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We have reached the end of our player 2011 profile series, and we end on likely the most important person on the Dodgers this season. Though the Dodgers will have new regulars this season at catcher, second base, and left field, the Dodger offense will likely go as far as the core of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and to a lesser extent James Loney, will take it. With Loney, his level of production has been pretty well established at this point, and Ethier has been fairly steady, only needing to remain injury-free. Which leaves us with the player with perhaps the widest possible range of outcomes in his 2011 performance: Matt Kemp.
Kemp had a down year in 2010, to say the least. He began the season on fire, and was atop the triple crown leaderboards after the first two weeks of the season. Kemp had seven home runs and 20 RBI in the first 14 games of the year, but then it all went south. Kemp managed to put up a sub-.300 on-base percentage in each of the last four months of the season (counting three days in October as part of September), and ended the season with a .249 average and .310 OBP.
After a half season with a .411 batting average on balls in play, then two full seasons of a .361 and .345 BABIP, Kemp saw his BABIP plummet in 2010 to .295. If Kemp in 2010 had his career BABIP of .334, for instance, adding 13 singles and three doubles to his ledger, he would have hit .276/.334/.482. For a much more detailed analysis of Kemp, his stats, and swing analysis, be sure to read Chad Moriyama's excellent article from February.
Kemp also suffered on the basepaths last year, getting caught 15 times in 34 stolen base attempts after stealing 69 bases at a 78.4% success rate in the previous two seasons combined. Enter Davey Lopes, the former Dodger second baseman and leadoff man who is back in Los Angeles after 29 years away. Lopes, now the Dodgers' first base coach also in charge of baserunning, worked with Kemp this spring. "He would set up and the first thing he would do is raise up," Lopes told Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times last week. "So you've already made a movement, the pitcher's already made a move and you're in the same place. What I would try to do is to instead of raise up, lean toward second base."
Kemp was benched for a few games last June after, let's say, a disagreement with former bench coach Bob Schaefer. While it did seem maddening at the time, it's one of those things that tend to melt away when taking the long view. Kemp started 150 games in center field in 2010, tied for the sixth most outfield starts in the National League, and he also played in every game last season. Kemp is in fact the current active iron man in baseball, having played in 204 consecutive games.
Kemp has an active streak of five consecutive games with a a home run. It is tied for the longest streak in the 127-year history of the franshise, along with Roy Campanella (June 11-17, 1950) and Shawn Green (July 21-25, 2001).
Kemp (in 2009) and Lopes (in 1979) are two of four Dodgers to ever have a season with 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases, along with Kirk Gibson (1988) and Raul Mondesi (1995, 1997, 1999)
Kemp is in the final year of a two-year contract that will be pay him $7.1 million in 2011. Kemp will have one more season of arbitration eligibility, in 2012.
|2011 Projections - Age 26 Season|
No matter the reason, Kemp seems primed for a rebound this season. I can't help but note that even in a down year, Kemp hit 28 home runs. I am fully on board the Kemp comeback train, and I think he surpasses those projections above. I'll guess .286/.349/.509 for Kemp with 35 home runs.
Mondesi is the only Dodger ever with 30 homers and 30 steals in the same season, doing so in 1997 and 1999. Kemp will join Mondesi in the 30/30 club this season.
What is your guess for Kemp in 2011? Be sure to guess BA/OBP/SLG, and anything else you wish to guess.