The Major League Baseball awards season ended Tuesday, with the BBWAA announcing its winner of the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award. And this announcement was an absolute stunner - winning, and picking up 20 of 32 first-place votes, was Ryan Braun, former reliever for the Kansas City Royals. Braun didn't pitch in the majors or minors in 2011, and last appeared in the majors in 2007, posting a 6.64 ERA over 26 appearances. So we're seeing a shift in the voters' collective perspective - they're less married to selecting a position player, and they're less married to selecting a player who played in baseball.
Oh, of course: the other Ryan Braun. I do this all the time with the D'Amicos! It was the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun who won the MVP, beating out the Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp in what was basically a two-man race.
Whether it should have been a two-man race is up to you - there are arguments one could have made in favor of Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw. But this was expected to be a two-man race in the lead up, and the results bear that out. The complete voting table:
|Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers||20||12||388|
|Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers||10||16||6||332|
|Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers||1||4||11||9||1||3||2||1||229|
|Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks||1||8||11||6||3||1||1||1||214|
|Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals||1||6||11||6||4||2||166|
|Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds||4||3||2||8||3||3||4||1||135|
|Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals||1||2||6||3||7||2||4||3||118|
|Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies||3||4||8||5||4||69|
|Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies||1||1||1||6||2||3||52|
|Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies||1||3||1||1||1||3||39|
|Jose Reyes, New York Mets||1||1||3||4||3||31|
|Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers||1||1||2||5||2||29|
|Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies||3||3||3||18|
|Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks||1||2||1||16|
|Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies||2||1||1||12|
|Hunter Pence, Astros/Phillies||1||1||1||10|
|Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants||1||1||7|
|John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers||1||2||7|
|Michael Morse, Washington Nationals||1||1||5|
|Carlos Beltran, N.Y. Mets/S.F. Giants||1||3|
|Miguel Montero, Arizona D-backs||1||2|
|Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals||2||2|
|Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs||1||1|
|Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves||1||1|
|Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies||1||1|
|Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins||1||1|
Our own Rob Neyer predicted earlier this morning that Kemp would win, even though the Dodgers fell short of the playoffs while the Brewers did not. Obviously, Kemp did not win, although he was somewhat close. How about a statistical comparison?
Offensively speaking, Kemp and Braun were virtually identical, although Kemp batted 60 more times. Defensively, Kemp was passable in center field, while Braun was passable in the less-tricky left field. Based on those things alone, it seems like Kemp should have won.
But clearly, the value gap between playing left field and center field is exceeded by the BBWAA's perceived value gap between playing for a playoff team and playing for a non-playoff team. Braun and Kemp were very similar candidates, with Kemp having the slight performance edge, but Braun's team was better than Kemp's team, so Braun won.
It's not a shock. This is an old argument, with which I and countless others disagree. But we don't need to go back into it, because we've gone into it, so many times. I don't think Matt Kemp should be penalized because his teammates were worse than Ryan Braun's teammates. But he was, so, congratulations, Ryan Braun. Ryan Braun is very good.