Clayton Kershaw has won three of the past four National League Cy Young Awards, including the past two. During this dominant run of excellence, Kershaw has also added an NL MVP award, which he won last season after posting a 21-3 record with a 1.77 ERA and 7.7 WAR, according to FanGraphs. Many expect his teammate and fellow starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, to win this year’s NL Cy Young award. Greinke is currently 17-3 with a 1.61 ERA and a 5.6 WAR. That is a historically great season, in terms of ERA, but comparing all of Greinke’s and Kershaw’s numbers show that Kershaw is having a better overall season. However, I am not here to discuss who should win the NL Cy Young. Instead, I am here to discuss who should win the NL MVP award, and that man is Clayton Kershaw.
There has been a lot of chatter about the NL MVP in the news recently. Mainly about whether Yoenis Cespedes should win it, which frankly should not even be discussed. Yes, Cespedes has had a great run with the New York Mets, but he has played for them for only a little over a month! One month. Please, he really should not be part of the discussion, sorry Mets fans. The only two players that should really be discussed in this debate are Bryce Harper and Kershaw.
Bryce Harper is having a historic season. He currently has 36 HRs and a .333/.463/.648 slash line. Harper ranks first in runs, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and WAR in the NL and leads the majors in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and WAR. Those are staggering numbers, especially when you factor in that he is still just 22. To put that into perspective, according to Baseball Reference Play Index, if his numbers hold, Bryce Harper would join Ted Williams as the only players to have such a season at the age of 22 or younger. That is historically great and well deserving of being mentioned as a potential MVP. However, there are aspects other than the numbers that might hurt his chances of winning the MVP. For starters, his team, the Washington Nationals, were heavy favorites to win the NL East and potentially reach the World Series at the beginning of the season. It is now September, and barring a historic comeback, the Nationals will fail to make the playoffs. Many will blame injuries and Matt Williams‘s incompetence, but let’s not fully exonerate Harper from any blame. He has been know to say certain things that reach the headlines. He has also been known to not exactly run everything out. Maybe some will disagree, but to me, to win MVP you need to be a leader as well as post great numbers. If Kershaw did not exist, then Harper would be my MVP, but Kershaw is too good to ignore.
Let’s take a deeper look at Kershaw’s 2015 numbers. With a little over three weeks left in the 2015 regular season, Kershaw has a 7.3 WAR compared to the 7.7 WAR he sported last season during his MVP campaign. Kershaw has been more durable for the Dodgers this season, as he has already pitched more innings this season compared to last season. The Dodgers, unlike the Nationals, have a commanding lead in their division and are poised to make the postseason and Kershaw, unlike Harper, rarely finds himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons. On top of this, to put Kershaw’s season into a historic perspective, if his numbers hold, Kershaw would join Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers since 1901 to have an ERA at 2.15 or below, a K/9 rate of 11.6 or higher, and a WAR of 6.0 or higher. Kershaw did not have those numbers when he took home the NL MVP last season. Besides a slim difference in ERA, Kershaw has somehow improved upon his 2014 campaign. Take his fifteen strikeout game against division rival San Francisco Giants:
Do not get me wrong, Harper is great. He might very well win the NL MVP this season and if he does not he will certainly be in line to win one or more throughout his career. However, Kershaw might be better at what he does. You can not really go wrong here, but if I had an NL MVP vote, Clayton Kershaw would be my man. He won it last season and he has somehow improved upon a historic 2014 season. Watching Kershaw is special and everyone should appreciate his greatness.