But unlike everybody else, Kemp isn't sure yet about the Dodgers not making the playoffs. Apparently caught up in his team's current 8-1 streak, Kemp said in a postgame television interview the other night: "We've still got a whole month left. There's a lot of baseball left. I have a great feeling we can catch the guys ahead of us.''
While that can be dismissed as nothing more than what a star player should be saying when his team is facing a double-digit deficit behind the worst-to-first Diamondbacks, it does point to the fact that the suddenly-hot Dodgers could finish the season with a winning record.
And that would only help legitimize the individual-award cases for both Kemp and teammate Clayton Kershaw.
(In case you're wondering, there have been 27 incidences when the MVP and Cy Young Award winners came from the same team — all playoff qualifiers. In fact, the Dodgers are on that list five times, including World Series championship years in 1987 (Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser) and 1963 (Sandy Koufax both awards).
Right now, building a case for Kershaw as the Cy Young winner is slightly easier than building one for Kemp as MVP. But as always, we issue the reminder that awards most often are won in the season's final month.
Even in a season filled with dominant pitching performances — Giants teammates Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong; Phillies Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee; Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters out of the Braves bullpen, Cueto, Kennedy, etc.— you can narrow the NL Cy Young Award to a Kershaw-vs.-Halladay contest. And Kershaw, whose poise, command and stuff as a 23-year-old left-hander is positively scary, has a very slight edge.
On a currently sub-.500 team, Kershaw is 17-5, and has won nine of his past 10 decisions to push his career record to 43-28. The 17 wins are tied for the league lead with Arizona's Ian Kennedy, who could grab a few third-place votes as the emerging ace for the likely playoff-bound Diamondbacks.
Kershaw also leads the NL in innings pitched (he'll go over the 200 mark in his next start) and strikeouts with 212. His 2.45 ERA ranks second behind Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, who has pitched almost 60 fewer innings. And Kershaw is second in WHIP (1.02), win percentage (.773) and complete games (5).
Halladay leads the NL only in complete games (7), is second (behind Kershaw) in innings pitched, third in wins, ERA, win percentage and WHIP, and fourth in strikeouts. But you can see how close the margins are in this chart, especially when you factor in the home ballpark differential between Dodger Stadium and Citizens Bank Park (stats through Thursday):
W W% ERA IP K H CG SO WHIP K/9 BAA OPS
Kershaw 17 .773 2.45 198.2 212 152 5 2 1.02 9.60 .211 .566
Halladay 16 .762 2.47 196.2 191 179 7 0 1.04 8.74 .243 .583
Kershaw could have the schedule edge down the stretch, as he's lined up to make three of his remaining five starts against the weak-hitting Giants and Padres. Meanwhile, Halladay is lined up to face the Brewers, Cardinals and Mets this month.
The best argument for Kemp's MVP candidacy could be what he has done with so little surrounding him in the lineup. He also is the only NL player with a .300-plus average, 30-plus homers, 30-plus steals and 100 RBI, should add 100-plus runs (he's 13 shy), and his defensive edge over Ryan Braun is significant.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Braun, however, holds leads over Kemp in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and doubles, and the Brewers impressively are running away with the NL Central.
The big question is whether the 32 voters — two in each NL market — split on Braun and Prince Fielder as the Brewers' most indispensable player, and how much will that affect the overall NL MVP winner.
Both Brewers sluggers undoubtedly will finish in the top five in the balloting, and quite possibly the top three, especially with usual suspect Albert Pujols in a down year by his high standard.
Joey Votto, last year's winner, has almost identical numbers to Braun minus the stolen bases, and a top-five finish for Justin Upton will mirror the D-Backs' unexpected climb to the top of the NL West standings.
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