BraunAfter going from 1983 to 2007 without a single postseason appearance, the Milwaukee Brewers once again played into October in 2011 for the second time in four seasons. It was that team success that helped to propel Ryan Braun to his first National League MVP award.
Braun becomes just the third Brewers player to capture the MVP, joining Robin Yount in 1989 and 1982 and Rollie Fingers in 1981. It comes in a season where he became the first player in franchise history to post a .330 batting average along with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Further adding to the accolades, he became the first Brewers player since Tommy Harper in 1970 to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season.
Matt Kemp vs Ryan Braun
While the final points total revealed just how close Braun and his primary competition for the award, Matt Kemp, were in 2011, Braun dominated the first-place votes, receiving 20 out of 32.
The tale of Braun's MVP cannot be fully told without discussing what ultimately cost Kemp the recognition -- team success. A look at both traditional and advanced statistics suggest that, in terms of performance, Kemp contributed the superior 2011 season.
For the traditionalists, Kemp exceeded Braun in on-base percentage, home runs, RBI and stolen bases. For those who prefer advanced metrics, Kemp led the National League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) while Braun ranked third, and Kemp ranked third in Win Probability Added (WPA) with Braun fourth.
The difference, of course, was that the Brewers and Braun won the NL Central while Kemp and the Dodgers languished out of contention for much of the year before a late-season surge pushed them above .500.
Lowest Team Win Percentage
In Year With Both MVP and Cy Young
Ultimately, a Kemp win would have been historically unprecedented, entirely because of the lack of success the Los Angeles Dodgers had this season. Much as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Bautista saw support erode when their teams missed the postseason, Kemp likely suffered from much the same fate.
Had the voters selected him, the Dodgers' win percentage this season would have been the worst of all-time for a team that had both the Cy Young and MVP in the same season.
Only one team in MLB history has had the MVP and Cy Young awards won by different players in the same season and not made the postseason -- the 1962 Dodgers with Maury Wills and Don Drysdale. Those are steep odds that Kemp was facing and, ultimately, that lack of team success cost him the 2011 MVP.