Can Stephen Strasburg become the first NL pitcher to win the MVP award since Bob Gibson in 1968?
The feat has been accomplished recently as well. The AL saw a pitcher win the MVP in 2011 when Justin Verlander took home the honor. We can look at Verlander's statistics that season to see how Strasburg can duplicate his feat.
Here are three reasons why Stephen Strasburg is a legitimate NL MVP contender in 2013.
Note: All statistics provided by Baseball-Reference.com except where otherwise noted.
Stephen Strasburg keeps batters guessing with his repertoire of pitches.
Stephen Strasburg struck out 197 batters during the 2012 season. And that was while pitching only 159.1 innings.
Strasburg's dominance was powered by a broad repertoire of devastating pitches. In 2012, his average fastball velocity was clocked at 95.8, while his average changeup and curveball velocity was 88.7 and 80.5. (FanGraphs.com)
But as Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post recently reported, Strasburg saw reason to improve upon his repertoire:
Strasburg is one of the most breathtaking pitchers in the majors because of the mind-bending pathways his pitches travel. Curveballs curl like boomerangs, change-ups dive like a balloon running out of air and fastballs dart sideways, all while moving at abnormally high velocities. And this, to Strasburg, presents something to be improved. The crazy movement can be hell on hitters, of course. But the big breaks in his pitches also make it easier for batters to differentiate between them. When a pitch breaks a lot, it probably starts breaking early, allowing a hitter to follow its path to the plate. Strasburg would prefer to have his pitches move less, but with more purpose.
Now with even better pitches, Strasburg can take his game to a whole new level. If that's even possible.
If Strasburg wins an MVP like Bob Gibson, then he may be bronzed one day like Bob Gibson.
In 2012, Stephen Strasburg struck out batters at the alarming rate of 11.13 per nine innings. Strasburg led all MLB starting pitchers in that category with a minimum of 100 innings pitched. (ESPN.com)
Now, if Strasburg were to maintain that same pace over 200 innings pitched, he would strike out 247 batters.
That number compares favorably to three starting pitchers who have won their respective league MVP awards.
In 2011, Justen Verlander struck out 250 batters for the Detroit Tigers.
If Strasburg has a similarly dominating season in terms of strikeouts, he could be on his way to an MVP performance.
Stephen Strasburg needs to receive better run support than Roger Clemens did in 2005.
For Stephen Strasburg to win the MVP, a low ERA will help. But even more important than that is run support.
Roger Clemens proved this point while pitching for the Houston Astros in 2005. Clemens finished the season with a microscopic 1.87 ERA. It was the lowest ERA in Clemens' 24-year career.
But just as microscopic was his run support. That season, Clemens received a run support per game of 3.4, and a run support per innings of 3.0. It was the Rocket's second lowest run support per game and lowest run support per innings of his career.
And it cost him dearly. With little help from his team, Clemens finished third in the NL CY Young voting and 22nd in MVP voting. A better win-loss record would have changed both of those results. With such a dominant ERA, Clemens may have won the MVP.
Stephen Strasburg may not have to worry about this problem. In 2012, the Nationals provided Strasburg with a run support per game of 4.4, and a run support per innings of 4.6. Similar run support in 2013 will ensure a strong win-loss record, thus allowing his other statistical achievements to receive the proper recognition.
NL MVP would be the proper recognition.