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Matt Kemp's hot 'second half' and chasing 2011

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp will always be chasing 2011. But after putting up arguably the best offensive season in Dodgers franchise history, Kemp has been cut down, in some cases hamstrung by various injuries. After a pair of shoulder surgeries and an ankle surgery, Kemp is back as a force in the middle of the Dodgers lineup.

Kemp homered in the seventh inning on Sunday, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.

On the season Kemp is hitting .282/.347/.484, a .361 wOBA. No. 27 is 27th in the majors in both OPS+ (132) and wRC+ (134).

"I think the fact that he got himself mechanically straightened out was the biggest issue," manager Don Mattingly said. "You're body has to be allowed to swing. That's what's happened as much as anything."

Using a slightly more upright batting stance, Kemp since the All-Star break has 11 home runs, tied for sixth-most in baseball, hitting .307/.376/.584 with 33 RBI in 46 games. He's looking more and more like the hitter who was the best player in the National League in 2011, who finished second in the MVP balloting.

That year Kemp hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs and 40 stolen bases, a 172 OPS+ and 168 wRC+.

Mattingly said Sunday that he didn't think it was fair to compare Kemp to his 2011 campaign.

"If you look at his whole career, just take that year out, and this is more like his whole career. This is back to what we've seen all the team," Mattingly said. "That year it went over the top with high average, high homers, high stolen bases."

Matt Kemp, last 8 years
Year Games PA HR RBI SB BA/OBP/SLG OPS wOBA OPS+ wRC+
2007 98 311 10 42 10 .342/.373/.521 .894 .385 127 132
2008 155 657 18 76 35 .290/.340/.459 .799 .345 110 109
2009 159 667 26 101 34 .297/.352/.490 .842 .362 125 123
2010 162 668 28 89 19 .249/.310/.450 .760 .329 106 106
2011 161 689 39 126 40 .324/.399/.586 .986 .413 172 168
2012 106 449 23 69 9 .303/.367/.538 .906 .383 147 145
2013 73 290 6 33 9 .270/.328/.395 .723 .316 103 102
2014 132 525 19 68 8 .282/.347/.484 .831 .361 132 134

That's all well and good, but Kemp did get paid based on that 2011 season, signing an eight-year, $160 million contract after that season.

"Some things are just timing," Mattingly said. "Just take the money out of it. He's looking like the player he's been most of his career."

For Kemp, his great 2011 spilled over into 2012, when he hit .417/.490/.893 with 12 home runs in 23 games in April. But the hamstring troubles came that May. It really wasn't until a few months into this season that signs of the old Kemp returned for more than glimpses at a time.

On June 4 this season, Kemp was hitting .238/.291/.398 with five home runs in 51 games.

Because cherry-picking endpoints is fun, Kemp hit .263/.321/.417 with 22 home runs in 207 games from May 1, 2012 through June 4, 2014.

Since June 5, Kemp is hitting .310/.380/.538 with 14 home runs in 81 games, including the aforementioned 11 home runs in 46 games since the All-Star break.

Kemp, who turns 30 on Sep. 23, still thinks he has a little 2011 in him.

"I'm not running as good as I want to, but my swing is coming back," Kemp said. "I think I still have it in me. It's all about getting healthy and getting my legs back under me, and grinding it out every day."