LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw put the finishing touches on an awards season for the ages Thursday when he was named the winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
One day after unanimously winning his third NL Cy Young Award, Kershaw became the first NL pitcher in 46 years to also be named MVP by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which gave the Dodger 18 of 30 first-place votes and 355 total points to beat fellow finalists Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins (second) and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates (third).
"Just shocked," Kershaw said of his reaction. "I never expected to win … never in a million years did I think I'd win the Cy Young and MVP. It's an amazing night for me. Awards aren't why we play the game, but I don't take it lightly. When fans chant that [MVP] stuff, it's an amazing feeling. I remember a few times pitching and fans at Dodger Stadium would chant M-V-P, that's unbelievable. It really is chilling. I don't know if I'll ever get used to that."
Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and enough record-setting achievements to validate comparisons to Sandy Koufax, the last Dodger to pull off this double win, which has been accomplished 11 times, most recently by Detroit's Justin Verlander in 2011. Roger Clemens in 1986 and Vida Blue in 1971 are the only other starting pitchers to win MVP since Bob Gibson and Denny McLain did in 1968, after which MLB lowered the mound.
Kershaw is the first Dodgers player to win the MVP Award since Kirk Gibson in 1988, the first Dodgers pitcher to win it since Koufax in 1963, the fourth Dodgers pitcher to win it (along with Koufax, Don Newcombe and Dazzy Vance) and the 11th Dodgers player to win it at least once (Roy Campanella won three times).
Koufax and Newcombe are now special assistants to Dodgers chairman Mark Walter.
"Congratulations to Clayton," Koufax said in a release. "It's a special honor to a special pitcher and a special person."
"There's no one more deserving of this award and I couldn't be prouder of this young man," said Newcombe.
Kershaw, at 26, is one year older than the youngest Dodgers MVP, Steve Garvey in 1974.
The closest an NL pitcher had come to winning an MVP since 1968 was runner-up Tom Seaver in 1969. Greg Maddux finished third in 1995 behind Barry Larkin and Dante Bichette.
Using Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com, Kershaw led the league at 8.0, with Stanton fifth and McCutchen seventh. On Fangraphs.com, Kershaw's 7.2 WAR led the NL and was third in Major League Baseball behind Mike Trout's 7.8 and Corey Kluber's 7.3.
Kershaw's MVP victory is all the more stunning because he spent nearly six weeks on the disabled list after opening the season with a win in Australia. Because he missed those starts, and won so many after returning, Kershaw joined Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999 as the only pitchers since World War II with 20 wins accomplished in fewer than 30 starts.
Of all the traditional stats that support Kershaw's most valuable status is the club's 23-4 record in his 27 starts. The Dodgers finished 94-68, so they were 19 games above .500 in his starts and seven games above .500 in everybody else's. Kershaw said he's proudest of his team's success in his starts.
"Sometimes it's a stat you can't control as a starting pitcher, but I feel like our team record when I was pitching is just a huge indicator of how good a team it was," said Kershaw. "I'll remember that, honestly. The won-lost record is really tough to be subjective, but I think it says something about our team when we go [23-4] when I'm on the mound."
Kershaw achieved the rare double in the first year of a seven-year, $215 million contract.
"Congratulations to Clayton," said Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten. "This MVP Award further cements his place alongside the greatest Dodgers in franchise history."
Kershaw said he has tried to enjoy his remarkable offseason despite the crushing disappointment of the postseason, in which the Dodgers were eliminated by the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, with Kershaw losing two games in the series.
"You just try to celebrate the accomplishments," he said. "A lot of teammates told me over their careers, when you win something -- a division, the World Series, anything -- you celebrate it. This game is hard. That's what I'm doing tonight with family and friends, with people who care about me the most. It doesn't take the sting away from what happened in the playoffs, but you can't lose the opportunity to celebrate -- it might never happen again."
In addition to the Cy Young, Kershaw had already accumulated a handful of awards this offseason. He won Players Choice awards (voted by his peers) for Major League Player of the Year, NL Outstanding Pitcher and Marvin Miller Man of the Year. He was named winner of the Warren Spahn Award for best left-handed pitcher in baseball. He won the Dodgers' Roy Campanella Award and was the club nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Kershaw thanked his teammates for putting him in position to win the awards and thanked the writers for voting for him. He said he's into Week Three of his offseason conditioning after shutting down for a few weeks, but he hasn't resumed throwing. The annual pilgrimage to Zambia by Clayton and his wife, Ellen, will be skipped this winter as the couple awaits its first child.
Dodgers teammate Adrian Gonzalez finished seventh in the MVP voting.
Here's why Kershaw won:
Kershaw this year became the first pitcher to win four consecutive MLB ERA titles, posting a career-best 1.77 ERA and leading the Majors with a career-high-tying 21 wins (also 2011). His .875 winning percentage (21-3) also topped the Majors and was the second-highest mark ever by a Dodger (minimum 20 starts) behind only Preacher Roe (22-3, 1951).
Kershaw was selected to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game and also led the Majors with a 0.86 WHIP and six complete games, while ranking among the NL leaders in strikeouts (239, third), opponents' batting average (.196, second), shutouts (two, tied for third) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.71, first).
Kershaw's 1.77 ERA is the lowest mark by an MLB starter since Pedro Martinez posted a 1.74 ERA with Boston in 2000 and the lowest ERA for a National Leaguer since Greg Maddux's 1.63 mark with Atlanta in 1995. It's the fourth-lowest single-season ERA by an NL lefty in the Live Ball Era (best since Sandy Koufax, 1.73 ERA in 1966).
Koufax is the only other Los Angeles Dodger to record a sub-2.00 ERA season, doing so three times: 1963 (1.88 ERA), 1964 (1.74 ERA) and 1966.
Kershaw's career-best 11-game winning streak from June 2-Aug. 10 was the longest run in the Majors this year, during which he went 11-0 with a 1.16 ERA (13 earned runs in 101 innings) with five complete games (two shutouts) in 13 starts.
During the streak, he limited opposing hitters to a .178 batting average (62-for-349), with 117 strikeouts against only 12 walks. Kershaw was selected as the NL's Pitcher of the Month in June (6-0, 0.82 ERA) and July (4-0, 1.07).
Full list of MVP Award winners.