Rounding Third: Kershaw hopes to add to his trophy case

( – Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw has already
won the National League Cy Young Award. On Thursday he could add a Most
Valuable Player Trophy to his mantel.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of American will close out its postseason
awards slate when it names both the AL and NL MVP.

Kershaw became the fifth NL pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in consecutive
seasons and 14th to do it unanimously on Wednesday.

Now he’ll try to become the first NL pitcher to win an MVP Award since Bob
Gibson in 1968. In fact there hasn’t even been a pitcher finish in the top-3
in MVP voting since Greg Maddux finished third in 1995.

Of course, Detroit’s Justin Verlander captured both of the AL Awards in 2011.

Kershaw was simply magnificent this season, as he led the majors with a 21-3
record, an .875 winning percentage, a 1.77 ERA and an 0.86 WHIP. He was also
second in the NL with 239 strikeouts, three behind Johnny Cueto of the Reds
and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals, in 27 starts.

It was the fifth consecutive season that Kershaw tallied 200 or more
strikeouts. He also allowed a .197 batting average to right-handed hitters and
just .193 to left-handed hitters.

Quite simply, he was the most important player on any team this season.

The argument against him will be that he only appeared in 27 games opposed to
the other two NL finalists, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo
Stanton of the Miami Marlins, who played in 146 and 145 games, respectively.

McCutchen, who won this award last season, put up another spectacular year for
the wild card-winning Pirates, but also served time on the disabled list for
the first time in his career.

Still, his numbers were almost identical to his MVP campaign from a year ago,
as he batted .314 with 25 home runs, 83 RBI and a league-best .410 on-base

Pittsburgh was just 5-9 without him, while he nursed a rib fracture, then went
24-13 once McCutchen returned.

He was also the driving force for the Bucs’ second straight run to the
postseason, batting .344 over his final 35 games, with an on-base percentage
of .430 and an OPS of 1.024.

Stanton is trying to become the Marlins’ first-ever MVP after helping his team
to a 15-win improvement from a year ago. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound outfielder
led the league with 37 home runs and his 105 RBI were second in the NL.

He did miss most of the final month of the season, though, after getting hit
in the face with a fastball on Sept. 11. Stanton suffered numerous facial
fractures and also lost five teeth.

Over in the American League, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim phenom Mike Trout
figures to have the inside track on winning his first MVP after finishing as
the runner-up to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera the last two years.

Trout had MVP numbers the last two seasons, but the deciding factor in most
voters’ eyes was the fact that Cabrera’s Tigers reached the postseason, while
the Angels sat home in October.

This year, though, Trout almost willed the Halos to the postseason, as he hit
.287 to go along with a league-best 115 runs scored, while setting career-
highs with 36 home runs and 111 RBI. He also stole 16 bases in 18 attempts

However, he did lead the AL with 184 strikeouts, but for the third year in a
row led all of baseball with a 7.9 WAR. His 338 total bases, 137 runs created
and 84 extra-base hits also topped the AL.

You could make the case that this was the worst of his three seasons, but
regardless, the 23-year-old is headed toward his first of what could be many
AL MVP Awards.

Cleveland’s Michael Brantley and Victor Martinez of Detroit were the other AL

Brantley became the first player in Indians history to end a season with at
least 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 45 doubles and 200 hits. He was also just
the sixth player in big league history to have at least a .320 average, 20
homers, 20 steals, 40 doubles, 90 RBIs and 200 hits in one season.

Martinez, who just signed a new 4-year, $68 million deal with the Tigers
batted .335 as the Tigers’ designated hitter, with 32 home runs and
103 RBI.