Can Kershaw win the MVP award for the second time?
It's rare for a pitcher to win an MVP award.
For the same pitcher to win it twice is almost unheard of.
If the season ended now, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers would have a good chance to do just that. With an 11-2 record and a 1.79 ERA, the left-hander is putting up numbers awfully similar to those of his MVP campaign in 2014. The big question now is how quickly he can come back from a back injury that landed him on the disabled list.
In 2014, Kershaw became the first pitcher to win the National League MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968. It isn't exactly common in the AL either, and for one pitcher to win twice in three years would be a staggering achievement. Since the MVP was first awarded by the BBWAA in 1931, only two pitchers have won the award more than once. Hal Newhouser took AL honors in 1944 and 1945, and Carl Hubbell won the NL version in 1933 and 1936.
Both those players did it before there was a Cy Young Award for pitchers to win. So Kershaw faces an additional obstacle: Now that pitchers have their own award, there's always a debate over whether they should have a chance to be the MVP as well.
Working in Kershaw's favor is the fact that no position player in the NL has emerged in the way Bryce Harper did last year, when he won MVP honors. Among NL position players in 2016, the best candidates might be batting leader Daniel Murphy or home run leader Kris Bryant. Neither is having the type of transcendent year that would keep Kershaw out of the conversation.
Here's a look at some other major award races:
NL Cy Young: It's still possible for Kershaw to miss out on the MVP and the Cy Young. He has plenty of competition for the latter, be it from San Francisco's duo of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto or Jose Fernandez of Miami. And then there's Stephen Strasburg of Washington, who is 12-0 with a 2.62 ERA.
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson of Toronto edged Mike Trout of Los Angeles for this award last year, and they might finish 1-2 again. Like in 2015, Donaldson's team is playing better than Trout's - which could swing the race in the Toronto slugger's favor.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox has the eye-opening record (14-3) but his 3.38 ERA is high enough to leave the door open for other candidates. Oakland's Rich Hill is 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA, but he's thrown only 76 innings. Cleveland's Danny Salazar could also factor into this wide open race, and there might even be room for a reliever to make a case - Baltimore's Zach Britton has 27 saves and an 0.72 ERA.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball this past week:
The Kansas City Royals lost arguably their most intimidating player when closer Wade Davis went on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. Davis is 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 19 saves - and that's actually a higher ERA than he had in 2014 or 2015. Kansas City is tied for third in the AL Central, seven games out of first place. The Royals are also 4 1/2 games out of a wild card.
Speaking of injured closers, Boston lost Craig Kimbrel to a knee problem, and the Red Sox acquired Brad Ziegler from Arizona to fill in. Ziegler is expected to share closing duties with Koji Uehara.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Yasmani Grandal of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit three home runs and had six RBIs in a 10-6 win over San Diego on Friday night. He became the third Dodgers catcher to hit three homers in a game, joining Mike Piazza and Roy Campanella.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister