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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw Were Golden In 2011.

2011 was a banner year for the Dodgers' two best players, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. These two gentlemen make up two-thirds of the backbone of my collection; they serve as the two guys I primarily seek out cards of, and I will even camp out to meet them, if the opportunity presents itself. Surprisingly, many of their hits have been affordable for much of the year, though that could and almost certainly will change should either walk away with some year-end hardware.

Picking up this bad boy for $3.25 shipped was a total steal. The seller accidentally re-listed it after I made my purchase and paid, and for a split second I thought he had a second one. I need a second copy for my Kershaw PC, as the one pictured above - #'d 88/99 - will reside in my Kemp Collection.

Good googly moogly, the Dodgers have had some terrible players around Matty and Clayton. The back of this gold parallel checklist is littered with has-beens and never-weres. Which makes the seasons The Bison and KKKKKKKKKKershaw put up even more impressive. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Baseball is a team sport which is encompassed by individual performances that hopefully are elite at the same time. The Dodgers had two elite players who were consistently fantastic in 2011 (actually, Kenley Jansen was pretty damn elite for the vast majority of this season as well, by the by).

Kemp's end-of-season numbers look like video game stats: 8.7 WAR, .324/.399/.586 with a sterling .419 wOBA, 171 wRC+, a .262 ISO, 76 Extra-Base Hits, 353 Total Bases, 6.43 WPA, a 171 OPS+, and - for those impressed by round numbers - what was just shy of the fifth 40/40 season in baseball history. He was also shorted a game due to a rainout, and lead in Baseball-Reference's WAR formula as well, clocking in at an even 10.0. I had a vote for MVP with the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, and Kemp came in first on my ballot, with Ryan Braun second.

Not to be outdone, Kershaw put up the best season of his young career. 6.8 WAR, a 2.47 FIP, 9.57 K/9 IP against just 2.08 BB/9 IP (a full walk and a half less per nine than 2010), a 2.52 tERA, a 2.66 SIERA, and a WHIP of 0.98, all while inducing infield pop-ups at an astounding 13.3% clip. That's significant, of course, because infield pop-ups are basically strikeouts, as no runner that may be on-base at the time is going to advance on one. Also, it of course speaks to the ability to consistently induce weak contact, which combined with Kershaw's innate ability to miss bats speaks to a pitcher that is truly dominating. According to Baseball-Reference, he accumulated 6.9 WAR.

I had a vote for Cy Young as well through the IBWAA, and Kershaw came in second on my ballot behind Roy Halladay. It's unfortunate for Clayton, but his phenomenal season happened to coincide with Roy's ever so slightly better season.

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