Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers Is MLB's 2011 NL MVP

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Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers Is MLB's 2011 NL MVP
Mark Hirsch/Getty Images
Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers have an 8.5 game lead in the NL Central.

Ryan Braun is this year's NL MVP.

Other players might be in the discussion, namely Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton, but at the end of the season Braun should be adding to a trophy case that already contains Rookie of the Year and three Silver Sluggers.

Braun, who is hitting .332, trails NL Leader Jose Reyes by just one point.

He leads the National League in On-Base plus Slugging percentage (OPS), baseball's best measure of offensive output, at .987.  He's one of just three plays in the senior circuit with at least a .400 On-Base and .550 Slugging Percentage (Kemp is just outside with a .399 OBP).  Only Votto (.985) is within 20 points of Braun.

Braun has put together such an incredible OPS through a balanced offensive attack. A patient slugger, he's walked enough that his On-Base is 70 points over his impressive batting average.  He has 25 homers, 35 doubles and five triples, giving him 65 extra-base hits already - more than any of his potential MVP counterparts except for Upton (68).

Currently leading the league in runs with 93 and sitting fifth in RBI at 91, Braun should easily eclipse the century mark in both fields before season's end.

Among this group, Pujols's 51 strikeouts are the only total less than Braun's 79.  Fielder (88) is the only other player under 100.

Of potential MVP candidates, Braun's 31 steals trail only Kemp's 37.  Braun, however, is a more efficient stealer than Kemp, stealing bags at an 86% success rate compared to Kemp's 82%.  In fact, Braun's rate is better than anyone in the top 10 in stolen bases except for Cameron Maybin, whose 32-for-37 barely bests Braun's 31-for-36.

Braun is also the best hitter, and No. 3 batter for a Brewers club that has opened up an impressive 8.5 game lead in the NL Central.  The magic number to clinch their first division crown since 1982, when they were in the American League, is 16.  So with 23 games remaining and 24 for the division rival St. Louis Cardinals, any combination of 16 Milwaukee wins plus St. Louis losses will earn them a trip to the playoffs.  If the Braun-led Brew Crew plays just one game under .500 the rest of the way, St. Louis would have to go 19-4 just to force a tie.

The other players have all had tremendous seasons of their own, and each deserves some consideration, but ultimately none stack up to the season Braun has put together.

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