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Should a pitcher be named MVP?

Most Value Player. It’s a very vague term for an award without a official definition, which is why there is so much debate over who should be the MVP and who shouldn’t be the MVP. This year, for the first time since 1968, a pitcher won the National League MVP and it’s causing a huge debate. The MVP is meant for the best player in the league and some say if a pitcher is the best player then why not give it to them, while others say that a player who doesn’t contribute to their team’s success every day should not even be included in the discussion. And they’ll also say that really the Cy Young is the award for pitchers so leave MVP for the hitters. Maybe it’s an issue with clarity but it causes a debate and debates are always lovely. So in this editions of Point – Counter Point two different writers give their side of the argument and then it’s your turn to decide which stance you’ll take on the matter.

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Just a bit outside: The semi-definitive ruling on why pitchers should NOT win the MVP

So a guy who sits on the bench four out of every five games was the National League's Most Valuable Player?

So a guy who sits on the bench four out of every five games was the National League’s Most Valuable Player?

By: Bobby Lubaszewski

In the words of one Hall of Famer, “It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend.” Okay, so Steven Tyler, the voice behind Aerosmith, might not be a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, but this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s words hit the proverbial nail on the head. Every year we hear the same debate. Should pitchers be considered as MVP candidates? And 2014 was no different, especially with the outstanding play of Clayton Kershaw.

In 2014, Kershaw put on a show. The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher won 21 games while maintaining an impressive 1.77 ERA. Wow! Those numbers are nothing to scoff at, but are they MVP worthy? The voters – the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – sure thought so. Kershaw was named first on 18 of 30 ballots, becoming the 10th pitcher to win the NL MVP in its 84-year history and the first since Bob Gibson in 1968. Meanwhile, 12 American League pitchers have won the MVP, most recently the Tigers’ Justin Verlander in 2011. But was Kershaw really the league’s Most Valuable Player? Let’s just look at the numbers.

Last season, Kershaw appeared in 27 regular season games, finishing with a 21-3 record. 27 games is just 16.6% of the entire season. One could argue that Kershaw wasn’t even the most valuable player on his own team. Of the Dodgers’ 94 wins in 2014, Kershaw appeared in just 22.3% of those games. That means there were 73 wins in which Kershaw didn’t play a factor. In fact, there were 135 games last season where Kershaw never set foot on the field. Can a player who appeared in less than a quarter of the season really be the Most Valuable Player on his own team, let alone the entire National League? In comparison, Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who finished second in MVP voting, played in 145 regular season games. That is 89.5% of the season. Stanton hit .288 with 155 hits, 37 home runs, and 105 RBIs.

Every day players – position players, like Stanton – play a factor…well, every day. That’s one reason the Marlins could justify giving Stanton a 13-year, $325 million contract. In between starts, pitchers like Kershaw play just about as much of a factor as fans like you or me, sans those big foam fingers. They become little more than spectators with great seats, sitting and watching their teams play from the comfort of the bullpen or dugout. So, how can a player that watches more games than he plays really be considered the Most Valuable Player?

The official MVP ballots list five rules for voters to consider when evaluating possible MVP candidates. These include:

  1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
  2. Number of games played.
  3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
  4. Former winners are eligible.
  5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

It’s right there on the ballot: “Number of games played.” So, how can Kershaw’s 27 games be considered as impactful as Stanton’s 145? They can’t. The numbers don’t lie. While Kershaw was outstanding in 2014, he was not the National League’s Most Valuable Player, despite winning the award. Pitchers – even the great ones, like Kershaw – just do not play enough to be considered more valuable than the game’s best position players.

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If a pitcher deserves it, absolutely they should be named MVP

Clayton Kershaw was the reason the Dodgers won the NL West with the second-best record in the National League.

Clayton Kershaw was the reason the Dodgers won the NL West with the second-best record in the National League.

By: Corey Johns

This topic goes back to the “call it what it is” argument about sports awards. If an MVP award cannot go to a pitcher then the award description should say that. While there is no official description of what “MVP” means other than simply “Most Valuable Player” you have to take it for what it says. The Cy Young award is clearly designated as a pitchers-only award but the MVP is not listed as a non-pitcher award, it’s an all-encompassing honor for the man who is simply the best player in that particular league.

But there is still a grey-area that is left up to the voters to determine. The award is meant to honor the player who helps his team win more than anybody else in the league, a man who without him a playoff-team could be a bottom-five team in the league. It’s a bit of an exaggeration but the point is still the same: how can somebody say a pitcher who only pitches once every five days help his team win as much as the guy who is out there every single day getting on base and hitting home runs?

It’s a case-by-case situation. Most of the time, the everyday player is more worthy of winning the MVP award. And the reason is because they are out there more often, doing more to help a team be victorious. But like anything there are exceptions.

The MVP award should be reserved for two types of people: 1) a player having an incredibly season that nobody else can have and 2) the guy who made his team better than it was.

Kershaw fits both of those and that is why he rightly won the MVP.

Kershaw just dominated this season, finishing with a 21-3 record with a 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 239 strikeouts. Those numbers are just something you don’t see every year or even every decade. It was historic, it was one of the very greatest pitching seasons throughout the history of baseball. And, as far as how he helped his team win. On days when Kershaw was on the hill the Dodgers went 23-4, when he wasn’t pitching, just 71-64, so, seven games over .500.

This year the Dodgers finished with the second-best record in the National League and won the NL West; a team that finished six-games over .500 were the Yankees, they were out of the playoffs in the AL. Seattle was 12 games over .500 and missed out on the postseason. Cleveland was eight games over and out.

Wins are everything and without Kershaw the Dodgers were just another middling team.

But again, it’s a case-by-case situation. Corey Kluber wasn’t worthy of winning the AL MVP because there were a ton of hitters far more worthy of winning. But in the NL it was just a weak class of hitters with an outstanding pitcher out there who was the difference between his team being one of the best of the best and a team maybe out of the playoffs.

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