Braun wins NL MVP

Ryan Braun won the 2011 NL MVP over Matt Kemp.

Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp were statistically similar players in 2011. The difference might have been the teams they played for.

Braun was named the NL MVP yesterday after leading the Brewers to their first divisional championship since 1982, beating out Kemp by getting 20 of 32 first-place votes.

“It’s honestly difficult to put into words what this means to me,” Braun said. “It’s an amazing experience. The last couple of hours since I have known have been pretty incredible, very emotional and something I’m extremely proud of.” 

Braun also received 12 second-place votes, totaling 388 points. That was enough to edge Kemp, who received 10 first-place votes and 332 points playing for the 82-79 Dodgers, a team that spent most of the year under .500 and never contended in the NL West.

Milwaukee teammate and free agent Prince Fielder received one first-place vote and 229 points, while Arizona outfielder Justin Upton received the other first-place vote and 214 points. Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols was fifth, marking the 11th straight season he placed in the top 10.

Braun batted .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 33 steals and a .984 OPS. He became the first Brewer to win an MVP since Robin Yount edged Ruben Sierra and Cal Ripken Jr. for the 1989 AL MVP.  He also is the seventh player with at least four 30-home run, 100-RBI seasons in his first 11 years, joining a group that includes Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mark Teixeira and Pujols.

Although Braun’s year-long performance was outstanding, his showing from July 27 on was even better. The Brewers never trailed in the NL Central after beating the Cubs and from that point on, Braun batted .341 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI.

Kemp nearly became the first NL Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick in 1937, but despite leading the league with 115 runs and 353 totals, he was the 11th Dodger to finish second in the voting and joined Steve Garvey (1978) and Adrian Beltre (2004) as Los Angeles era runner-ups.

“I would love to win,” Kemp said last week at the press conference announcing his eight-year contract extension. “If it doesn’t happen, I’ll just set the goal to be even better — that’s ‘Beast Mode.’”

Kemp was the first Dodger to lead the league in home runs, RBI and runs scored. He also was the first Dodger since Dolph Camilli in 1941 to lead the league in home runs and RBI.

Braun’s award also continued a trend of playoff teams getting MVP awards for their players. The last player to win an MVP for a non-playoff team was Ryan Howard for the 2006 Phillies, who finished three games out of the Wild Card that season.

Unlike some of the previous runner-ups from non-playoff teams, Kemp’s 10 first-place votes were the most by a runner up from a non-playoff team since Willie Stargell also received 10 votes for the 1973 Pirates that finished 2 ½ games behind the Mets.

Since the playoffs expanded in 1995, the MVP has gone to someone from a non-playoff team just four times. Besides Howard, the other instances were Alex Rodriguez in 2003 for the last-place Rangers, Barry Bonds in 2001 for the second-place Giants and Larry Walker in 1997 for the third-place Rockies.

When the two divisional system was in place from 1969 through 1993, the MVP award went to someone on a non-playoff team 17 times, including 1977 and 1987 when both leagues saw MVPs from non-playoff teams.

Overall 23 players received some consideration, including Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel and NL batting champion Jose Reyes. Kershaw was 12th with 29 points, two points behind Reyes, while Kimbrel received one point.

Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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