When you look throughout the history of the MVP award, the winners are mostly hitters. The American league has handed it out to two pitchers since 1986, Roger Clemens in 1986, and Justin Verlander in 2010. The National League has had it happen twice in 50 years, with Bob Gibson in 1968, and Clayton Kershaw in 2014. You will hear a lot of writers and pundits say the award should only be given to hitters. That pitchers already have the Cy Young and that should be good enough. However, the award isn’t called Most Valuable Hitter. It’s the Most Valuable Player, and that’s why voting pitcher for MVP is the right call.
The argument for a pitcher
This isn’t an argument about whether an American League pitcher should win the MVP. There are plenty of worthwhile candidates on the offensive side that are much more deserving. This is about the National League. There are two circumstances that make voting a pitcher for MVP the right call this season. There are no standout hitters this year, especially when you look at WAR. Baseball reference has Lorenzo Cain fifth in 6.5 WAR, whereas Fangraphs has him fourth in 5.5 WAR. Cain leads both sites in hitters in the National League. Max Scherzer (9.7), whom Baseball Reference has second in MLB, is right on the heels of Mookie Betts (9.8).
For a pitcher to win MVP, he needs to have a spectacular season. Voters are better than ever at looking at stats that matter and sorting out the ones that have little relevance. Wins matter less and less when it comes to evaluating how good a pitcher is. Take a look at Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets. He set a major league record for most consecutive starts giving up three earned runs or less, at 26. Sorry Leslie “King” Cole, you no longer have the record. deGrom is currently 8-9, with a major league-leading 1.71 ERA. He is worthy of finishing second in not only Cy Young voting, but MVP as well.
The worthy recipient
Max Scherzer is having one of the most dominant stretches of a career a pitcher has had in modern history. Since 2013, he has won the Cy Young three times and finished fifth the other two times. The Washington Nationals pitcher has thrown over 200 innings every season. Scherzer has never been under 240 K’s or made less than 30 starts. His worst ERA was in 2014 at 3.15, his only time over 3.00 in that span. He has led his league in WHIP four times and only been over 1.000 once. Looking at all of those numbers, the dominance is easily seen. Yet, 2018 looks to be his best season yet.
In 2018, Scherzer leads in so many stats it’s hard to list them all. Innings, strikeouts, and strikeouts vs. walk rate are the ones that stand out. He’s currently at 202.1 innings, 271 strikeouts, and a 5.89 K/BB rate. Hitters rarely touch him either, as he leads the NL with 5.9 hits per 9 innings. He may even break the magical 10.0 WAR mark, as he could get four more starts by the end of the year. This has only happened 46 times since 1901 when the American League and National League started. Scherzer is has been incredibly consistent as well. There are two starts this year where he gave up four earned runs and five where he gave up three. In 23 of his 30 starts, he has given up two runs or less.
Last Word – Why voting pitcher for MVP is the right call
The argument can be understandable why you shouldn’t vote for a pitcher. They have the Cy Young award already. They only throw every five days. Every five days is a bogus argument, as Scherzer has faced 788 batters already this year. This is more than any player will have plate appearances. With no worthy candidate on offense to start a discussion, the vote should be easy in 2018. Voting pitcher for MVP is the right call in the National League, and his name is Max Scherzer.
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