Thursday, November 14, 2013
I'll be the first person to tell you that I don't believe a pitcher should win one of baseball's Most Valuable Player Awards. That being said, Clayton Kershaw should be the 2013 National League MVP.
The three finalists for the award to be announced shortly are Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, and Paul Goldschmidt. All worthy candidates, but none more valuable to his team than Kershaw. (By the way, anyone besides me hate the fact that they announced the three finalists ahead of time? I hated when the NHL started doing it and it's not getting any better!)
My prediction is that Molina will be the winner, which will create some history. With last year's winner Buster Posey, the league MVP award will go to catchers in back to back seasons for the first time.
Molina is one of the best catchers in the game. He's already achieved All-Star honors, a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger this season. His slash line of .319/.359/.477 and a career high 80 RBI was vital to the St. Louis Cardinals Central Division crown. Of course, Molina's pitch calling, overall defense and dependability in throwing out would-be base-stealers (43% in 2013) is what he's best known for.
But with a starting staff of Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, and Lance Lynn, and the offensive production of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, and Allen Craig, there's a pretty good chance the Cardinals could have replicated their season had the Cardinals used a catcher who was half as valuable.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were abysmal to start the season , due in large part to a rash of injuries. It was still somewhat of a surprise that they were in last place in the NL West from May 6 to June 30. That's a span of 50 games, which some teams could not have made up. However, the Dodgers play in the weak National League West and trailed the division leading Diamondbacks by four games on June 30. Despite being in the basement, the Dodgers trimmed 4.5 games off the lead in a little over two weeks.
Kershaw was the steady hand that kept the Dodgers afloat until the cavalry arrived in the form of healthy players and surprises like Yasiel Puig. The left-hander won his third straight ERA title - his 1.83 mark was the third sub-2.00 ERA since 1997 (Roger Clemens, Hou 2005, Pedro Martinez, Bos 2000) - and his third straight WHIP title with a career best 0.915 (only Randy Johnson's 2004 mark of 0.9 was lower since 1995).
Additionally, Kershaw led the league in strikeouts (232) and topped the 200 mark for the fourth straight year. He was also tops in shutouts (tied with 2) and displayed remarkable consistency by starting 33 games for the third straight year. (He started 32 in 2010). He was also among the league leaders with 236 innings pitched, 16 wins, complete games (3), and had a 4.4 strikeout to walk ratio.
The Texan allowed more than three earned runs in a start just three times, while he ranked 57th in the Major Leagues in run support. He had a 2.12 ERA in his eight no-decisions and the Dodgers scored 14 runs in Kershaw's nine losses. Over his final 17 starts, Kershaw was 11-4 with a 1.61 ERA and the Dodgers went from last place, 6.5 games back, to a division crown by 11 games.
Had Kershaw not been on the Dodgers or a pitcher with half his output replaced him in the rotation, it's likely LA doesn't win the division, never mind making it to the sixth game of the NLCS.