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Matt Kemp: Is the Los Angeles Dodger the NL MVP?

Evan BarnesContributor IIIAugust 18, 2011

Matt Kemp: Is the Los Angeles Dodger the NL MVP?

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    There have been only two things worth watching on the Dodgers this year: Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. If you add a third, it’d be the ongoing saga involving the ownership of the team.

    As we enter the last month-and-a-half of the season, the award talk is heating up and it’s time for guys to start making their case. In my opinion, the National League MVP should go to a guy who’s been the clear-cut leader of his team with the numbers to match it.

    Matt Kemp had a subpar 2010 season and he’s already eclipsed those numbers. He’s matured as a team leader and he’s been a one-man wrecking crew at the plate.

    Let’s go ahead and look at why Kemp deserves to be the MVP despite the Dodgers’ struggles.

1. Kemp's Incredible Numbers

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    Kemp's the only National League player in the top five for batting average, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and hits.

    He's in the top 10 for runs scored and leads the National League in wins above replacement. 

    He's also the only NL hitter in top five in the Triple Crown categories—HRs, RBI and batting average—and is nearly in the top 10 in all three among the major league leaders.

    He's on the verge of the first 30-30 season in the majors since 2009 and might finish just within shouting distance of a 40-40 season.

    Just for comparison's sake, in his 2009 MVP season, Albert Pujols finished top five in average, home runs, RBI, OBP, slugging percentage, runs scored and was sixth in hits.

    Pujols was a unanimous winner. I'm not saying Kemp is this year but there is clear precedent for rewarding all-around offensive excellence.

2. Kemp's Performed with the Least Help Without Complaints

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    Matt Kemp is the single driving force behind the Dodgers. No one player has meant more to his team.

    The signature game for me came on June 4 when the Dodgers trailed the Reds on the road and Kemp hit two home runs, including a game-tying grand slam, to help one of the biggest comebacks in team history

    Kemp is putting up these numbers with almost little to no support or protection in the lineup. The team is hitting .264 in the No. 5 spot behind him and the No. 1 and 2 hitters are a combined .261.

    It’s pretty much Kemp and nobody else, yet he’s already on pace for a career year in every category. Besides Clayton Kershaw, most fans usually tune in to see if Kemp had another home run or how many runs he drove in.

    Despite that, he’s a big reason why team morale isn’t lower with the off-field turmoil. He hasn't pointed the finger at anyone and he's been more than a great teammate in the clubhouse. 

    Kemp’s the first one off the bench when a teammate gets a walkoff hit and he’s been one of the team’s most active Twitter users.

3. Lack of Clear Favorites on Contenders

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    Look around the National League at the best teams and you can't make a clear MVP argument for one person.

    Start with Milwaukee: Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have been great for the Brewers but they could split votes in the final tally. Braun is hitting at nearly a tenth higher and Kemp's power numbers are higher than Fielder's.  

    What about St. Louis? Albert Pujols has recovered from his early-season slump to have a typical Pujols season, but I'm betting Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday had something to do with his recovery and deserve a lot more credit for their consistency. 

    Jose Reyes was on pace for an MVP season before he was derailed by injuries. Ryan Howard (above) is having his usual productive season, but Kemp has him beat in nearly every category except RBI’s.

    This isn’t Kemp padding his stats on a losing team—it’s him putting up great numbers which more than favorably compare to his peers.

4. Andre Dawson/Alex Rodriguez

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    Andre Dawson and Alex Rodriguez: Both Dawson and Rodriguez won MVPs on last place teams.

    The way the Dodgers are playing, Kemp has a chance to join elite company but let’s take another look at what Dawson and A-Rod did. 

    In 1987 Dawson led the majors in home runs (49) and runs batted in (137) and won a Gold Glove. He hit .287 with a slugging percentage of .568.

    In '03 Rodriguez led the majors with 47 home runs and finished second in the American League with 118 RBI. He hit for .298 with a major league-leading slugging percentage of .600.*

    Both were single-handedly carrying their teams despite having little support and had incredible numbers that dominated the majors. Now let’s compare to Kemp's season.

    Kemp won’t be leading the majors in either home runs or RBI, but his all-around numbers make up for that. He has a higher batting average than both Hawk and A-Rod, more stolen bases and his slugging percentage compares favorably to both.

    *A-Rod's MVP is somewhat tainted with his admission of steroid usage during this season. 

The Final Word

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    Matt Kemp’s been hailed by Sports Illustrated as perhaps the most complete player in baseball. He’s been the subject of several stories highlighting his rebound from his disappointing 2010 season.

    He may not be the best defensive center fielder but that’s the next area of growth and it shouldn't penalize his great season

    In my opinion, he’s consistently been the best player in the National League and should be named the first Dodgers MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988; it’s the only consolation Dodgers fans have with all the off-field chaos. 

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