Ryan Braun vs. Matt Kemp: Who Is the NL MVP?
With Ryan Braun on a tear in the playoff thus far with two home runs and eight runs batted in, the question of who will be awarded the National League most valuable player award still remains floating in the air.
The MVP award is voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) prior to the postseason but is not announced until after the World Series, leaving fans anxiously awaiting the results of the most prestigious individual award in baseball.
The BBWAA had a difficult task of deciphering two excellent National League athletes this year— Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun and Los Angleles Dodger Matt Kemp—who both had stellar seasons.
While the NL MVP could be awarded to either slugger, here is a comparison of the two well-qualified candidates.
Career: Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun has had a tremendously successful five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, hitting over .300 and driving in over 100 runs in four of those seasons.
In his brief yet thriving career, Braun has the career averages of a Hall of Fame player (32 HR 106 RBI .312 AVG .371 OBP .563 SLG).
At a mere 27 years old, Braun has established himself as one of the most consistent power hitters in all of baseball.
Career: Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp has always shown great potential throughout his career—the kind that he realized this season. In his six years in the majors, all with the Dodgers, Kemp has been weaving in and out of his true talent.
With his great 2011 season, Kemp has brought his career averages up significantly (21 HR 76 RBI .294 AVG .350 OBP .496 SLG)* and should continue to thrive and build upon some of the adjustments he made this year.
*NOTE: Kemp’s stats are deflated if based upon the usual season average because he played a combined 150 games in his first two seasons. When his stats are based upon the number of games played and not seasons played, Kemp’s season averages are higher (26 HR 94 RBI .294 AVG .381 OBP .496 SLG)
2011 Season at the Plate: Ryan Braun
Braun had a remarkable year at the plate this year, manufacturing runs in the core of the Brewers’ offense to help them easily cease the NL Central.
His sound swing and sheer power makes him a big threat in the batter's box.
The star left fielder hit 33 bombs, drove in 111 runs, and maintained a career-high batting average (.332) and on-base percentage (.397).
2011 Season at the Plate: Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp worked hard in the offseason studying and practicing his approach in the box, and it paid off greatly.
He was much more disciplined at the plate and drew a career-high 74 walks (tied for eighth in the NL). Kemp had an enormous impact on the Dodgers offense and was involved in over 30 percent of their runs.
Kemp’s patience and plate discipline helped maximize his power, putting up career-highs (39 HR 126 RBI .324 AVG .399 OBP .586 SLG) and almost achieving the glorious feat of a Triple Crown batting title.
2011 Season on the Bases: Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun showed off his wheels in 2011, stealing a career-high 33 bases and breaking out of the mold of a player with decent speed who stole 15 bases per year.
Braun’s 33 stolen bases were well-executed as well, as he was only caught stealing six times, leaving him with a solid 85 percent success rate.
2011 Season on the Bases: Matt Kemp
While Kemp’s speed has always been a factor, averaging 24 stolen bases per season, working with base coach Davey Lopes helped Kemp steal a career-high 40 bases—with a success-rate of 78 percent—which is a vast improvement from the 56 percent success rate in 2010.
If Kemp had hit one more home run to tip his total to 40, he would have joined the illustrious 40-40 club alongside Barry Bonds, José Canseco, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.
2011 Season with the Glove: Ryan Braun
Braun had another solid year in left field for the Brewers, making only one error and finishing with a .996 fielding percentage.
After making the shift from third base to left field in 2008, Braun has committed a mere six errors in the outfield.
In addition, Braun had eight assists from the outfield (league-leader Alex Gordon from the Kansas City Royals had 20). As always, he showed an aggressiveness in the field, making him a regular in highlight reels.
2011 Season with the Glove: Matt Kemp
Kemp displayed a much more accurate arm in center field this year, making 11 assists and committing five errors, ending with a .986 fielding percentage.
While he may still have a little defensive improvement to make, he is trending towards becomes a Gold Glove outfielder. Kemp made some acrobatic, body-twisting catches, exhibiting his amazing athleticism.
Two Men, One Plaque
With two excellent and well-qualified athletes in the running for the MVP, the award could be rightly be awarded to either candidate.
Both players produced impressive powe numbers from the plate, displayed their speed on the base paths, and flashed their gloves in the outfield.
Here's a look at their offensive stats side-by-side:
It’s up in the air.