Friday, September 23, 2011

Matt Kemp IS the MVP in the National League

Attempt after attempt was made to come up with a heading for this post that wasn't so argumentative. There is a price to be paid for pigheaded smugness when making such declarative statements. But no matter how many different headings were considered, the words couldn't be toned down. And it wouldn't matter to this writer if Matt Kemp played for a team that was 10-152. The season he is having is the most valuable in the National League. Last night's one-man show against the Giants, against one of the brightest young pitchers in baseball, simply demonstrated how good Matt Kemp has been this year. He is the Most Valuable Player.

Even with the supposed drag of his defense in center field, he leads the NL in WAR on both Fangraphs and His 9.6 over at B-R is the highest total there since Albert Pujols in 2008. Over at Fangraphs, he gets more penalized for his defense, but his 8.2 fWAR is far above Ryan Braun and Joey Votto at 6.9. With due diligence, this author also checked in with Baseball Prospectus and again, Kemp leads the second place Braun in WARP 7.8 to 6.6. But it isn't just WAR to be consulted. Let's look at a whole array of statistics.

Kemp's standing in MLB and NL in the following categories:
  • Batting Average:  6-3
  • On Base Perc.:  7-5
  • Slugging Perc.:  3-2
  • Total Bases:  3-2
  • Stolen Bases:  4-2   78.4 percent success rate.
  • Home runs:  5-2
  • Hits:  6-2
  • Runs scored: 4-1
  • RBIs:  2-1
  • wOBA: 4-2
  • wRC+: 3-2
  • ISO:  6-2
  • WPA: 5-3
  • Runs created: 2-1
  • OPS+: 2-1
  • HR/FB Perc.: 6-3
  • Power - Speed Perc.: 1-1
And just for the sake of cherry picking statistics, he leads National League center fielders in assists. Kemp's biggest contenders for the MVP are Joey Votto, who has had another great season, Justin Upton, and Ryan Braun. Kemp has clearly had a better season than Votto and plays a position considered more valuable than the Reds' first baseman. Upton has had a fabulous season and leads the NL in extra base hits. But Kemp has him in everything else. This author's problem with Braun is that he is part of a tandem. Braun and Fielder got together. That may not be fair to Braun but the perception here is that Fielder batting behind him makes him see better pitches. Who hits behind Kemp? Juan Rivera? James Loney? Not even close. It will be interesting to see how Braun does if Fielder moves on to another team.

This author understands the thinking of many that an MVP has to come from a contender. But part of that equation is to think about where a team would be without a player's contribution. Would the Dodgers be a game over .500 without Kemp? Hardly. The Dodgers have played a role in the races by playing the Diamondbacks and the Giants throughout the season. Kemp has a .946 OPS against the Diamondbacks and a 1.118 OPS against the Giants this season. It seems by those numbers that Kemp has been quite a factor within his division. Kemp struggled against the Brewers, had a .916 OPS against the Braves, a .962 against the Phillies and absolutely murdered the pitching of the Tigers, the Reds and the Cardinals.

No matter how this season gets sliced up and dissected, this writer cannot come up with any other choice for MVP than Matt Kemp. All of these same arguments can be made for Jose Bautista by the way. If the MVP were only for players on contending teams, then the award should be called the MVPFCT (most valuable player for contending teams). But it's not. It's called the Most Valuable Player. No one in the National League has been more valuable than Matt Kemp. Oh, and just in case you are down with the pitchers as MVPs scene, Kemp leads Halladay in fWAR, 8.2 to 8.0.

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