In recent years, the question of whether a pitcher should be able, or even eligible to win the league's Most Valuable Player award. I believe that pitchers should certainly be eligible for the award, it's a position the same as left field or third base, but given that they play so few games, the standard for a pitcher to win the MVP award should be very high.
That said, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has met that standard and then some this season. First, the raw numbers, in 24 starts this season, Kershaw has posted a 1.67 ERA in 177 1/3 innings, allowing 118 hits and 27 walks for a WHIP of 0.82 while striking out a league-leading 210 batters despite having missed all of April. He has allowed just 33 earned runs this season, or two fewer than Rockies reliever Matt Belisle.
Kershaw's 1.67 ERA would be the lowest for a pitcher in a season since Greg Maddux's 1.63 ERA in 1995, his FIP would be the lowest since Pedro Martinez posted a 1.39 mark in 1999 and the lowest in the National League since Dwight Gooden had a 1.69 FIP in 1984. His 0.82 WHIP would also be the lowest since Maddux in 1995, when he had a 0.81 WHIP.
For those interested in that sort of thing, Kershaw currently has an 18-3 record this season. More impressive, and perhaps more importantly, the Dodgers have a 20-4 record when Kershaw takes the mound and a 62-59 when anyone else does. Los Angeles' .512 winning percentage in non-Kershaw starts would put them in the same boat as Atlanta and Milwaukee, a game and a half behind the Pirates for the second wild card spot, add in Kershaw's starts and the Dodgers are a game behind the Nationals for the best record in the NL.
Since the start of June, the Dodgers are 17-1 when Kershaw starts and 35-35 when he doesn't. In those 18 starts, Kershaw has allowed a total of 19 earned runs in 142 innings, a 1.20 ERA. The lone loss in that stretch, a 97-pitch complete game in which Kershaw allowed three runs on five hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts, however two of the five hits left the ballpark and the Dodgers lost, 3-2.
Aside from just the raw numbers, Kershaw's season has included a 41-inning scoreless streak and a no-hitter against the Rockies in which he struck out 15 and was a Hanley Ramirez error away from being a perfect game. I watched that game from start to finish and the Rockies never stood a chance, Kershaw was just that good.
The best candidates for NL MVP among position players are likely Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy and while both players have had excellent seasons, their respective teams are hovering around .500 and they both trail Kershaw in WAR. Also, maybe less importantly but still a factor for me, I didn't go out of my way to see Stanton or Lucroy when they came to town this year, I did go out of my way to see Kershaw.
Sure, he hasn't played in all of his team's games, but Kershaw's contribution to the Dodgers and his dominance can't be denied. Whether you want to characterize the MVP as the league's best player or the one that contributes the most to his team's success, the answer this season in the NL is Clayton Kershaw.