Matt Kemp provided many reasons to celebrate for the Dodgers in 2011.
After reviewing the 2011 seasons from the starting pitchers, their catchers, the infield, and the bullpen, our 48 player reviews end with the outfield, which was a strength this season thanks to the MVP-caliber season from Matt Kemp. Dodgers outfielders were third in the National League in OPS, OPS+, batting average, and slugging percentage, and were second in on-base percentage. Here is a review of the 2011 Dodgers outfielders.'
What went right: All Kemp did was have one of the very best seasons by a Los Angeles Dodger, if not the best. He came one home run shy of joining the 40/40 club, finishing with a league-leading 39 long balls and 40 stolen bases. One year after getting caught stealing 15 times in 34 tries, Kemp had 40 steals in 51 attempts in 2011, including an 89-game stretch without getting caught (with 20 steals during that span).
Kemp set a career high with 50 unintentional walks, and added 24 more intentional ones too. He led the league in OPS+, total bases, runs scored, and RBI. Kemp even hit three walk-off home runs, prompting a great call from Vin Scully (are there any other kind of calls from Scully?) on April 17, the first of the three walk-off shots from Kemp. With a runner on second base and nobody out, the St. Louis Cardinals opted not to walk Kemp, who blasted Ryan Franklin's fifth pitch over the center field wall for a 2-1 win. "They pitched to the one man who could beat them, and he did," said Scully.
What went wrong: Kemp made nine outs in the Home Run Derby at Chase Field in Phoenix before hitting his first home run. Kemp hit two home runs and failed to advance past the first round.
2012 status: Kemp is going to get paid this winter, one way or another. He has one more year of arbitration eligibility, looking for a big raise from the $7.1 million he made in 2011. Ned Colletti has expressed a desire to sign Kemp to a long-term deal this offseason, but that might require a big assist from Delaware Bankruptcy Court and a new television deal for the Dodgers.
What went right: Ethier started the season on fire, hitting .380 in April and had a 30-game hitting streak, the second longest streak in Dodgers franchise history, just one behind Willie Davis in 1969. Ethier also hit 30 doubles for the fifth straight year, a feat only matched in Dodgers lore by Jackie Robinson.
Ethier, who made his second straight All-Star team, also posted a .368 on-base percentage, his fourth straight season with a .360 OBP. The only streak longer by a Los Angeles Dodger was five straight seasons by Mike Piazza from 1993-1997. Brett Butler also had four straight seasons with a .360 OBP from 1991-1994.
What went wrong: Ethier had a bizarre year, on and off the field. Off the field, Ethier put his foot in his mouth on a few occasions, most notably at the end of spring training when he intimated he might be non-tendered and the end of 2011, at the time a completely absurd idea. Then in late August Ethier accused the Dodgers of making him play while hurt, then backed off those comments the next day. Less than two weeks later, with no improvement in the status of his right knee, cooler heads prevailed and Ethier and the Dodgers jointly decided to shut him down for the rest of the season. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on September 14.
Ethier saw his power decline from 23 home runs in 2010 to just 11 round trippers in 2011. Since returning from a broken pinkie finger at the end of May 2010, Ethier has just 23 home runs in 996 plate appearances, hitting .278/.353/.418.
2012 status: Ethier, like Kemp, has one more season of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting free agency. Ethier made $9.25 million in 2011.
Tony Gwynn, Jr.
What went right: In June and July, Gwynn hit .305/.377/.389 with 10 stolen bases and 15 walks in 147 plate appearances. He was third on the team with a career-high 22 steals and stole them at a 78.6% clip. Gwynn provided stellar defense in left field.
What went wrong: In April, May, August, and September combined, Gwynn hit .221/.255/.326 with eight walks in 193 PA.
2012 status: Gwynn is arbitration eligible with four years, 44 days of service time. Look for him to make a little over $1 million, and return as the fourth outfielder.
What went right: After getting designated for assignment in Toronto, Rivera found a home in Los Angeles. The Dodgers acquired Rivera at the All-Star break, and he provided production in left field and occasionally first base, hitting .274/.333/.406 with five home runs in 62 games (yes that was an improvement, as in the 92 games before the break Dodgers first basemen hit .263/.308/.332 with four home runs and their left fielders hit .231/.305/.313 with two home runs).
After August 1, Rivera drove in 42 runs, third in the National League behind the 44 by both Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder. Rivera came up with a runner on third base with less than two outs 22 times as a Dodger, and he got the run in 18 times, or 81.8% of the time (the NL average was 49.9%).
What went wrong: Rivera ended the season with 10 hits in his final 58 at-bats, hitting .172/.234/.293 over his final 15 games.
2012 status: Rivera is a free agent.
What went wrong: In his first taste of the big leagues, Sands hit .200/.294/.328 in 144 plate appearances.
What went right: After three months back in Triple A to work on his swing, Sands came back in September and hit .342/.415/.493 in 83 plate appearances.
2012 status: Sands figures to be in the mix for either left field or first base, with the outfield his likely destination, and of course dependent on the offseason moves made by the Dodgers.
What went right: Oeltjen had 13 walks in 91 plate appearances, at 14.29% the highest walk rate among the 27 position players on the Dodgers. Since joining the organization, Oeltjen has walked in 11.63% of his plate appearances in both the majors and minors combined, far higher than he previous minor league career.
Oeltjen was promoted to the Dodgers on June 9 and managed to stay on the team for the rest of the season.
What went wrong: After starting nine of 28 games prior to the All-Star break, Oeltjen started just three of the final 69 games of the season. It's not that he didn't play, as Oeltjen played 41 games after the break, but he struggled in his limited role with just five hits in 37 at-bats (and six walks, of course), hitting .135/.256/.216.
2012 status: Oeltjen turns 29 in February, and has two option years remaining. He has one year, 27 days of service time.
What went right: Hoffmann made three putouts in left field on April 14, his only start of the season.
What went wrong: He went 0 for 4 at the plate.
2012 status: The 27-year old Hoffmann has one option year remaining.
What went right: Gibbons homered off J.A. Happ on May 24 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
What went wrong: Besieged by vision problems, Gibbons began the season with two hits in 18 at-bats, and hit just .255/.323/.345 in 24 games while playing atrocious defense in left field. He was designated for assignment on June 6, and spent the rest of the season with Triple A Albuquerque.
2012 status: Gibbons opted for free agency last week.
What went right: Thames was signed to provide right-handed power in left field and off the bench, and in April he hit a pair of pinch-hit home runs.
What went wrong: Leg problems marred Thames' tenure with the team, as he missed most of May with a strained right quad, then was limited with a left calf injury that prevented him from playing the outfield with any sort of regularity. Thames hit just .197/.243/.333 in 70 plate appearances.
2011 departure: Thames was designated for assignment on July 12 when the Dodgers traded for Rivera. Thames was released on July 19, then signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees on July 21, but never played a game.
What went right: Paul made the opening day roster, and even started two of the first six games of the season. Paul collected a hit in each of his first three games of the season.
What went wrong: Paul struck out in each of his last four plate appearances with the Dodgers.
2011 departure: Out of options, Paul was designated for assignment on April 18 to make room for Sands. Paul completed Delwyn Young's wild ride, getting claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 26.