Before and after Los Angeles left-hander Clayton Kershaw handled the Diamondbacks for his major league-leading 16th victory Wednesday night, discussion began to circulate on the merit of his MVP candidacy.
There is no question Kershaw has put up magical numbers this season and still has a month remaining on the schedule. Given what he accomplished and the work ethic displayed, Kershaw could produce numbers which would put him in elite company.
In his seventh major league season, Kershaw is closely climbing into the stratosphere of pantheons of the game.
His career ERA of 1.82 is the lowest among all starters since 1920 when a pitcher starts a 100 games and throws a minimum of 1,000 innings. That margin is nearly a run less than the Yankees’ Whitey Ford (2.74), the closest behind Kershaw.
Since his debut in 2008, Kershaw is the leader among pitchers in lowest ERA among at least 50 starts and lowest opponent batting average (.209 going into Wednesday’s start against the Diamondbacks).
With his win in Chase Field on Wednesday, Kershaw has made 22 starts in 2014 and has started 33 games in each of the last three seasons. Despite a visit to the disabled list from March 30 to May 6 with Teres Major strain, he roared back to win 11 straight at one point this season and named National League pitcher-of-the-month for both June and July.
Following his victory over the D-backs Wednesday night, Kershaw improved to 16-3 and a microscopic 1.73 ERA.
There’s no question about his contribution to the Dodgers’ run in first place. Every time he steps to the mound, says L. A. manager Don Mattingly, “I always feel good about the game.”
Because of his production and value to the Dodgers, Kershaw is now in the mix for MVP discussion. Yet, the merit arises whether a pitcher, who takes to the mound every five days, makes more of a contribution than an everyday, position player.
“You can make the argument for a pitcher winning the MVP,” said NL West Division-rival manager Bud Black of San Diego. “For me to consider a pitcher, two things have to happen. One, the pitcher has to have a very special year and two, there are no position players worthy of a strong consideration.”
In nearly the past 50 years, only one pitcher won the MVP award in the National League and that was the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in 1968.
During the same time period in the American League, six have won the award, including Denny McClain with the Tigers (1968), Vida Blue of the A’s (1971), Rollie Fingers of the A’s (1981), Willie Hernandez of the Tigers (1984), Roger Clemens of the Red Sox (1986) and Justin Verlander of the Tigers in 2011.
In the history of the award, dating back to 1931, 11 pitchers, including Hal Newhouser of the Tigers (twice) won the American League MVP as pitchers and eight (including Carl Hubbell of the Giants twice) captured the NL MVP trophy.
“I think a pitcher can win the MVP and Kershaw is having that kind of year,” Mattingly said. “It’s one of those things where he’ll be considered.”
If Kershaw captures the honor, he would be third Dodgers’ pitcher in franchise history to win the award. The other two are Sandy Koufax (1963) and Don Newcombe with Brooklyn in 1956.
If Kershaw has a challenger to a possible MVP run, his opposition is regarded slight. The only player with considerable numbers to confront Kershaw’s value to his team is the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton.
Coming into the Marlins’ next game Friday night in Atlanta, Stanton leads the National League in home runs and leads the majors in RBIs. His .294 batting average, however, is below league-leader Justin Morneau (.317) of the Rockies.
While the Dodgers are cruising atop the NL West division, the Marlins are in third place in NL East, two games below .500 and 10 back of the division-leading Washington Nationals.
Traditionally, the MVP award is given to a player who makes an important contribution to his team's significant run at first place in their division.
On Thursday, the Diamondbacks claimed outfielder Nolan Reimold off of waivers from Toronto.
In 22 games with the Jays, the 30-year-old hit .212 (11-52) with two homers and nine RBIs. Earlier this season while a member of the Baltimore organization, he underwent surgery for a herniated disk in his neck. Reimold was designated for assignment by the Orioles on July 1 and claimed by the Jays on July 6.
In a six career, major league seasons, Reimold has a .256 batting average (247-988) with 43 home runs and 135 RBIs in 308 games.
To make room on the roster, the Diamondbacks will announce a move prior to Friday’s game with Colorado. Speculation is that the Diamondbacks will release outfielder Xaiver Paul (2-for-20 .100 batting average in 14 games). Paul was seen in the clubhouse after Wednesday’s game with the Dodgers with ice and tightly-wrapped bandage on his right shoulder.
When the Diamondbacks and Rockies get together for a three-game set beginning Friday night in Chase Field, there is not much history between the announced starters and opposition hitters.
Among the six starting pitchers, only Rockies’ lefty Jorge De La Rosa has any kind of numbers against the opposition.
Lifetime against the De La Rosa, Aaron Hill is 4-for-17 (.235 batting average) while catcher Miguel Montero is 4-for-14 (.143). De La Rosa is slated to face the Diamondbacks in the series, and home stand, finale on Sunday afternoon.
The other starters listed, Josh Collmenter, Vidal Nuno and Chase Anderson, have all faced the Rockies on a limited bases. Collmenter has a history with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez but both are out with season-ending injuries.
Colorado starters right-hander Christian Bergman and left-hander Tyler Matzek faced the Diamondbacks only during brief outings.