(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp watches his home run during the first inning against Arizona on Sept. 12 at Dodger Stadium.
Matt Kemp’s performance — a league-best 39 homers, 126 RBIs and 115 runs, second-best with 40 stolen bases, .586 slugging percentage and .986 OPS, and third-best with a .324 average in playing in every Dodgers game in 2011 — was enough evidence for the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) to announce him as winner of its National League’s Most Valuable Player in the first of its 14 annual awards.
1st Place: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2nd Place: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
3rd Place: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
4th Place: Albert Pujols, St. Louis
5th Place: Justin Upton, Arizona
6th Place: Joey Votto, Cincinnati
7th Place: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
8th Place: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
9th Place: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
10th Place: Hunter Pence, Philadelphia
Said Times’ baseball writer and IBWAA member, Kevin Baxter: “Consider 2011 a coming-out party for the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, who fully displayed his enormous abilities. No player in the National League had a more complete season than Kemp, who led the league in runs, homers and RBIs, had the third-highest batting average and also stole 40 bases. And he did it all in the middle of a lineup that offered him little protection. Oh, and he also led NL centerfielders with 11 assists.”
I’m a voter as well. The top two picks are as I selected, followed by Upton, Lance Berkman, Fielder, Pujols, Votto, Pence, Mike Stanton and Clayton Kershaw.
This was my rationale:
In a numbers’ driven sport where you can twist an argument to go your way pretty much at every turn of the slide rule, picking Kemp over Braun added up right in my head after weighing all the options.
The statistical output that the two have now for the backs of their baseball cards will look pretty similar for the 2011 season. But if Braun has an edge in being valuable to a team winning a division title, Kemp was able to have the season he did for a team blanketed in off-the-field distractions without someone like Prince Fielder having his back in the lineup all season.
In fact, Kemp was used as a No. 4 hitter most of the year to protect Andre Ethier – who pulled off a 30-game hitting streak at one point. That shows value to a team as well.
Once Kemp was moved to the No. 3 hole, there was only above-average protection that could have resulted in pitchers getting around him in order to face the next part of the lineup.
How Kemp drove in enough runs to lead the league is crazy in itself coming from this Dodgers team. How he led the league in runs scored is mind boggling considering the rest of the lineup. Stealing 40 bases, none of them just to rack up stats, showed his talents as well (not to discount Braun’s stolen bases, either). And improving his play as a center fielder accounts for something as well.
You hate to be accused of having a local bias, but in this case, L.A. is not only where Kemp played, but where Braun grew up. You could find yourself rooting for both to have phenomenal years, which they did. It could have been easy to name them co-MVPs. But that would be the easy way out. This makes more sense.
The IBWAA was established July 4, 2009 by Howard Cole, editor of BaseballSavvy.com and Dodger blogger for the Orange County Register, to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as an alternative voice to the BBWAA. Other IBWAA members include Tim Brown, YahooSports; Fred Claire, former Dodgers general manager; Tony Jackson, Dodgers reporter, ESPNLosAngeles.com; Ben Maller, FoxSports.com; David Pinto, BaseballMusings.com; Mike Petriello, MikeSciosciasTragicIllness.com; and prominent baseball authors Peter Golenbock and Dan Schlossberg.