Historically, Major League Baseball’s most valuable player award has been presented to a superb player whose team will play well into the postseason. This season however, things do not seem to be so clear-cut in the race for NL MVP.
Los Angeles Dodger’s centerfielder Matt Kemp has challenged this notion with his outstanding play in his attempt to become the first player in the majors to hit for the Triple Crown since 1967. Kemp will fall short of the feat, but the fact that he even came so close so late in the season speaks volumes to the type of career year he had.
A tightly contested race for the NL MVP is heating up between Kemp and Milwaukee Brewer’s left fielder Ryan Braun. If Kemp were on a winning team like Braun he would win the MVP award, but he plays for a near .500 third place team.
Kemp leads the NL in home runs and RBI with 38 and 124 respectively, and is third in batting average at .324. He is also second in stolen bases with 40 on the season, looking to become only the fifth member of the 40-40 club.
I would say Kemp deserves the MVP, but Braun is certainly has his own merits as well. Braun is second in the NL with a .333 batting average to go along with his 111 RBI, 33 home runs and 33 stolen bases.
According to baseball-reference.com, Kemp is 2nd in the majors with a 8.5 WAR (wins above replacement), while Braun is fifth at 7.8. Essentially this is saying that without Kemp, the Dodgers would have won 10 fewer games.
In a sport where value is measured in wins and losses, does it not make sense that the player who wins the MVP award should be the one who contributes the most to his team?
Without Braun, or the “Hebrew Hammer” as he is known, the Brewers would probably still make the playoffs. If the Dodgers were without Kemp, they plummet in the NL West instead of having a winning season.
While LA has some decent players on its team, it has nowhere near the talent that Milwaukee holds. Braun and first baseman Prince Fielder provide a formidable one-two punch for the Brewers, but Kemp has accomplished his feat with a lineup including the likes of Aaron Miles and Rod Barajas.
These guys are serviceable veterans deserving of being on a major league roster, but Kemp has nowhere near the protection Braun receives in the lineup, especially since left fielder Andre Ethier’s season ending knee surgery.
Amid the ownership pile of crap that is Frank McCourt and all the turmoil he caused the Dodgers this season, it honestly should have been the worst season in Dodger history. However, thanks to Kemp and probable Cy Young Award winning pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have remained relevant in the late part of the season.
Both Braun and Kemp deserve the award, and there is no fault with the panel of 32 writers who hold the decision in their hands if they pick either one of the two as the MVP. Kemp and Braun represent the future of baseball in their respective cities and should be in the discussion for the MVP award for years to come.