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Kershaw Captures Cy Young, MVP Double, But Was It Deserved?

Max Holm |
November 16, 2014 | 8:31 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

No one was surprised when Clayton Kershaw was named the 2014 National League Cy Young Award Winner last week, for the third time in his career. This made it three Cy Youngs in four years for the southpaw. His dominance this past year was one of the single greatest season performances by any pitcher in the modern era (shoutout to 1999 Pedro). What was surprising was when he was named the NL MVP a couple days later, over Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo - formerly Mike - Stanton.

It's a peculiar concept: a pitcher winning an MVP when he affects one out of every five games while a batter, if not for injury, helps affect all five. But that exact idea speaks volumes to how dominant Kershaw was this season and his true impact. The Dodgers were probably no better than an 85-win team, taking roughly 10 wins off of their win total without him, but at 94 wins, they were able to win their division. That's the difference between being the second wild card team and having the second-best record in the National League.

Thinking more about playing every fifth day versus all five, the fact that Kershaw was that important to this team's success while only playing once every fifth game is mind-boggling.

If Stanton's Marlins make the playoffs, it's probably difficult to not give him the award, but given that they didn't and how average the Dodgers looked when Kershaw didn't pitch in the regular season shows he definitely deserved the award.

Kershaw was untouchable during the regular season, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 239 K's in 198.1 innings - and he missed seven starts. The Dodgers ace also had a 7.5 WAR (wins above replacement player) and a 1.81 FIP (fielding independent pitching). Those are videogame numbers, and he did all that in only 27 starts.

SEE ALSO: Predicting The 2014 MLB Awards Season

Kershaw was out of this world , but so was Stanton. The latter was able to really put it all together in South Beach last year hitting .288, slugging an NL-best 37 HRs and knocked in 105 runs. He drew 24 intentional walks and had a career high 6.5 WAR (though to put utin comparison, the AL MVP Mike Trout had a 7.9 WAR).

While statistics are great to ohh and aah over, it doesn't help with this comparison because of the fact that we're measuring a pitcher and a batter, two different animals. However, Stanton might have been the best hitter in BASEBALL last year not named Mike Trout. Even advanced metrics like WAR are hard to compare because the stat is  compared to that of theplayer's own replacement, and the fundamental differences between a pitcher's replacement and a hitter's are vastly different.

Sometimes these discussions and debates over who is more worthy can be broken down pretty simply. One of the simpler differences that can say a lot to differentiate these two men is their teams' records: 77-85 versus 94-68. Sure Stanton got hurt but Kershaw missed more games; the Dodgers would have won around 100 games and had the best record in baseball if he was healthy all season, while the Marlins would have finished with about 80 wins.

Everything fell in line in favor of Kershaw to be the first pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968 to win his league's MVP. His team won more games, he missed more games and he had a more dominant season overall, while playing in far less games than any elite hitrter from a year ago.

Of course all of this is only possible because we have left anything remotely resembling a power hitting era. Would Kershaw have been able to dominate a 1999 AL East? We'll never know, but figuring it out is certainly a top-five priority should we ever get a time machine.  

Reach Staff Reporter Max Holm here



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