Athlon Sports' 2011 NL MVP

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Athlon editors make their case for who they thought was the NL MVP this season

<p> Athlon editors make their case for who they thought was the NL MVP this season.</p>

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named its AL and NL Rookies of the Year, AL and NL Managers of the Year, AL and NL Cy Young award winners, and the AL MVP. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

NL MVP

Unlike the crowded race in the AL, the NL MVP will most likely come down to one of two outfielders, either Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers or Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both posted 30-30 seasons and finished in the NL's top five in six key offensive categories — batting average, runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Who ends up winning could be determined by voters' perception of "most valuable" in relation to team's success (Braun's Brewers won the NL Central, Dodgers didn't make playoffs) and/or their respective supporting cast.

To that end, Braun's teammate, Prince Fielder, will receive his share of MVP votes, as will two former winners — Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals (2005, 2008, 2009) and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds (2010). Other legitimate contenders include NL batting champ and New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton.

Contenders' Stats:

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: .332, 109 R, 187 H, 38 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, .397 OBP, .597 SLG, .994 OPS

Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: .299, 95 R, 170 H, 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, .981 OPS

Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: .324, 115 R, 195 H, 33 2B, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, .399 OBP, .586 SLG, .986 OPS

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: .299, 105 R, 173 H, 29 2B, 37 HR, 99 RBI, .366 OBP, .541 SLG, .906 OPS

Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets: .337, 101 R, 181 H, 31 2B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 39 SB, .384 OBP, .493 SLG, .877 OPS

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: .302, 81 R, 162 H, 36 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .372 OBP, .544 SLG, .916 OPS

Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: .289, 105 R, 171 H, 39 2B, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, .369 OBP, .529 SLG, .898 OPS

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: .309, 101 R, 185 H, 40 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, .416 OBP, .531 SLG, .947 OPS

Athlon's Winner: Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kemp beats out Braun as he receives three first-place votes to Braun's one. Pujols comes in third followed by Fielder as they split the third-place votes among them, with Tulowitzki and Votto tying for fifth. Besides Upton and Reyes, others receiving MVP consideration among the Athlon voting contingency included Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Ryan Braun
Braun lost his battle for the batting title with Jose Reyes of the Mets, but he joined Matt Kemp as the only players ranked in the top 10 in all three triple crown categories in the NL. Braun edges Kemp by a whisker based on being the No. 3 hitter on a division winner and having a higher OPS.
2. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers’ centerfielder fell just short of the first triple crown in the NL in more than 70 years. And he accomplished that while playing Gold Glove caliber defense and swiping 40 bags.
3. Albert Pujols
This ranking may surprise you if you’re judging Pujols’ season based on the Pujols Scale. But if you’re evaluating his 2011 season on a reasonable scale, it is worthy of a top-3 ranking. After all, he hit 37 home runs and did the heavy lifting during the Cardinals’ late surge.
4. Troy Tulowitzki
The shortstop struggling with nagging injuries this season, but was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season in Denver. Even with some missed time, he hit .302 with 30 bombs and more than 100 ribbies.
5. Joey Votto
The reigning MVP finished fifth in the league in average and OPS.
6. Justin Upton
7. Prince Fielder
8. Jose Reyes
9. Roy Halladay
10. Yadier Molina

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers had Kemp on offense and that was about it. Kemp led the league in runs (115), home runs (39) and RBI (126) while finishing third in hitting (.324), third in stolen bases (40), second in hits (195) and second in extra-base hits (76). If it wasn't for an untimely divorce, the Cy Young/MVP-led boys in Blue likely would have pushed St. Louis for the Wild Card (finished 7.5 back and three games over .500).
2. Ryan Braun
Braun is Kemp-lite with three major differences. He gets plenty of credit for getting his team to the postseason, however, he did it surrounded by elite level hitters, a lock-down bullpen and deep starting rotation. He is also an adventure in the outfield. Kemp is a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder while Braun makes the routine look difficult at times. His offensive numbers alone get him to No. 2 on my ballot.
3. Albert Pujols
Pujols had arguably the worst season of his career and he still proved to be virtually indispensable. He still finished third in the league with 37 big flies and 105 runs scored while driving in the seventh most runs (99). He finished seventh in slugging and 10th in OPS with a .299 average for the Wild Card winners. And he consistently plays one of the best first bases in the game.
4. Justin Upton
This uber-talent is only beginning to blossom into the player we all think he can become. He smacked 31 home runs, scored 105 times, stole 21 basses and unexpectedly led the Arizona Diamondbacks to an NL West title. They were picked last in the division in the preseason.
5. Prince Fielder
The big daddy first baseman finished second in the NL in home runs (38), second in RBI (126) and second in walks (107). He posted a third-best OPS of .981 and helped lead his team to the NL Central crown. Too bad he won't be in a Brewer uniform any longer.
6. Jose Reyes
Reyes captured the Mets first-ever batting title with a ridiculous .337 mark. And .877 OPS from the lead-off spot isn't bad either. Playing on a bad team hurts his value, but he is the unquestioned spark plug for the Mets and he is one of the most dynamic base runners and slickest fielding shortstops in the game.
7. Joey Votto
The reigning NL MVP posted a pretty nasty 2011 line: 101 runs, 29 homers, 103 RBI, 110 walks and a .309/.947 set of ratios. Unfortunately, the Reds couldn't carry any of that 2010 magic with them into 2011.
8. Troy Tulowitzki
Not too many shortstops hit 30 home runs, drive in 105 and top the .300 mark all while playing arguably the game’s most important position. Tulo is not only the best offensive shortstop in the game, but is argubaly the game's best defensive shortstop as well.
9. Yadier Molina
He is the best player at his position in all of baseball. And with his second ring, he is slowly working his way up the all-time ranks. He led the World Champs in hitting (.305) and molded an Adam Wainwright-less pitching staff into a playoff team.
10. Clayton Kershaw
But a pitcher can't win MVP, right?

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
He led the National League in both home runs (39) and RBIs (126), all while batting .324, stealing 40 bases and playing center field. The Dodgers were a winning team despite missing the postseason, and Kemp was the main reason. He was a one-man show in L.A., as the next-highest Dodger in RBIs was James Loney with 65 and the second-highest home run total was 16 by Rod Barajas. Matt Kemp had an amazing year and flirted with a triple crown for most of the season.
2. Ryan Braun
3. Prince Fielder
4. Albert Pujols
5. Troy Tulowitzki
6. Joey Votto
7. Ryan Howard
8. Justin Upton 
9. Jose Reyes
10. Yadier Molina

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers’ center fielder just missed a 40-40 season (39 home runs, 40 stolen bases) and flirted with a Triple Crown until the very end, finishing tops in the NL in home runs and RBIs (126) and third in average (.324). With runners in scoring position, Kemp led all of baseball with 13 home runs, and led the NL with 87 RBIs while batting .335 in those situations.
2. Ryan Braun
Braun posted a 30-30 season (33 home runs, 33 stolen bases) for the NL Central champion Brewers, led the NL in both slugging percentage (.597) and OPS (.994), while finishing second in batting average at .332.
3. Prince Fielder
Fielder posted his fifth straight 30-home run season, finishing second to Kemp in both home runs (38) and RBIs (120). The Brewers’ first baseman also batted .299 on the year and finished second the NL in on-base percentage (.415), as he walked more (107) than he stuck out (106).
4. Albert Pujols
The Cardinals’ first baseman and three-time MVP got off to a slow start, but finished strong, just missing out on posting an 11th-straight .300-30-100 season as he finished with a .299 average, 37 home runs and 99 RBIs, while leading his team to the postseason and eventually the World Series title.
5. Joey Votto
Last year’s MVP didn’t quite match his numbers from last season, but had a fine season nonetheless leading the NL in doubles (40), walks (110) and on-base percentage (.416). The Reds’ first baseman also won his first Gold Glove.
6. Troy Tulowitzki
7. Jose Reyes
8. Justin Upton
9. Clayton Kershaw
10. Hunter Pence

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

Miscellaneous: 
MLB League: 

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