Clayton Kershaw was the real World Series MVP

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

October 28th, 2020

Soon after Julio Urias threw the final pitch of the 2020 World Series, and his teammates flooded him at the mound to celebrate, it was announced that Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was the unanimous MVP of the series.

He went 8-for-20 with two home runs and five RBI. He was also walked six times. Though Seager was a big reason why the Dodgers both got to (he was also the NLCS MVP, becoming the first player to "sweep" the postseason MVP awards since Madison Bumgarner in 2014) and won the Fall Classic, it seems that Clayton Kershaw was overlooked by the voters for World Series MVP consideration.

Kershaw re-wrote his postseason narrative in 2020

Kershaw has long been dogged by a narrative that he’s great in the regular season but subpar in the playoffs. Though there were plenty of great performances sprinkled in, his 9-11 record and 4.43 ERA going into this postseason suggested that he was a "choker."

Kershaw’s first start of the 2020 MLB Playoffs was brilliant, as he struck out 13 Brewers over eight shutout innings. Next came a quality start (six innings, three earned runs) against a potent Padres lineup.

But then Kershaw hit a speed bump when the Braves tagged him for four runs in just five innings of work in Game 4 of the NLCS. That came two days after Kershaw was scratched as the Game 2 starter due to back spasms. So there was plenty of doubt going into the World Series as to how the three-time NL Cy Young winner would fare.

Kershaw was brilliant in Game 1

Kershaw quickly quieted the critics in Game 1 as he tossed six innings of one-run baseball, scattering two hits and a walk while striking out eight. He might have been allowed to go beyond his pitch count of 78 in that game, but consecutive prolonged rallies by the Dodgers to make it 8-1 made manager Dave Roberts think twice about potentially overworking his stud southpaw.

Kershaw cruised in Game 5

In Game 5, Kershaw was once again cruising (two runs allowed on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts) when Roberts decided to give him a quick hook after 5 2/3 innings and 85 pitches.

Kershaw was not the only victim of a manager with an itchy trigger finger in this series. In a moment that will live in infamy, Rays manager Kevin Cash yanked starting pitcher Blake Snell in the sixth inning of Game 6, the moment the Dodgers order was about to turn over for the second time. Rays reliever Nick Anderson promptly allowed the Dodgers to take a lead they would never relinquish.

Kershaw is a product of his time

This World Series was replete with quick hooks of starters that would never have flown in, for example, 1988, the last time the Dodgers won the World Series prior to 2020. Orel Hershiser was the MVP of that Fall Classic, as he tossed two complete games and allowed only two earned runs while striking out 17 Athletics.

So while Kershaw wasn’t able to emulate the last Dodgers World Series MVP, it certainly wasn’t his fault. He, like his teammates, manager and front office, is a product of his time. When Kershaw’s performances are put in the proper context, he has a very strong case for MVP of this 2020 World Series.