Clayton Kershaw threw another gem on Tuesday night.
This time, the Washington Nationals fell victim to the 6'3", 225-pound left-hander. It was a 108-pitch, eight-inning masterpiece, one in which the Los Angeles Dodgers ace allowed just three hits and racked up eight strikeouts. He made one mistake, a solo shot to Bryce Harper in the seventh, and that was it.
He left an inning later with his team leading by a comfortable score of 4-1.
That is what Kershaw does. It is what he always does. He pitches lights-out every time he takes the mound. Most importantly, he puts the Dodgers in a position to win ball games, and they are doing just that. At 78-61, Los Angeles sits in first place in the National League West, and Kershaw is a huge reason why.
That is why the 26-year-old is not just the Dodgers' MVP candidate, he is the MVP candidate.
Look at what Kershaw has done this year. With a 17-3 record, jaw-dropping 1.70 ERA and 10.7 K/9 ratio, Kershaw has been dominating teams all season. With the exception of a May game in Arizona where he allowed seven earned runs, Kershaw has not allowed more than three runs, earned or unearned, to cross the plate this year. In 23 starts, he has held teams to two earned runs or less 17 times. He has held opposing teams to zero earned runs in eight starts and even had a 41-inning scoreless streak earlier in the year.
The highlight of his season was a 15-strikeout no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies on June 18, a no-hitter that would have been a perfect game if not for a Hanley Ramirez error. The performance, one of the best games ever pitched, will serve as a reference point when it comes time for voters to determine who takes home this year's hardware.
But wait, there is more.
In addition to his win total and ERA, Kershaw also leads the majors in WHIP (0.827), H/9 (6.112), complete games (6), Adjusted ERA (210) and Fielding Independent Pitching (1.89). Kershaw not only leads all pitchers with a 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), but he leads all of baseball, hitters included.
Without even seeing the stats of other ballplayers, one would have to think Kershaw takes the MVP vote in a landslide.
While other guys are having great seasons, none are playing at the level Kershaw is. There are plenty of players who will be worthy of MVP votes, but none have numbers that jump off the page like Kershaw's do.
With a .292 average, 35 homers, 101 RBI, .962 OPS, 285 total bases and a 6.2 WAR, Giancarlo Stanton is easily having the best season of any position player in the National League. Here is the thing, though: His Miami Marlins, while still technically in contention, are not making the playoffs. That means the slugger is not going to be the MVP based on recent history.
The Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison are having nice seasons, but neither of their numbers can compare to Kershaw's. If the Pirates end up making it to October, the two will most likely split some votes.
The same will happen between the Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy.
However, none of this should matter. Kershaw does not need the help. His numbers are startling and his team is in first place as he leads them to what could be more than just a historic season for the individual.
With their ace pitching as if he was from another planet, a deep run into October is very real for the Dodgers. Imagine having to face Kershaw two, maybe three times in a seven-game series.
That is a scary thought.
In the meantime, expect a few more gems from the ace with the last month of the season underway. Expect the Dodgers to keep the division lead over the San Francisco Giants with Kershaw leading the way. Expect Kershaw to pick up a few more wins for the Dodgers, and maybe even his 20th.
Expect to him to continue his dominance.
It is what he does. That is why he is going to win the NL MVP.
All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.com and are accurate as of the end of play on September 2, 2014.
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