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NL MVP preview: it’s a two-man race

Nov 22, 2011, 12:03 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun celebrates his 2 RBIs against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 5th inning of Game 1 in the MLB National League Championship Series baseball playoffs in Milwaukee

It doesn’t get much closer than this when it comes to a couple of MVP candidates.

  • Player A:  .332/.397/.597, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 runs
  • Player B: .324/.399/.586, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 111 runs

But then you add in that Player A played a pedestrian-to-bad left field and Player B played a good center field, and it should tip it in B’s favor.

Except I have a pretty strong feeling that it won’t this time, because Player A — Ryan Braun — played for a division winner and Player B — Matt Kemp — did not.  And when such a state of affairs exists, MVP voters are almost always going to go for the guy on the winning team.  I bet Braun takes the hardware and that’s not nearly as close as it should be.

source: Getty ImagesTo be sure: Braun winning will not be a miscarriage of justice. He had a fantastic season. I’m just saying he wouldn’t be my choice.

I’m more animated — in advance — that a lot of people who cast their ballot for Braun will likely have done so on the basis of his team’s performance, which seems so beside the point to me.  But that’s what you get when you have the word “valuable” right in the title of the award.  It it were about the most outstanding player it wouldn’t be as tricky, but the concept of value seems to demand something for it to serve, and in this case the voters tend to see that as team goals, not individual accomplishments.

Which is troublesome to me because it’s all based on a fallacy that games in which non-contending teams play are somehow less important than games involving contenders. Maybe they are to those of us who write about baseball and thus focus on playoff implications. But are you telling me that Matt Kemp didn’t take the games in which he played as seriously as Ryan Braun did? That the pitchers he faced let up?  I don’t think anyone would have the guts to even ask Matt Kemp what he thought about that concept, so basing an awards vote on it seems silly to me.

Oh well. We’ll see at 2PM eastern.

  1. skeleteeth - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Hitching my wagon to Prince-less Kemp.

    • thekcubrats - Nov 22, 2011 at 3:30 PM

      Craig! you left out:
      - steals!
      - park effects
      - not just better teammates but Kemp scored more R with NOBODY behind him

      And, without Kemp, Duds lose 122, without Braun Brews lose just enough more to maybe miss the ‘offs.

      Just a ridic award (not as bad as a Jeter GG but…) since the thing that seems to matter most to the voters is the postseason (i.e., getting there) which of course is not supposed to be a consideration since postseason performance isn’t and can’t be part of the vote.

  2. skids003 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Give me a break, defense has nothing to do with the MVP, writers look at stats and where their team finished. Not saying that’s right, it’s just the way it is.

    • Detroit Michael - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      Writers do at least consider a player’s position. They realize that Jimmy Rollins or Dustin Pedroia (citing some recent examples) doesn’t need to have the same batting performance as a first baseman to be the league’s most valuable player.

      • bozosforall - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:33 PM

        Both of those guys should have never been the MVP. Morneau got robbed in 2008.

  3. drunkenhooliganism - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Kemp should be the MVP. He put up similar stats in a far more pitcher friendly stadium. Adding in the difference in defense and it shouldn’t be close. Also Kemp was the only regular on his team that should be on a major league 40-man roster, and it makes his season more incredible.

    it could go to Braun because of the win-loss record and because Kemp fell a homer short of a 40-40 season and the hype that goes with it.

    But, yaknow, Go Canes. So I wouldn’t mind if Braun won it at all.

    • bigxrob - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      Andre Eithier doesn’t belong on a 40 man roster?

      • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        Beat me to it. Drat!

      • scatterbrian - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        And get rid of the Kershaw bum

    • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      Andre Either would like to have a word with you….

      • Jeff M. - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        What word is that? “Pie?” Or “Cake?”

      • drunkenhooliganism - Nov 22, 2011 at 4:42 PM

        you guys are right. One of the other hitters on the team belongs on a 40 man roster. The team had an OPS+ of 94 INCLUDING Kemp’s 170, without him it would be about 85.

  4. Charles Gates - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    David Freese gets a 1st place vote and the blogosphere erupts.

  5. thefalcon123 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Do you understand park factors and the defensive spectrum? If so, Kemp is your MVP.

    • Kyle - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:06 PM

      Yeah, it really kind of boils down to that. It’s annoying that Braun will win.

  6. nightman13 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Craig-

    I think you might be overlooking the impact Braun’s stats had though. Braun is one of the most clutch hitters in baseball and he performed at a high level under high amounts of pressure.

    Also, I think the Brewers would be far less likely to have had the success they did if Braun wasn’t there, whereas the Dodgers still would have sucked without Kemp.

    • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:23 PM

      Why do their teammates factor into the decision? Value is value. One tone of feathers weighs the same as one ton of bricks.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:36 PM

        Yes, but which has more value the ton of feathers or the ton of bricks?

      • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        Should have gone with the $100 is worth $100 no matter what!

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        Wait, did I have the 100$ argument with you before? One time I had a 4 hour long debate with somebody on here about what I termed “relative value” arguing that 100$ doesn’t always have the same value.

      • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        Not me. But you were probably talking about marginal value. In actual value $100 is $100.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 2:08 PM

        Something like that….my central point was that 100$’s has different value to different people.

      • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 2:27 PM

        True, $100 is worth more marginally to a college student than Bill gates. But that $100 will buy the same amount of Ramen for both Bill and the college student.

    • joshfrancis50 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      The first part of your comment had me thinking you’re just baiting Craig, but after reading the second part, I’m concerned you are serious.

  7. Charles Gates - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    $5 to the person that punches the first writer that extrapolates this to a McCourt-Selig narrative.

    • cur68 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      I’ll see your $5 bucks and go in with McCourt. I’m not touching Selig.

  8. cur68 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    It’s probably Kemp, I think. Just based on the sexy home runs, the better D, RBIs, no Fielder protection in the lineup and coping with all that McCourting going on around his team. But, if it’s Braun, I won’t be all bent about it.

  9. sdelmonte - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    It should have been Reyes. Lousy stinking hamstring.

    • bigxrob - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      I’m suprised people won’t make the argument that while Reyes only played in 126 games, it was still 90 more than Verlander.
      Why not Reyes?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:37 PM

        I’ve been waiting for somebody to make that argument.

      • bigxrob - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        i’m not making the argument DMA, just putting it out there.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM

        I know…I probably should have been more clear; I’ve been waiting for somebody to bring that up.

  10. skipperxc - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    A “good” centerfield is probably a stretch, but Kemp was certainly no worse a CF than Braun was an LF — and the fact that he does play CF is the tiebreaker to me. Not that I (as a Brewers fan) won’t be tickled pink if Braun wins though.

  11. Jonny 5 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Have to go with Kemp here for park factors as well as batting in front of Loney as opposed to Fielder. He stole more bases. More everything pretty much..

  12. hermitfool - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    Craig,

    Have you checked Braun’s fielding metrics for the 2011 season? He’s no Brett Gardener, but he’s much improved.

    • Walk - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:52 PM

      I kinda feel like braun is gonna win it. I would like see kemp get it but hey like others before me said meh not worth arguing over much, either is ok. Unfortunately i think voters are lazy look at which team has better record then looks for elite players on said team then immediately think hey this guy is obviously the best, his team did better.

  13. jlbk - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I don’t understand all of the stuff about Braun’s defense. You always make it sound like he’s one of the worst fielding left fielders in the game. Yes he was a terrible third baseman, but he’s well above average in left.

    • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      No he’s not. He’s not anywhere near well above average in left. If you want to say he’s not the worst, okay. But average is giving him too much credit as a defender.

  14. Jonny 5 - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Are there no good pitchers who also made the playoffs in the NL?

    I’m confused. I mean the writers MUST take pitchers into account. Right? Verlander < Halladay

    • obpedmypants - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      pitchers were taken into account, and none are good enough (kershaw should get votes in the 3 to 9 range, though). the fact that you can’t see what differentiates verlander’s season and halladay’s is probably why you don’t understand doc’s name being absent.

      • indyralph - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        I’m not sure Doc had a better season than Verlander, but it’s at least debatable. Doc had similar strikeout rate (granted fewer innings), better walk rate, and much better HR rate. The difference between Verlander, Kershaw, Halladay comes down to how much credit you give the defense.

  15. drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    I’d go with Braun. It is really close between the two of them in my opinion. Tiebreak goes to the guy who made the playoffs. I realize it isn’t fair, but hey that’s life.

    • bozosforall - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      So THAT’S why Verlander won the AL MVP? LOL

  16. Charles Gates - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    So, either way, Craig, the Phillies will be disrespected?

    • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      Clearly. I’d actually go with Victorino. If you didn’t watch the Phillies everyday, then you have no idea what his value to the team was.

      • Charles Gates - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        Sounds worthy of at least one first place vote.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        In all seriousness though, he should finish in the top 10. He was their best position player all year. A bad last month kept him from being a top 5 contender.

  17. cup0pizza - Nov 22, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    KEMP

  18. cintiphil - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I agree that both Kemp and Braun had great years, however did it get their teams anywhere? Even I have to admit that there could be a redbird in the running, as without Freese, the Cards do not win the playoffs or the W-S. He has to get some consideration. On the other hand, did Braun come through in the NLCS to lead the team? He obviously fell apart when the club needed his bat.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      Voting is done before the playoffs. So, none of what you mentioned will factor in.

    • spotdog19 - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:25 PM

      Really Cintiphil? Where do I start?

      1) Ryan Braun’s year got him to the NLCS…mathematically speaking that’s top 4 teams.

      2) Freese didn’t even qualify for the Batting title because he didn’t have enough at bats therefore he’s not even eligible to win the award.

      3) David Freese hit .397, 5hr, 21rbi in 18 games in the post season. Ryan Braun hit .405, 2hr, 12rbi in 11 games in the post Season. One can hardly say Braun “Fell Apart” with those stats – averaged out they are comparable.

      4) Voting takes before the playoffs so any talk of post season stats is moot.

      Way to be a homer cinti….

      • cintiphil - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:54 PM

        Yes, I forgot about the voting business before the playoffs. Other than that, I am not a cards fan here in Cinti. I was just trying to observe others who may be in line because in my opinion, the two mentioned are not as outstanding as they appear on paper. Braun did very little to help his team in the NCLS. When he hit, hardly anyone was on base. When the games were on line, he struck out or grounded out. I watched all of the NCLS and was impressed very little by him. I will agree that during the season, he had key hits throughout.

    • umrguy42 - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      Freese had a good playoffs, but again, postseason doesn’t factor into MVP. I’d expect votes for Albert, though, particularly for his second half.

  19. foreverchipper10 - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    If I had a vote it would go to Kemp. I would not be surprised or upset in any way if Braun won it. Both players had stellar years and the numbers are almost identical. Both are also premier base stealers which was not noted above. This should be a tight race but as was mentioned earlier in these comments I too believe Braun will get it based on the overall teams performance throughout the year. While these debates are fun, albeit sometimes aggravating, I truly cannot be upset so long as the award goes to one of these two.

  20. Jonny 5 - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Sarcasm meters are off today… Hmmm?

  21. brewcrewfan54 - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I don’t give a shit what any of those statistics say Braun is alot etter fielder than people give him credit for. I’m not sating he’s the best butthe guy makes the plays he should out there and then makes the occasional fantastic play. Add in a very strong and accurate throwing arm. Instead of the stats ya need to check the eye test sometimes and he passes that. I will admit he does make a terrible play on occasion to, just to be fair.

    • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      That’s great. Just know no one gives a shit about your biased opinion, either.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Nov 22, 2011 at 4:05 PM

        Well I dont give a shit about your opinion either so I guess we’re even.

      • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 8:14 PM

        Awesome. Just know that my opinion isn’t biased. Braun is a bad defender. He’s still a great player, just not with a glove on his left hand.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Nov 23, 2011 at 12:17 AM

      You obviously don’t watch many Brewer games and base all your opinions on sabeetrics. That’s fine because you certainly aren’t the only one. Those things don’t always tell the story though. And most people who are getting paid to know about baseball are still in debate to how good those stats are at measuring fielding ability.

  22. bozosforall - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    Kemp was responsible for 18% of his team’s total runs (and nearly 21% of his team’s RBIs), while Braun was only responsible for 15% of his team’s total runs (and 16% of his team’s RBIs).

    Kemp was more valuable. Not his fault most of the rest of his team (Ethier, Kershaw, Broxton excluded…and maybe someone else I’m forgetting at the moment) was not very good. Throw in the added distraction of the idiot McCourt saga and Kemp gets the nod.

    • davidpom50 - Nov 22, 2011 at 1:53 PM

      I’m all for Kemp winning, but the stats you just threw out penalize Braun for being on a good team, which to me is just as nonsensical as penalizing Kemp for being on a bad team. It’s an individual award, what the other players on the team did should be meaningless.

      • Alex K - Nov 22, 2011 at 2:09 PM

        Don’t start with him. He will say stupid things like what he said abouve and then say you think too much of yourself when you disagree. It’s a no win for you.

    • cintiphil - Nov 22, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      Bozo. i would caution that many times, it is the key hit that should count. I have not checked, but how many game winning hit/HR or walk Since the playoff numbers are not considered, how about Ryan Howard? he seems to hit a very hard .270, with all of his RBI’s and long balls. How did he rank in walk off hits? I would not have counted him out, even he won it before.

    • thefalcon123 - Nov 22, 2011 at 3:31 PM

      Hey Bozo,

      I know a player in 2011 who was responsible for 22.8% of his teams runs! He is clearly the MVP…right? Sure, Ichiro Suzuki only had a .645 OPS this year…but 22.8% of his teams runs! MVP! MVP!

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