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 

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