul Goldschmidt at the top.  I've heard talk of Freddy Freeman and Yadier Molina as well.  If Hanley Ramirez hadn't missed so much time, he'd clearly be in this list.

Are any of those guys better than Kershaw?  It's still too early to tell, but I will tell you this - if Kershaw ends up with an ERA under two, and the Dodgers have a top two record in the NL, then he has a great chance of winning the MVP.  That's how dominant he is, and with all due respect to everyone else, he has the ability to own a game like no other whenever he's on the mound.

The Dodgers are down to 40 games left, so Kershaw figures to have about 7-8 starts left.  As amazing as his numbers are now, he has the ability to make them even better with the groove he's in.  That's just plain scary.

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