LOS ANGELES, CA - Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
This whole article stems from an unverifiable hypothesis: Matt Kemp will not receive serious MVP consideration unless the Dodgers finish over .500. If you don't buy into the hypothesis, you will think the rest of this article to be rubbish. More so, even. But if the Dodgers have a losing season, Kemp will already be an afterthought in the discussion.
The last time a player won the National League MVP without being on a second-place team was when Larry Walker (from the third-place Rockies) beat out Mike Piazza (from the second-place Dodgers) in 1997. Before that, there was the famous Andre Dawson award, in which the universe decided to let a little sun shine on the last-place Cubs before catching the accounting error. Before Dawson, the last NL player to win the MVP on a sub-.500 team: Ernie Banks.
This brings us to the rules for MVP voting, which state:
Only players from winning teams may be considered, unless the player in question is on the Cubs, in which case they shall be considered because those guys really mean well.
That's not verbatim. Actually, I didn't really look up the actual rules. But I'm pretty sure that sentence is in there somewhere. So if the Dodgers finish under .500 -- they're at 76-76 entering Monday -- Kemp will be officially eliminated.
His main competition is Ryan Braun. Without bringing the National League standings into discussion, the race wouldn't be as tight as it is. The players are just about even in the traditional stats (AVG/HR/RBI/SB) and in the advanced hitting stats (OPS+, wRC+). The difference is that Kemp is a center fielder, whereas Braun is a left fielder. That's a huge difference -- it's what's allowed the Dodgers to fit big bats like Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Juan Rivera in left field.
Well, that's probably not the best example, but they certainly could have fit a big bat in left.
And it's not as if Braun has a good reputation in left -- he's a well-known clomper, both by statistic and scouting measures. If the choice is between two players with mostly identical statistics, the one who can fake a decent center field is more valuable than the one who can fake a decent left field.
The difference is that Braun plays for a better team. There's a theory that Braun will split votes with teammate Prince Fielder, and that will hurt both of them. Could be. But what will be even more damaging is to not split votes under any circumstances with James Loney, who isn't good. That will hurt Kemp more. But if the Dodgers finish over .500, the positional difference between Kemp and Braun might get some play with the voters. Here are three things that might need to happen in order for Kemp to win the MVP:
Justin Sellers, Russ Mitchell, and Aaron Miles will need to offer more production from the second-base slot
For the last week of the season, the Dodgers will need to hit well in order to win. They'll need to use players that even Ned Colletti hasn't heard of, such as Russ Mitchell.
Dana Eveland will need to continue filling a rotation spot admirably
In other news, Dana Eveland is still in the major leagues. How he pitches over his next two starts will make a big difference on whether Matt Kemp wins the MVP. Dana Eveland. How Dana Eveland pitches over his next two starts will make a big difference on whether Matt Kemp wins the MVP.
Don Mattingly will need to make good decisions
This means he should probably ditch the WWTLDIHWSFHEADWEHORPP1? bracelet that he looks at before making managerial decisions. So Don Mattingly making smart decisions that help his team win will be a factor on whether or not Kemp wins the MVP. Yep.
I just picked three to make a point, but the combinations are endless. Eugenio Velez might need to get a hit. Nathan Eovaldi will need to continue his success as a September call-up. There's a chance for Matt Kemp to lead his team to a winning record, which would mean he's in the MVP discussion. Braun will still probably win, but it will at least be a little closer of a race. All the Dodgers need to do is play well as a team over the next nine games for one of their players to win an individual award.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
1. "What would Tommy Lasorda do if he were suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration while eating handfuls of random psychotropic pills?"