Whenever a pitcher wins an MVP award it stirs up much controversy. Many people believe the award belongs exclusively to position players since they play every day.
A lot of weight should be given to position players but pitchers should never be ruled out. The last time a pitcher won the MVP was Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander back in 2011. Verlander went 24-5, posted a 2.40 ERA and a .92 WHIP in 251 innings pitched.
Prior to that it was Oakland Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992 after he notched a career high 51 saves. It’s rare to see a pitcher win the award but there should not be the outrage that comes whenever it does occur.
This year Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners aces Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez are putting up historic seasons, even better than Verlander’s. If both pitchers were to win, it would be just the second time in MLB history this has happened. The last time was in 1968, The Year of the Pitcher, when St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson and Detroit Tigers’ Denny McLain each won.
Kershaw has been a man on fire in 2014, posting a 15-3 record for the NL West leading Dodgers to go along with a 1.82 ERA and a .83 WHIP in 153 and 1/3 innings while tallying 184 strikeouts, even after missing the entire month of April due to a strained muscle in his upper back.
Up until his start against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 16th, Kershaw had not lost a decision since May 28th against the Cincinnati Reds. During that streak Kershaw was simply phenomenal, winning 11 games with a 1.16 ERA and a .73 WHIP, highlighted by his first career no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies on June 18th. Clayton also gave chase to Orel Hersheisers' record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings, tossing 41 straight scoreless innings.
Kershaw, vying not only for his first MVP award, but his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award, leads in two of the three categories of the pitching Triple Crown (wins and ERA); trailing Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strausburg by 18 strikeouts. No pitcher has lost the Cy Young when winning the pitching Triple Crown.
Kershaw’s main competition for MVP is Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has been phenomenal for a much better than expected Marlins team, hitting for a .299 average, a .405 on base percentage, and .562 slugging percentage while leading the NL with 32 home runs and 94 RBI’s. In any other year this would be a near unanimous decision in favor of Stanton. But Kershaw’s year is near historic.
According to the advanced statistic WAR, which measures how many wins a player is worth versus a replacement player, Kershaw has been slightly better than Stanton with a 6.5 WAR compared to Stanton’s 6.3, according to Baseball Reference. Kershaw and Stanton are the leaders in WAR in the National League.
Despite two consecutive subpar outings, Felix Hernandez has also been stellar. Hernandez has the Mariners leading the race for the second wild card in the American League by one game over the suddenly slumping Detroit Tigers.
Hernandez is 13-4 this season, with a 2.07 ERA and .89 WHIP while tallying 204 strikeouts. Like Kershaw, Hernandez was on a hot streak of his own until just recently. Hernandez went 16 straight starts where he allowed two or less runs while pitching seven innings or more setting a Major League record.
During that streak, he posted a 1.41 ERA and .74 WHIP while going 9-2. This streak ended on August 16th against the Tigers when he only went five innings, allowing only two runs, while scattering seven hits and striking out three batters.
After two straight years of being the runner up, for a while it looked as though Anaheim Angels outfielder Mike Trout would finally win his first MVP award (which would be long overdue in my opinion).
This year Trout is hitting .288, has a .371 on base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .559. Trout also has 29 HR’s and 91 RBI’s. Trout is projected to finish the year with 35 home runs and 110 RBI’s, both marks would be career highs for the young outfielder.
Trout currently has a 6.0 WAR, a phenomenal mark, but falls just below the 6.1 mark for Hernandez. If Felix regains his footing it would be a close race to the finish between the two AL West rivals.
Both pitchers have put up spectacular numbers this season and have been the driving forces behind their team’s success.
Is it enough to give them the MVP? I certainly believe so.