Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Dodgers and a Dunn

With last night's showing (3 doubles and a homer in 5 at bats), Matt Kemp's quest for the Triple Crown---leading* one of the leagues in batting average, home runs, and RBIs in the same season---suddenly is starting to look possibly realistic. I didn't blog about this earlier primarily because of the big gap in batting average between Kemp and the two people ahead of him, but after last night, Kemp is at .326, Jose Reyes is at .329, and Ryan Braun is at .330. Matt Kemp has 118 runs batted in, which is 5 more than Ryan Howard and 6 more than Prince Fielder. Kemp has 36 home runs, which is second to Albert Pujols's 37. The last Triple Crown winner was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, so Kemp's season has a chance to be historic. Obviously, Kemp is one of the leading Most Value Player award candidates, and I hope he wins it. If the season ended today, I think he would deserve the award---e.g., check out his wins above replacement and compare it to that of everyone else in the National League!. Of course, I expect him to be hurt somewhat in the voting by the Dodgers' place in the standings. (However, I expect that Kemp's run at the Triple Crown will mitigate this significant, so this might well be enough to push him over the top.)

Meanwhile, Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw is also having an awesome season, with an excellent chance to win both the Cy Young award and the Pitching Triple Crown (leading* a league in wins, earned run average, strikeouts in the same season). However, if you clicked on the link above, you'll notice that the Pitching Triple Crown is considerably rarer than the (Hitting) Triple Crown, which is therefore considered the more exciting of the two achievements.

Of course, Matt Kemp is not the only person having a remarkable season. In fact, Matt Kemp's season only has a chance to be historical; Adam Dunn's season is already historically bad, but he has a chance to set a rather dubious record: lowest batting average in a season by somebody with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. The White Sox left him completely out of the lineup for a while, and they were playing him increasing infrequently before than because of his execrable performance (which is rather amazing, given his prior hitting prowess). I think the ChiSox started playing Dun again because they calculated that he wouldn't get enough plate appearances to set that rather dubious record. However, I believe that there is still a way it can work: add imaginary at bats with hits in each one and see if Dunn's average would still set the record once this leads to having enough plate appearances. (Imaginary hitless at bats are added to people without enough plate appearances when it comes to determine who is awarded a batting title in the history books, so there's no reason the analog shouldn't apply in this case as well.)

It basically felt like the Dodgers were already out of it in April---until recently, that's what kind of season it's been. I was pleasantly amazed when we recently made it to .500, so hopefully we'll finish with a winning record. It is possible that Kemp will win the MVP (I hope he does!) and that Kershaw will win the Cy Young (I hope he does!). If I remember the answer to a recent Dodger-broadcast trivia question correctly, only one team in baseball history has had both the MVP and Cy Young winner and not gone to the postseason, and that team won 102 games and lost a 1-game playoff game to determine who would go to the postseason. For a while, it looked like the Dodgers might finish in last place and have both the MVP and Cy Young winners. Thankfully, our final win-loss record will be much better than that, and we still have a chance to make some baseball history.

* Being tied for first in a category is ok, though for batting average, one would of course go to the fourth digit and beyond if necessary.

Update (9/29/11): Matt Kemp didn't win the Triple Crown, but Kershaw got the Pitching Triple Crown. Kemp did end up leading the National League in HRs (39) and RBIs (126), and he also missed entering the 40/40 club (40 HRs and 40 SBs in one season) by just a single homer. It will be a crime if Kemp isn't the MVP. I actually think Roy Halladay deserves the CY Young more than Kershaw---the main reason is that his home park is a favorable to hitters whereas Kershaw's is favorable to pitchers---but I hope that Kershaw wins. If both Kemp and Kershaw win, then the Dodgers will make history (see the discussion above). Oh, and Adam Dunn has managed to have what is literally the worst season in history by a Major League position player. Ouch!

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