Which gets us to Clayton Kershaw.
With about 50 games remaining, the National League MVP race is as wide open as we’ve seen in years. Andrew McCutchen may be the favorite right now, but he’s not an on-paper landslide candidate just yet as he’s on pace to drive in fewer than 100 runs (MVP voters love RBIs) and voters often overlook defensive value. Yadier Molina was a strong candidate until his recent knee injury. Joey Votto has the sabermetric numbers but not the RBIs. Paul Goldschmidt has the RBIs but the Diamondbacks may not make the playoffs. Carlos Gomez may have been the best all-around player in the league so far but players from losing teams rarely win MVP awards (the last one was Alex Rodriguez in 2003).
So, Kershaw. Only one starting pitcher in the past 25 years has won the MVP award, Justin Verlander in 2011, and he won 24 games. As dominant as Kershaw has been with that fancy 1.91 ERA, he has only 10 wins. Not his fault, of course. On Tuesday, he pitched six solid innings against the Cardinals; not a classic Kershaw effort, but he gave up just two runs, leaving in the seventh when Don Mattingly pinch-hit for him with a runner on first base and one out, removing Kershaw after just 90 pitches. I thought it was an inning early to hit for him; Kershaw was working on five days of rest, he’d thrown just 97 pitches his previous start, the Dodgers were down just one run, and it wasn’t really that high leverage of a scoring situation. Anyway, Kershaw left trailing 2-1 and ended up with the loss as the Cardinals won 5-1.
That’s now seven games this year in which Kershaw has allowed two runs or fewer and not earned a win. He has no wins in any starts in which he has allowed three or more runs. Compare that to, say, Detroit’s Max Scherzer, who has five wins when allowing three or more runs.
Anyway, my argument is this: Ignore Kershaw’s 10-8 record. He not only should be the Cy Young favorite right now, he should also be in the MVP discussion.
His chances, however, are probably slim. As we break down the NL MVP race, consider the different types of MVP winners.