Before I begin, let me just say that I like Ryan Braun.
Braun is no doubt a fantastic player and is a major part of the Brewers organization. He had 33 homers, 111 RBIs, 33 steals, and nearly won the batting title with a .332 batting average. He definitely had a MVP-caliber season, and was a big part of the Brewers not only reaching the playoffs, but winning the NL Central.
But here’s the thing: Unlike Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun had plenty of support in the organization. He had guys surrounding him in the lineup; Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, Casey McGehee, and Jonathan Lucroy are all solid players that provided a good deal of offense (particularly Fielder, who not only played in all 162 games, but also had more home runs and RBIs than Braun). The Brewers also had very good pitching, as well; from starters such as Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, to the setup-closer combo of Takashi Saito/Francisco Rodriguez + John Axford.
You see what I’m getting at? Braun is great, but he has players surrounding him to help. Now without Braun, would the Brewers have gone 96-66 and win the NL Central? Perhaps not, but will all of the offensive firepower they had, they probably would have done well, had someone else play in left field instead.
Meanwhile, Matt Kemp was not only better, statistically speaking – he had more home runs (39), RBIs (126), and steals (40), with a .324 batting average – but made more of an impact on his team, the Dodgers, than Braun did with Brewers.
Yes, the Dodgers barely finished above .500 – they were 82-79 – but the winner of an MVP should not necessarily go to a team that goes to the playoffs, but one that makes the most impact towards a team than anyone else.
Remember Andre Dawson? In 1987, he won the NL MVP award in 1987, despite the fact that the Chicago Cubs finished last in the NL East, with a 76-85 record.
Kemp was on a team that had less surrounding him than Braun. For Matt and the Dodgers, injuries piled up all around him. Andre Ethier and James Loney were the only players that put up decent numbers. The pitching, outside of NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda suffered. Let’s not forget about the fact that he played on a team that was financially uncertain, as his owner Frank McCourt was in the midst of a battle with not only his ex-wife, but MLB as well (if he and/or the future owner(s) of the Dodgers do have the money, he is certainly worth the 8-year, $160 million deal).
Now imagine how the 2011 Dodgers team would be without Matt Kemp in their lineup? Would the Dodgers be able to finish where they were without him?
Again, I’m not taking anything away from Braun. He’s a fantastic, five-tool player, and if it weren’t Kemp, I feel he would deserve MVP status, or at least should get considerations. However, Kemp did not have the offensive and pitching support that Braun did, and – even though the Dodgers finished barely above. 500 – was able to do more with less, and thus, should have won the MVP award instead.