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Clayton Kershaw first pitcher in 46 years to win NL MVP

Kershaw is the Dodgers' first MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw had a historic season in 2014, and on Thursday became the first pitcher in 46 years to win the National League Most Valuable Player award.

Kershaw received 18 of 30 first-place votes, beating out outfielders Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates. The Dodgers left-hander is the first pitcher to be named NL MVP since Bob Gibson of the Cardinals in 1968.

"There was a lot of excitement, and a little bit of shock. I guess I never really anticipated I'd win that," Kershaw said via conference call. "Individual awards aren't why we play this game, but I definitely don't take this lightly."

Other Dodgers to receive votes were Adrian Gonzalez (seventh), Yasiel Puig (tied for 19th) and Dee Gordon (tied for 25th).

Kershaw was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 27 starts in 2014, with 239 strikeouts and just 31 walks in 198⅓ innings. His ERA was the lowest in the National League since Greg Maddux had a 1.63 ERA in 1995, the last NL pitcher to finish in the top three in MVP voting.

The left-hander on Wednesday was named the 2014 NL Cy Young Award winner for the third time in four seasons.

As bizarre as it may seem for a starting pitcher winning the MVP award, Kershaw adds another layer of complexity since he missed five weeks and only appeared in 27 games all season.

"I think pitchers should win the pitching award, the Cy Young Award, but not the MVP, because he only goes out there every four or five games," former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said on MLB Network radio on Monday.

But even though starting pitchers only appear once every four or five games, their impact on each game they pitch is immense. For instance, Kershaw faced 749 batters in 2014, more than the plate appearances by both McCutchen (648) and Stanton (638).

Despite his missed time, Kershaw led the NL in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), both by Baseball-Reference (7.5, ahead of Stanton 6.5, McCutchen 6.4) and FanGraphs (7.2, ahead of McCutchen 6.8 and Stanton 6.1).

The Dodgers were 23-4 when Kershaw started, and 71-64 when he didn't.

"I feel like our team's record when I was pitching was a huge indicator of how good our team was," Kershaw said. "Win/loss record is pretty subjective. This award just tells me we had an awesome team and I was lucky to be a part of it."

This is the fourth time Kershaw has received MVP votes. He finished 12th in 2011, 16th in 2012 and seventh in 2013.

Kershaw is the first Dodgers player to win MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988. This is the 13th NL MVP award in Dodgers history, and fourth by a pitcher, joining Dazzy Vance (1924), Don Newcombe (1956) and Sandy Koufax (1963).

"Congratulations to Clayton," Koufax said in a statement released by the Dodgers. "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," Newcombe added.