Clayton Kershaw, LHP: He doesn’t like talking about the MVP award, so maybe it’s time we just stop asking him about it until after the season ends? Or, even better, until the results of voting are released in November. Ballots are due from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America as soon as the regular season ends, likely Sunday. Kershaw certainly didn’t do anything in the last week to hurt his chances, picking up victories No. 20 and 21 with a couple of gritty wins, including the division-clincher. There’s not much more you need to say about the guy other than this: He’s the only pitcher ever to lead the major leagues in ERA four straight seasons.
Matt Kemp, RF: Had he started his turnaround earlier, he’d be in the middle of the MVP discussions as well. Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers’ right fielder is third in the National League in OPS behind Giancarlo Stanton, who is recovering from being beaned in the face and out for the year, and Buster Posey. In short, Kemp found the form that made him one of the most formidable players in baseball as recently as April of 2012, before a succession of serious injuries. He thinks that, with a full offseason of conditioning, he can keep it going next season. It’s a good thing the Dodgers didn’t trade him.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: A lot of the same things could be said for Gonzalez, whose slow May and June raised questions about whether the was beginning to decline at age 32. Gonzalez regrouped and has hit 11 home runs and driven in 52 runs, most in the league, since the break. Aside from Hyun-Jin Ryu's health, the biggest question for the Dodgers going into the playoffs is whether their red-hot lineup can stay that way with four days off before Game 1.
Brian Wilson, RHP: He was on the mound for the last out of the clincher, which might have been a bit of salt in the wounds of Giants fans. All they needed to do was look at the radar readings to feel better about losing their former closer. Wilson says he can get his mid-90s velocity back, but if so, what is he waiting for? In his only semi-high leverage situation in the last week, he gave up a two-run home run to blow a game in Chicago. He figures to make the postseason roster, but using him as the primary setup man seems like an iffy way to go given what he is throwing and the proliferation of base runners.
J.P. Howell, LHP: He might be the most unsung pitcher of the first five months. He and Kenley Jansen are the only Dodgers relievers who have done their jobs without stressing out Don Mattingly and everybody who roots for the team. But his last few outings have been shaky, raising some worries going into October. Howell has given up seven hits and six runs in his last three appearances. Bad timing for a little slump for an important member of the bullpen.
A.J. Ellis, C: If he went 12-for-12 this weekend -- and there’s no way he’ll get that many at-bats in the post-clinching aftermath -- he would finish the season with a .225 batting average. In other words, it might take a miracle for him to get over the Mendoza Line. You can tell the Dodgers love the way he calls a game or else they wouldn’t have ridden him so hard in the season’s final weeks. Everyone should understand that his poor hitting was the result, in part, of two leg injuries early in the season. He had knee surgery and then immediately sprained an ankle landing on a catcher’s mask during the celebration of Josh Beckett's no-hitter. Still, he’ll be 34 next season, so questions about his future with the team persist.