I’m writing my latest treatise as to why Matt Kemp should be National League MVP now that the season is over for several reasons. As is always the case in the world of sports, statistics become outdated and accompanying reasoning becomes useless. Also, the difficulty of naming an MVP of the regular season before the regular season has come to a close is huge and is actually only useful for entertainment purposes later on. For instance, at the time I wrote the last post
, there was absolutely no chance you could have convinced me that the Rays were anywhere near the playoffs. Nor could you have convinced me that the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants would lose series’ to the Astros, Cubs, and multiple series to the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in the months of August and September. Clearly, the NL MVP race, like the rest of baseball, has changed a bit since we last checked in.
Over the last month Kemp has 8 Home-runs, 5 steals, 24 RBI, an OBP of .419 and a SLG of .667
For starters, Matt Kemp has absolutely gone off since mid-August. Many of the naysayers then said that he’d need to really distinguish himself from the pack. Aside from his completely embarrassing photo shoot for Flaunt magazine, which produced the second, third and fourth lamest photos of all time; he has done just that, mostly by demolishing pitching for much of the last 6 weeks. What is the first, you ask? By the way, my favorite part of that Cuban photo is that his shirt says “Mavericks Intensity.” I can’t think of a worse slogan. I just can’t. Not that I’d mind him buying the Dodgers, of course.
Anyway, although Ryan Braun is being touted by some as a potentially better alternative than Kemp, statistically this just isn’t so. Kemp leads Braun statistically in At Bats (only relevant because it makes his comparable batting average that much more impressive), Runs, Hits, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, Walks, and On Base Percentage. I’m going to avoid the almost obligatory list of Dodgers and MLB milestones Kemp accomplished this season only because you have ESPN for those sorts of things. Though it should be said that Kemp’s lead in those statistical categories is, in many cases, small, that does not exclude the fact that he is still better than Braun in those categories. Many, however, do discount the fact that he is statistically besting Braun by offering more interpretations of the word “valuable” than the Oxford English Dictionary.
Those who don’t value statistics claim that the “valuable” part of the award’s name can’t be applied to Kemp because he didn’t play any games of importance down the stretch. This is the argument that I absolutely take issue with. Every single game that the Dodgers played in the last 2 months of the season was important, not only to the franchise, but to the entire fan base. Sure, Kemp & Co. might not have been playing for a playoff spot, but is that really the only thing that matters? What started as the most bleak and depressing of Dodgers seasons, and by midseason had morphed into a bizarre game of “Let’s see if Frank can make his payroll this month,” was transformed by Kemp and his late season heroics at the plate. People always get all mushy and weak-kneed discussing their nostalgia and love for the game and yet, all that matters can be reduced down to wins and losses? What I saw while the Brewers were winning games on the way to playoff spot was a team in Los Angeles winning games and delivering new hope to the fans that had been disregarded and disrespected by ownership for far too long. Not to mention that he played nearly the whole month of September with the prospect of winning the sacred “triple crown” hanging over his head. I can’t image more pressure for a hitter.
Kemp ended 2011 .013 away from Jose Reyes for the NL batting title, which would have given Kemp the Triple Crown and been the first time the crown would have been awarded since 1967 and the first time in the National League since 1937
There are of course, those that say you can’t be valuable unless your team is winning a division championship. I offer you this analogy: say you are in a car race driving a Mustang. You comfortably win the race in the Mustang and it is clear that the Mustang was a large part of your success on this day. It has great value to you because it helped you win a race and is a fast and mechanically sound car. However, say that you’re offered a Ferrari for the next race. Do you deny that the Ferrari is a superior car to the Mustang and turn it down? Absolutely not. That is because the Ferrari possesses value independent of the outcome of the race as a better car in general. Imagine what you could have done in that race, had you only had the Ferrari instead of the Mustang. Simply because you won a race with a Mustang doesn’t mean that it is suddenly more valuable than a Ferrari. The values of the two cars are not dependent upon one another. The same could be said for Kemp and Braun. Though Braun helped the Brewers win their first division title in nearly 30 years, that doesn’t diminish Kemp’s value to a team as a player. If you were to hold a backyard-style draft for a pickup game, including all of the position players in the NL, the majority of people would pick Kemp first. That is because he is the best player, so what he did over the course of a season really has no effect upon his value as a player or to the Dodgers. Take him away from the Dodgers and what do you have? An awful team. Add him to any National League team and what do you have? In every case, you have a better team. You could even assign his value a dollar-amount (which, incidentally, the Dodgers will probably do this winter) or a video-game style rating. With both of these measures, and with almost all others, you’d have to say his worth is more than Braun’s. Wins for a player’s team are not a tie-breaker, they are simply irrelevant.