Monday, August 11, 2014

Clayton Kershaw, MVP frontrunner?

Clayton Kershaw continues to set the bar even higher for himself.  Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, he put the Dodgers on his back with a marvelous performance, holding the Brew Crew down for one run in eight innings, striking out six.  And that was on a day where he probably didn't even have his best stuff.

Oh by the way, he also added an RBI single, took a walk, and was hit by a pitch.  But the true highlight of the day came on a diving catch of Jean Segura's suicide squeeze attempt in the fifth, which he then tossed to third for a double play, preserving the one-run lead.

Oh by the way (again), he's won 11 straight decisions for a 1.16 ERA, and hasn't lost since May.

He's already won the Cy Young Award twice, and certainly appears to be well on his way to a third in four years.  So what can he possibly do next?

How about the MVP of the National League.

On the Sunday night SportsCenter, a case was made that a combination of Kershaw's dominance and the lack of a true great hitter in the NL makes him the favorite.  And you know what?  It's probably true.

I want to present to you the case for Kershaw:

* Start with the overall numbers: 14-2, 1.78 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 163 K's in 136 1/3 IP.  Wow.

* He's currently leading the NL in wins, ERA, WHIP, Winning % (.875), and Complete Games (5).

* In you're a believer in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), he's leading that as well at 5.9.  The next closest is Troy Tulowitzki at 5.6.  Tulo is a great player, but he's also on the 15-day DL right now and plays for a horrible team.

* The Dodgers have the best record in the NL.

* All things considered, Kershaw is now viewed as the best pitcher in baseball, ala Justin Verlander when he won the MVP in 2011.  That season, Verlander was 24-8 with a 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  Kershaw probably won't get that many wins, but he can definitely best the other numbers.

One factor that will definitely be huge is how the Kershaw and the Dodgers finish up the season.  If he remains at the top of his game and the Dodgers keep the #1 seed in the NL, then there will be strong consideration for him winning the MVP.  If both slip, then that will be fresh in the voters' minds, and he might not get it.

The Dodgers certainly have talent on their team, but there's no doubt Kershaw is the top dog.  Even though he plays in only one out of every five games, his impact is bigger than that.  Need a stopper after a two-game skid?  Kershaw is the guy.  Need a guy to give the bullpen a rest?  Call on Kershaw.  Need a guy to win a big game, no matter the situation?  Of course, it's Kershaw.

Depending on how Don Mattingly toggles his rotation, Kershaw has about 8-10 starts left in the regular season.  Many of those starts are against NL West opponents, and judging by the way they swing the bats, his numbers can get even better.  Things are definitely looking good.

So good, in fact, that a 2014 MVP trophy could go right next to his third Cy Young Award on his mantel.

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