In 1999 Chipper Jones won the Most Valuable Player award with a monster month of September that propelled the Atlanta Braves to a world series appearance. That year Jones, entering the prime of his career, batted .319 with 45 home runs, 110 runs batted in and added 25 stolen bases. At the halfway point that year Jones had a line of 21 home runs, 57 runs batted in and an average of .313, yet was passed over for the All-Star team for Matt Williams and Ed Sprague.
In 2002 Pedro Martinez inexplicably lost to Barry Zito for the American League Cy Young award despite posting a lower earned run average and more strikeouts. Wins above replacement seems to be the only argument Barry Zito had against Martinez that season and the argument is left moot because if we were considering the value of a player to his team all along Greg Maddux should have won the National League MVP award for his fantastic 1995 season with the Braves over Barry Larkin of the Reds (he finished third even behind Dante Bichette).
I put all of that out there to say this: Matt Kemp is another sad case in baseball’s often troubled recognition system. He led the league in home runs and runs batted in. He was third in batting, had a WAR of 10 and accomplished this all while playing Gold Glove defense. Ryan Braun is a fantastic player but clearly benefited from the protection given him by Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and the rest. That said he still finished with fewer home runs and rbi’s than Kemp and a lower WAR (7.7). Does Braun duplicate those numbers in a line-up that has a banged up Andre Ethier and a curiously punch-less James Loney? Who knows. Matt Kemp did; and to pass him over for a season that almost ended with a triple crown (the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967) is a travesty.
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