Ryan Braun was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player by the BBWAA on Tuesday, beating out Matt Kemp with 20 of the 32 first place votes. Braun is the third Brewer to ever win the award, joining Rollie Fingers and Robin Yount.
The selection doesn’t come without a bit of controversy, though, as there was a significant amount of support for Kemp (myself included). While some are treating it as a travesty, it’s hardly the worst MVP decision in recent memory. Both Braun and Kemp were deserving of the award, and while I wish the results were a bit closer, it’s not worth getting worked up over.
Just how close was the race?
That’s 20 different categories. Kemp “wins” 11, Braun “wins” 9. Kemp’s edge comes when you credit him for playing center fielder, instead of left field like Braun. These positional adjustments are out of the control of the individual player — it’s not Braun’s fault that left and right fielders are docked 6.5 runs while center fielders are credited 2.2 runs, but that’s what’s been agreed upon as pretty standard, based on the research of Tom Tango.
Basically, without the positional adjustment stuff, we have a tie. In the event of a tie, the sabremetric community will tend to side with the guy playing the tougher position. It’s not that they think Braun wasn’t deserving, it’s that they think Kemp was *more* deserving.
None of this should make Brewers fans feel slighted. Braun won the award, and it’s something fun for fans and the city to celebrate. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who ends up with the hardware — both Braun and Kemp had outstanding seasons, both are going to be extremely well-paid for nearly a decade, and both will probably contend for the award again in the future.