When Clayton Kershaw’s stellar 2014 season earned him both Cy Young and National League MVP honors, he accomplished something that hasn’t been done in nearly half a century. Bob Gibson was the last pitcher to win both the NL Cy Young and MVP award, which occurred in 1968. By accomplishing this feat, Kershaw joined an elite group of 10 pitchers who can claim equal honors.
We take a look at the 10 pitchers who have won Cy Young and MVP awards in a single season.
10.) Don Newcombe, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1956
One year after the Dodgers won their first World Series title, Newcombe claimed the honor of becoming the first player win a Cy Young, in 1956. At that time, there was one Cy Young Award for the entire league. His 27-7 season, which was best in the league, also paved the way for the Dodgers winning another National League pennant and helped Newcombe win the National League MVP award. Though with impressive numbers, including a 3.06 ERA, 139 strikeouts through 268 innings, and a 0.989 WHIP, some believed Newcombe’s teammate, Duke Snider, should have garnered more attention for the MVP nod.
9.) Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1963
The 1963 season was inhuman for Sandy Koufax. With a league-leading record (25-5), ERA (1.88), FIP (1.85), WHIP (0.875), strikeouts (306) and WAR (10.7). The season also included 11 shutouts and a no-hitter. After an obvious unanimous Cy Young award, Koufax received 14 of 20 first-place votes for MVP of the National League.
8.) Denny McLain, Detroit Tigers, 1968
Even those who argue a pitcher shouldn’t generally be considered for a league MVP award would accept McLain’s 1968 as a special circumstance. With a historic 31-win season (31-6), McLain was also named Cy Young and MVP unanimously, and it is very unlikely that a 30-win season will ever present itself again.
7.) Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals, 1968
Before Kershaw, the last time the National League saw the Cy Young winner also take MVP honors was on account of Bob Gibson’s 1968 season, which saw pitchers sweep MVP awards for both seasons. That year (22-9 record), Gibson set records for ERA (1.12) and shutouts (13), and edged out Pete Rose for NL MVP.
6.) Rollie Fingers, Milwaukee Brewers, 1981
The closer with the handlebar mustache was 28-for-34 in save opportunities, but finished first in walks-per-9-innings with 1.5. Many argued that Rich Gossage, who was 20-for-23 on save opportunities in New York, and finished higher than Fingers in ERA (0.77) K/9 (9.3) and WHIP (0.771), should have taken either Cy Young, MVP or both. Although, Fingers’ ninth innings were huge in getting Milwaukee to the ALDS. He became the first relief pitcher in American League history to win the MVP award.
5.) Willie Hernandez, Detroit Tigers, 1984
There wasn’t much in 1984 that Williw Herhandez wasn’t one of the best at. Coming out of the bullpen and without starting a single ball game, Hernandez played in 80 games, and threw 140.1 innings. With a second-place (9-3) record, he also finished third in saves (32-of-33), but he led the majors in games pitched, ERA (1.92), WHIP (0.941), innings pitched and WAR (4.8). After cruising to win the AL Cy Young award, he claimed 16-of-28 first place votes for MVP to overwhelm Kent Hrbek’s chances.
4.) Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox, 1986
The amazing thing about 1986 for Clemens was that he was just in his third season in the majors when he led the league in wins (24-4), ERA (2.48), FIP (2.81), WHIP (0.969) and second in strikeouts with 238. He was the first starting to pitcher to win both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards since McLain did it in ’68.
3.) Dennis Eckersley, Oakland Athletics, 1992
The transition from starter to reliever upon his arrival in Oakland was a blessing in disguise for Eckersley. It wasn’t until 1992, his sixth season in Oakland, that he set a franchise record with 51 saves at the age of 37. Combined with having more saves than any other pitcher that year and a league-best WHIP of 0.913, 1.2 BB/9, 10.5 K/9, Eckersley was a no-brainer for the NL Cy Young, and took 19 of 28 first place votes for MVP.
2.) Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers, 2011
Verlander’s 2011 set the standard for reliability, to a tune that also claimed the Triple Crown. Through his 34 starts, Verlander never lasted less than six innings and finished the season first in wins (24-5), ERA (2.40), WHIP (0.920), strikeouts (250), innings (251.0) and WAR (8.4). While he was a breeze for the AL Cy Young, he edged out impressive offensive numbers by Toronto slugger Jose Bautista, as well as Jacoby Ellsbury, for MVP.
1.) Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2014
Kershaw’s road to claiming his third Cy Young Award, in addition to his first NL MVP Award, was three years of some of the most solid pitching baseball had seen in decades. With three consecutive years of leading the majors in ERA, Kershaw did it again in 2014 with 1.77. He also led the league in wins (21-3), FIP (1.81), WHIP (0.857) and WAR (8.0). This was particularly impressive, as he missed 31 games near the beginning of the season with injury. No one would contest that Kershaw deserved his third Cy Young, but even Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda argued that a starting pitcher should be considered for MVP. Despite this, Kershaw took 18 of 30 first place votes to beat out an impressive offensive class in the National League.