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Monday, September 19, 2011

Your National League MVP

The competition for the NL MVP seemingly comes down to two candidates, with two others receiving honorable mention. Prince Fielder and Justin Upton, in my view, don't quite make the cut. Fielder has the power and RBI numbers, but little else. Upton lags behind the front runners, slightly, in most of the important statistical categories. Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp have been the two most outstanding players in the league with regard to the completeness of their game. They hit for average, they hit for power, they steal bases. They're not the best defenders at their positions, but they hold their own. The question then arises, who most deserves the award?

Let's first look at their current statistics side by side:
Games: Braun 140:Kemp 152 (has not missed a game)
Runs: 103 (each)
Hits: 179:180
2B: 36:28
3B: 5:4
HR: 31:34
RBI: 103:113
SB: 31:40
CS: 6:10
BA: .336:.320
OBP: .400:.398
SLG: .597:.565
OPS: .997:.963

As the stats suggest, the two are fairly evenly matched. For categories with a clear leader, Kemp gets the edge in games played, HR, RBI, and SB, while also getting caught stealing more than Braun. Braun leads in 2B, BA, SLG, and OPS. I'm not sure that one has necessarily performed any better than the other, all things considered. Last year Albert Pujols and Joey Votto had very similar stats across the board, but Votto won the award in the landslide. When faced with a (near) statistical dead heat, the writers who pick the winner almost universally vote in favor of the player whose team makes the playoffs. That player, the reasoning goes, brings more value to his team because his production helped his team compete and reach the postseason. Oftentimes, without that production, the team likely would fall short.

The Brewers competed in their division all year and built a strong lead in the NL Central during a torrid August during which Braun batted .369 with a .436 OBP, 24 runs, 10 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 12 SB, and a 1.057 OPS. Kemp's Dodgers, on the other hand, basically failed to compete all season. In such a context, Braun clearly deserves the award.

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