With less than one month to go in the 2014 MLB season we have a great race and debate on who should win the NL MVP award. The top two candidates appear to be Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw and Miami Marlins superstar slugging right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Those two easily blow everyone else away in the race for MVP and are the main two candidates for the award.
Stanton has led the race for NL MVP all season but over the last month or so Kershaw has gained a load of momentum by pitching absolutely brilliantly and masterful to put his name into the race. Many people, including myself wholeheartedly up until a couple of years ago when Justin Verlander won the 2011 AL MVP award, I was against the idea of pitchers winning the MVP award. As big of a fan as I am of Verlander and how much of an incredible season he had in 2011, I was 100% against him winning the MVP that year. Ever since that year though, I’ve cooled on my stance on pitchers being eligible for the MVP award, although I’m still not 100% sure I’m now okay with the thought of it. Just thinking of and seeing what Kershaw is doing this year though, how could you not consider him a serious candidate for the MVP award? He’s having the best season I’ve seen from a pitcher in my brief life, even better than Verlander in 2011 and Max Scherzer last year with Detroit when he won the AL Cy Young. Kershaw is having this type of season even after missing the first three weeks of the season due to a back injury suffered in Australia during the first series of the year in March vs Arizona. I’ll go on to make a case for each player, Kershaw and Stanton, on why each of them should win the NL MVP award and who my pick would be if the season ended today.
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins (.291 AVG, 37 HR’s, 105 RBI’s, 88 R’s, .396 OBP, .560 SLUG, .957 OPS, 11 SB’s, 161 OPS+): The offensive season that Stanton is having in an offensively and power lacking era is amazing, especially in such a spacious park as Marlins Park is. Stanton has single-handedly kept the Marlins in the NL Wild Card race (they currently sit 4.5 games back of the second wild card spot held by Pittsburgh). Stanton is on pace to hit over 40 home runs and could be on his way to 45 home runs. The fact that Stanton has kept his team in contention this late in the season, had such a great offensive season in a huge ballpark, and doesn’t have much other competition makes him as legit of an MVP candidate as anyone. The days are long gone where we have numerous 40+ homer hitters in the same season in the NL. The fact that Stanton has this type of power at age 24, on a not so good offensive team, with no protection is eyebrow-raising. Stanton is undeniably the best offensive player in the National League and will contend for many MVP’s before his career is over. Another key factor in this magnificent season by Stanton is the fact that he has stayed healthy all year, a problem he’s had in prior seasons, which just goes to show you that he may have just contended for a couple more MVP’s before this year, because he’s had a few high-powered seasons before this season. If pitchers were barred from winning their leagues MVP award, Stanton would be the clear-cut choice to win the NL MVP this season, but that brings us to the one man who may just knock him off at the very end, and that man is…
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (18-3, 1.67 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 210 K’s, 27 BB, 177.1 IP, 213 ERA+, 10.7 K/9, 6 CG, 2 SHO): Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the entire sport and has clearly shown it all year this year. Kershaw missed the first month of this season after injuring his back in Australia in March when the Dodgers and Diamondbacks had an opening series there to kick off this season. Upon returning though, Kershaw has been nearly untouchable, even untouchable as seen in his June 18th no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in which he struck out 15 batters and walked none. The only thing that kept Kerhaw from achieving a perfect game was the fact that shortstop Hanley Ramirez committed an error to just give Kershaw the no-hitter. Kershaw has eight games in which he hasn’t allowed any earned runs and seven games in which he hasn’t given up any runs at all. That’s remarkable. Kershaw hasn’t allowed any more than three runs in-game outside of his May 17th start at Arizona in which he allowed seven runs in 1.2 innings. If you take that horrible start out of his game log, Kershaw would have a 1.32 ERA. That’s astonishing, but alas Kershaw had that one horrific start. A 1.67 ERA is nothing to sneeze at though, as Kershaw can possibly end this season with the best left-handed ERA since 1933 if he can keep it below 1.70 through the end of the season. Kershaw leads all NL pitchers in wins, ERA, WHIP, ERA+, WAR, CG’s, is second in shutouts, and is third in strikeouts. Imagine that, all with missing a whole month of the season. Kershaw is having a better season thus far than Justin Verlander in 2011 when he won AL Cy Young AND MVP. He’s also having a better season as of now than Max Scherzer last year when he breezed to the 2013 AL Cy Young award. The Dodgers sit atop the NL West by 3.5 games over the San Francisco Giants, so just imagine how far back they’d be without Kershaw in their rotation? Kershaw is having arguably the best season I’ve been able to see in my young life by a pitcher and I have a feeling no one will top this season for a very long time. Like I said earlier, I’m not totally on board with pitchers winning the MVP award, but it’s hard to go against Kershaw this year.