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Clayton Kershaw Forces Way into NL MVP Discussion with 18th Win

After defeating the San Diego Padres on Monday night and notching his 18th win of the season, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has forced his way into the National League MVP discussion with just a little more than two weeks left in the regular season.

In 24 starts this season, the Dodgers’ ace sports an 18-3 record and leads all pitchers in ERA (1.67), WHIP (0.82) and WAR (7.5) and is the likely front-runner to win the National League CY Young Award.

While pitchers have typically been left off MVP voting ballots, Kershaw’s strong season has pushed him into elite company, via Jon Heyman of

With MVP awards typically reserved for position players, Kershaw‘s historic season has started to prove he is more important to his team than the other presumed front-runners: Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen and Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.

In 128 games this season, McCutchen has hit .311 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI and has an OPS of .938.

Down in Miami, Stanton has batted .291 in 143 games with 37 home runs, leads the National League with 105 RBI and has registered an OPS of .957.

With Pittsburgh holding just a 1.5-game lead in the NL Wild Card and Miami sitting 4.5 games back, McCutchen‘s and Stanton’s great seasons may be diminished if their teams fail to make it to the playoffs.

Kershaw and the Dodgers currently sit atop the National League West with a 3.5-game lead. Barring some unforeseen breakdown, they appear to be headed to the postseason.

While making the postseason is not a prerequisite for winning an MVP award, Kershaw’s WAR of 7.5—and the fact that the Dodgers have won 20 of the 24 games in which he has started—would indicate that without him on the mound, the Dodgers would be fighting with teams like the Marlins in the middle of the pack for a wild-card spot.

The WAR stat has become more commonplace in recent years, and after 2011 MVP Justin Verlander was named the first pitcher to win the award since Roger Clemons in 1986, the groundwork has been laid out for a dominant pitcher like Kershaw to win the award. 

Verlander finished the 2011 season going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, a .920 WHIP and led all pitchers with an 8.4 WAR. Twenty-two players received votes in the AL for MVP that season and only one player, Ben Zobrist, finished with a higher WAR (8.7) than Verlander. Despite boasting the higher WAR, Zobrist finished 16th in the balloting.

Just as Verlander sat near the top of all MLB players in 2011 with his WAR, Kershaw‘s 7.5 WAR is the highest among all qualifying players in both leagues. Stanton’s 6.39 and McCutchen‘s 5.47 puts them squarely in the top 20, but that may be what helps Kershaw land the most votes at the end of the season.

There is no guarantee that Kershaw‘s league-leading WAR will help claim him the award, but after comparing his 2014 season to that of Verlander’s in 2011, it appears that Kershaw is quickly headed toward the top of the MVP discussion following his 18th win Monday night. 


All stats courtesy of 

Follow @MattEurich 

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Chicago Cubs: How Anthony Rizzo Will Define the Theo Epstein Regime

In one of the biggest trades of last year’s offseason, the Boston Red Sox acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for prospects, Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes.

Rizzo, a first baseman, was an intriguing prospect given his connection to then-Red Sox general manger Theo Epstein’s protege, Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer.

Fast forward to now, as Theo Epstein is the President of Baseball Operations and Jed Hoyer is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs, and as of today, Anthony Rizzo has rejoined Epstein/Hoyer in Chicago as he was traded from the Padres’ for right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner.

Ever since the Padres’ dealt starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Yonder Alonso, pitcher Edison Volquez and catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, it was suspected that Rizzo would become a main target for the Cubs given both Epstein and Hoyer’s connections with him.

At Triple-A Tucson last year, Rizzo batted .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI in 93 games.  Immediately Rizzo becomes one of the Cubs top prospects along side center fielder Brett Jackson.

Rizzo brings to the table the prototypical power-hitting left-handed batter that many teams search so hard to find.  At just 22 years old, Rizzo posses a great combination of power as well as an ability to hit balls all over the field.  Although he struggled in his first call up to the major leagues and is expected to start the 2012 season at Triple-A Iowa, Rizzo immediately becomes one of the first major acquisitions in the rebuilding of this Cubs franchise.

It has been no secret that the Cubs are not going to be much of a contender next season or the season after that.  Former general manger Jim Hendry played in to the win now philosophy, and the Cubs are riddled with aging veterans with large contracts. Epstein and Hoyer have been doing their best to focus around their young star, Starlin Castro, and to begin to build a young nucleus around him. 

Earlier trades involving Sean Marshall going to the Reds for 24-year-old starting pitcher Travis Wood and getting rid of Carlos Zambrano for a serviceable 25-year-old starting pitcher Chris Volstad have shown that this new regime is ready to get younger and are willing to eat a large contract (i.e., Cubs will be paying for the majority of Zambrano’s remaining $18 million that remains on his deal).

If Rizzo can pan out to become the type of player that many believe he can be, the Cubs may have finally found their long-term solution at first base.  A guy who can hit for power, have a high average and play exceptional defense at first can become a cornerstone along with Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson, for an organization that is desperate to win.  Rizzo is not the only answer or even the savior, but he is a great starting point for an organization desperate to win. 

Hopefully in the years to come, Rizzo can make the phrase “Wait until next year” a thing of the past.

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Dear Mr. Ricketts: A Chicago Cubs Fan’s Plea

Dear Mr. Ricketts,

With yet another baseball season having gone by, and again nothing to show for it, this is my final plea.

We as Cubs fans need a change.  For years, we were stuck with the Tribune Company, which looked at the organization as a business. Yes, I agree it is, but it appeared their sole interest in this company was purely monetary. 

Once you and your family came along in 2009, the stories of your love of the team and desire to push them towards a World Series seemed like a dream come true for Cubs fans.  We understood that you needed to sit back and watch the operations of the organization to see what your large moves would be.

Finally, in the middle of this season you let go of General Manager Jim Hendry, and you have set out on the path to finding his replacement.

It has been no secret that you want to build this organization from the ground up.  Build a strong farm system, make smart investments on players worth the large contracts, and use sabermetrics and statistics as a basis for evaluating talent. 

When thinking of potential candidates that completely embody those beliefs, one person stands above the rest: Theo Epstein.  Epstein has already had to deal with many of the same things in his time in Boston that the Cubs are dealing with.  Boston at the time was a team that had not won a World Series in over 80 years, and with his player personnel decisions, Epstein was able to bring a World Series to Boston.

Listen, we all know Theo is not just going to come here for nothing.  Still being under contract with the Red Sox, it’s going to take some investing to bring him in.  Now the Cubs system is not the best, but you do have a player, in the beginning of his prime, that would make the Red Sox forget all about Theo: Starlin Castro.

Sure, Castro batted .307 and had over 200 hits this season, but is one player worth more than a guy who can completely change your organization?  Theo has the ability, as we have seen with Boston, to build a farm system, sign free agents, and put a competitive team on the field, year in and year out.

Now I am not asking you to give up all you’ve got, but we Cubs fans are tired of waiting for next year, and no longer want to be the lovable losers, so do us a favor, and bring in Theo.


Cubs Nation

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Chicago Cubs, Jim Hendry Finally Part Ways

In a move that was no surprise to most Chicago Cubs fans, the Cubs and general manager Jim Hendry parted ways on Friday.  Hendry’s initial track record—the only general manager to take to the Cubs to three playoff appearances—does not seem all that bad, but during his tenure, Hendry overspent on many players that never lived up to their contracts.

I look at the departure of Hendry in two different ways.  I can appreciate his effort, at times, to make the organization better.  He was able to pry away guys like Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee for virtually nothing, but he also gave an aging Alfonso Soriano a $136 million contract.  In Hendry’s defense, someone else was going to give Soriano that money, and it is hard to know whether or not he could live up to that contract. 

Soriano’s first two years in Chicago made it appear as though that contract was worth the money, but ever since, his play has declined.  I supported the decision to sign him then, and I still think it was the right move.  The Cubs at that time had not been to the playoffs since 2003 and needed something to get them over that hump.  Soriano provide some pop at the top of the lineup, which in turn allowed the Cubs to win two straight central division titles, but ultimately their 136 million dollar man never showed up.

On the other sign of the coin, Hendry’s biggest blunder was the signing of Milton Bradley. In no way did Bradley seem like a good fit with the Cubs, or any team in general.  He was a problem from day one, never contributed on the field, and was suspended at the end of the season. 

Hendry was able to trade Bradley during that offseason for Carlos Silva, who at first seemed to be a nice return, but during a spat with the manager and Hendry this Spring Training, Silva too was sent packing.

When I look back at Hendry’s tenure with the Cubs, I will remember the three playoff teams he put in place and the great deals he made.  However, like all other Cubs general managers in the past 100-plus years, he just couldn’t get it done.  There’s always next year…

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