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2011 NL MVP Rankings | November

The National League MVP Award will be announced on Tuesday, November 22. The Diamondbacks' Justin Upton is expected to be among the leading vote getters, but the favorites to win should be Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Ryan Braun of the Brewers. Here is how I would fill out my MVP ballot. (Here are links to previous articles on the NL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards). 

1. Matt Kemp, CF, LAD - .324/.399/.586, 115 R, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, 10.0 bWAR, 8.7 fWAR
Kemp led the NL in HR, RBI, Runs Scored, Total Bases, and OPS+ (171). He finished 2nd in Slugging Percentage, 3rd in Batting Average, 4th in On-Base Percentage, and 2nd in Stolen Bases.  His counting stats were easily the best in the NL, and his rate stats were about the same as Ryan Braun's. But Kemp passes Braun because he played in more games and because of park effects - Dodger Stadium was a slight pitcher's park, while Miller Park was a pretty good park for hitters. Kemp also was productive running the bases, and improved on his disastrous fielding numbers in 2010 to become average defensively in 2011. The Fans' Scouting Report gave Kemp a score of 67 this year, a solid improvement from the 59 in 2010. Kemp's UZR went from -25.7 to -4.6, and his Defensive Runs Saved went from -15 to +1.  On Tuesday, Kemp should join fellow NL K Winners Kershaw, Kimbrel, and Kirk (Gibson).

2. Ryan Braun, LF, MIL - .332/.397/.597, 109 R, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, 7.8 bWAR, 7.7 fWAR
Braun's raw offensive numbers are very close to Kemp's. Braun led the NL in SLG and OPS, and finished 2nd in AVG, 5th in OBP, and 7th in SB. But Braun did miss 12 games during the year with injuries, and played in a much better park for hitters. Defensively, Braun has good speed and a strong arm, but his outfield instincts and technique still need some work. The Fans gave him a score of just 43, and both UZR and DRS gave him slightly negative scores.

3. Justin Upton, RF ARI - .289/.369/.529, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 21 SB, 4.1 bWAR, 6.4 fWAR
After Kemp and Braun, there is a pretty big gap to the rest of the contenders. And this next group is bunched very closely together, so the next eight are almost interchangeable. I'll go with the the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton at #3. Upton's .898 OPS was 78 pts higher than any of his teammates, and he led the surprising Diamondbacks in every key offensive category - AVG, OBP, SLG, R, HR, RBI.

There is a large disparity between the two WAR calculations, due to the large variation in the assessment of Upton's defensive perfomance. I think Upton's excellent range does make up for his high error total, so I rate his defense as an overall positive. Two negatives against Upton for MVP are his large home/road splits (1.033 Home OPS, .767 Road), and his reduced performance down the stretch. Upton's OPS fell 36 points after September 10, but by then, the team was well out in front. 

4.  Joey Votto, 1B CIN - .309/.416/.531, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 6.5 BWAR, 6.9 fWAR
Votto led the NL in OBP, Walks, and Doubles in 2011, and also won a Gold Glove at 1B. After leading the NL in SLG in 2010, Votto slipped to 9th in SLG in 2011. Despite playing in a good hitters' park, Votto actually hit much better on the road (16 HR, 1.016 OPS vs 13 HR, .874 OPS). And in a reverse of his 2010 performance, Votto hit better against LHP than RHP in 2011 (.987-.930 OPS).

5. Prince Fielder, 1B MIL - .299/.415/.566, 38 HR, 95 RBI, 5.2 bWAR, 5.5 fWAR
Fielder had another big year at the plate, finishing 2nd in the NL in OBP, 3rd in SLG and OPS, and 4th in OPS+. What hurt his value was his baserunning and especially his defense, which was rated very poor by both the Fans (Score of 19!) and the various defensive metrics.

6. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL - .302/.372/.544, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 5.8 bWAR, 6.2 fWAR
While Coors Field is still a great hitter's park, Tulo's numbers were not just a function of his home stadium - he posted an .881 OPS on the road. But where Tulowitzki really stood out in 2011 was on defense. He scored very highly in both UZR (7.3) and DRS (+11), and was the highest rated SS in the Fans' Survey with a score of 87.

7. Clayton Kershaw, SP LAD - 21-5, 233.1 IP, 2.28 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 7.6 bWAR, 6.8 fWAR
In addition to winning the NL Pitching Triple Crown of Wins, ERA, and Strikeouts, Kershaw also helped out a little at the plate and in the field. He hit .225 with only 13 Ks in 86 plate appearances, and won his first Gold Glove on defense.

8. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL - .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 5.4 bWAR, 5.1 fWAR
For the first time in his career, Pujols failed to hit .300 or drive in 100 runs. Most of his struggles were early, as Pujols had only a .745 OPS on June 1st. But he hit a more Pujols-like .321/.386/.620 (1.006 OPS) after that, and was a huge factor in the Cardinals' second half comeback. His defense at 1B again put him among the best in the game.

9. Roy Halladay, SP PHI - 19-6, 233.2 IP, 2.35 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 7.4 bWAR, 8.2 fWAR
Halladay finished well behind Kershaw in the Cy Young voting, but it wouldn't be a surprise for the voters to reverse themselves and put Halladay higher in the MVP voting, because his team made the playoffs. Factoring in batting and defense should increase Kershaw's edge over Halladay, but we'll how the voters rank them. Halladay threw over 220 IP for the sixth consecutive year, and had an ERA below 2.80 for the fourth straight year.

10. Jose Reyes, SS NYM - .337/.384/.493, 101 Runs, 39 SB, 5.8 bWAR, 6.2 fWAR 
Reyes had an excellent season for the Mets, leading the NL in batting average and in triples. He scored 101 Runs despite playing in only 126 Games. The Fans rated his defense very highly (Score of 76), but UZR and DRS both rated him a little below average.

Just missing my Top 10 were Shane Victorino, Lance Berkman, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Stanton, and Andrew McCutchen.

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