It’s not particularly common for MLB pitchers to win the MVP award in their leagues, but it’s also not unheard of.
The last time someone did it was in 2014, when Clayton Kershaw took the award in the National League.
This year, it’s highly unlikely that a pitcher wins the MVP award in the NL, not when Fernando Tatis Jr. has hit 36 home runs and stolen 24 bases and Max Muncy and Bryce Harper are carrying their respective teams.
That doesn’t mean, however, that some pitchers won’t earn MVP votes.
These three are the most likely MVP vote-getters when it comes to pitchers in the NL.
3. Kevin Gausman
Gausman gets the nod here because he is the best pitcher on the best team in MLB, the San Francisco Giants, and a huge piece in their rotation.
The right-hander has a 2.52 ERA with a 2.89 Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP.
He has been a mainstay in the Giants’ rotation, pitching 157 excellent innings so far.
Gausman has a 10.49 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) mark and 2.69 walks per nine.
Gausman is sixth in the NL in both versions of WAR, or Wins Above Replacement: FanGraphs’, at 4.1, and Baseball Reference’s, at 4.8.
2. Corbin Burnes
Corbin Burnes has lost time due to injury, yet he leads the league in FanGraphs’ WAR with 6.6 by virtue of his extremely low FIP (1.58).
When he is on, Burnes is as dominant as any pitcher in the league except for Jacob deGrom.
He has a minuscule 2.38 ERA and leads NL Cy Young contenders with a 12.25 K/9 mark.
He has started fewer games than any of the top 10 pitchers in the league, yet has a strong Cy Young case.
Some might say he has been the MVP of the Milwaukee Brewers and is worthy of getting some votes for the actual award.
Corbin Burnes is literally a full win above replacement over every NL hitter yet I’m being told he’s not in the MVP race?🤔
— Maxwell Resnick (@MaxwellResnick) August 31, 2021
The Brewers will have an extremely strong rotation in the playoffs, with Burnes, Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta.
1. Zack Wheeler
Harper usually gets the most love among fans and media when it comes to NL MVP talk this year.
In fairness, Harper has been extraordinary, especially in the second half.
But what Zack Wheeler has been able to achieve this season definitely deserves some MVP love.
If the season ended today, Wheeler should be the heavy favorite for the NL Cy Young and will definitely get some votes for MVP, too.
He currently ranks second in MLB in WAR: he follows Robbie Ray in Baseball Reference’s version, with 6.0, and Burnes in FanGraphs’ calculations, also with 6.0.
His 3.01 ERA comes with an excellent 2.70 FIP: the ERA is higher than both Gausman’s and Burnes’, but he has thrown significantly more innings with 182.2.
Having a top pitcher is one thing, but having one who can consistently throw six, seven, or even eight innings per start is much more valuable.
potential dual winner candidate: zack wheeler for nl cy young *and* mvp if the phillies make the playoffs
— shpee (@shpeethey) August 26, 2021
Wheeler will get some MVP votes because he is a star and is performing like one.