Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How great were Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp in 2011?

.324 BA, 33 HR, 33 SB, 111 RBI, 109 R (since 1900)
1922 Ken Williams (Browns)
1997 Larry Walker (Rockies)
2011 Ryan Braun (Brewers)
2011 Matt Kemp (Dodgers)

Did Matt Kemp deserve to win the MVP? Maybe.  Probably.  But, we all know that when the numbers are close enough the guy on the playoff team always wins.  The AL may as well enshrine it in writing, having only given one (!) MVP award to a player who didn't go to the playoffs (in a non-strike year) since Cal Ripken in 1991 (A-Rod in 2003).  If Kemp keeps playing this way, it could play to his advantage in the future, although that's not much of a consolation right now. 

Regardless, they both had incredible seasons that stack up very well if measured historically.  Kemp bested Braun in most of the stats measured by sheer volume (playing in 11 more games than Braun helped) and Braun edged Kemp with some percentages (BA, OPS, SLG). 

As shown above, the only 2 players in history that could equal the worst numbers either Braun or Kemp had in these 5 categories  (Braun's output except for BA) were Larry Walker and Ken Williams.  To be fair to Walker, he was great on the road in 1997 (.346, 29 HR, 62 RBI), but it didn't hurt that he was playing at Coors where he hit .384 (he hit a staggering .381 at Coors for his career, covering nearly 600 games). 

Ken Williams was the first 30/30 players, and the only 30/30 player until Willie Mays in 1956.  He was a fine player (.319 career), but it was the only time he had 30 HR or 30 SB.  It was such a great year, he received except 0 votes for MVP , despite leading the league in HR and RBI.

This probably won't be the last time that the NL MVP will come down to Braun and Kemp, although it's hard to imagine both of them having this type of season again in the same year again. 


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