Ryan Braun slugs his way to 2011 NL MVP

Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, whose slugging and clutch hitting helped the Brewers win the National League Central title, was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Braun, who turned 28 last Thursday, was listed first on 20 ballots and second on the rest of the 32, submitted by two writers from each league city, to score 388 points, based on a tabulation system rewarding 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third and on down to one for 10th. Braun led the league in slugging (.597), on-base plus slugging (.994) and extra-base hits (77) and ranked second in batting average (.332) and runs (109), fourth in RBI (111), tied for sixth in home runs (33) and seventh in stolen bases (33). He hit .351 in 148 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who flirted with the Triple Crown all season, received 10 first-place votes and was the runner-up with 332 points. Kemp topped the NL in home runs (39) and runs batted in (126) and was third in the batting race at .324 behind New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (.337) and Braun. Kemp also led the NL in runs (115) and total bases (353).

Receiving one first-place vote apiece were Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder (.299, 38 HR, 120 RBI), who finished third with 229 points, and Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton (.289, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 R), who placed fourth with 214 points. Braun, Kemp, Fielder and Upton were the only players named on every ballot.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (.299, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 105R), a three-time winner, finished fifth, marking the 11th consecutive year that he has placed in the top 10 of MVP voting. Rounding out this year’s top 10 were the 2010 winner, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (.309, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 40 2B, 110 BB), Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman (.301, 31 HR, 94 RBI), Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.302, 30 HR, 105 RBI), Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA, 8 CG, 220 K) and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (.253, 33 HR, 116 RBI). In all, 26 players gained mention.

The election marked the fourth time a Brewers player won the MVP Award and the first in the NL. The franchise, which began as the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969 and moved to Milwaukee a year later, was shifted to the NL from the American League in 1998. Brewers winners in the AL were Robin Yount as a shortstop in 1982 and as a center fielder in 1989 and relief pitcher Rollie Fingers in 1981. The only other Milwaukee player to win the NL MVP Award was right fielder Henry Aaron with the Braves in 1957. They moved to Atlanta in 1966 and have had four winners since.

Braun won the NL’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in 2007 and became the 13th former winner to be elected MVP, joining Howard, Pujols, Jeff Bagwell, Andre Dawson, Johnny Bench, Dick Allen, Pete Rose, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays and Don Newcombe. There have been eight dual winners in the AL, including Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander this year.

This was the 14th time a left fielder has been honored in the NL, including seven-time MVP Barry Bonds. Other winning left fielders: Rose, Kevin Mitchell, Kirk Gibson, George Foster, Hank Sauer and Joe Medwick. Left fielders have won the award in the AL eight times: Ted Williams twice, Hank Greenberg, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Don Baylor, George Bell and Rickey Henderson.

Medwick in 1937 was the last NL player to win batting’s Triple Crown, which Kemp came close to achieving this year. His second-place finish was the 11th for a Dodgers player in the history of the voting. Other Dodgers runners-up for MVP were Sandy Koufax in 1965 and ’66, Mike Piazza in 1996 and ’97, Pete Reiser in 1941, Dixie Walker in 1946, Duke Snider in 1955, Sal Maglie in 1956, Steve Garvey in 1978 and Adrian Beltre in 2004.

The voting:

2011 NL MVP

Player, Team1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th8th9th10thPoints
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers2012388
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers10166332
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers141191321229
Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks181163111214
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals1611642166
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds43283341135
Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals12637243118
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies3485469
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies11162352
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies13111339
Jose Reyes, New York Mets1134331
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers1125229
Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies33318
Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks12116
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies21112
Hunter Pence, Astros/Phillies11110
Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants117
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers127
Michael Morse, Washington Nationals115
Carlos Beltran, N.Y. Mets/S.F. Giants13
Miguel Montero, Arizona D-backs12
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals22
Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs11
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves11
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies11
Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins11