We all know the story. One of the better feel-good stories of the baseball season.
In December of 2017, the Dodgers traded for Matt Kemp, in what looked like a salary dump of a trade. Many expected Kemp to be moved soon after the deal, or at least by spring training.
The 33-year-old proved everyone wrong, and made the spring training roster. He then proved everyone wrong again, and made the opening day roster. He then did the impossible, and had a breakthrough first-half, making his first all-star game in six years.
Through July 23, Kemp was making a serious case for NL MVP. He posted a .318 average, to compliment 17 home runs and 63 RBI. His OPS sat at .903, and he had a wRC+ of 143.
And then on July 24, things took a turn for the worse.
That date would mark the beginning of a stretch in which Kemp would go 0-for-26. It wasn’t until August 1 in which Kemp would get a base hit. After a stretch that nearly lasted a week, many wondered if the dreadful slump was finally over.
For Kemp, he would go 0 for his next 10, until his next hit came in Oakland on a bloop single to right.
Two nights later, Kemp went 1-for-5, but his lone hit did spark a Dodgers comeback that ultimately won them the game. With two outs in the eighth inning, Kemp hit a double, and then came home to score on a Cody Bellinger home run.
For Kemp, it was his first extra-base-hit since July 22.
He would finish the series going 0-for-6, thus marking a 3-for-50 stretch.
Since July 24, Kemp’s three hits are the lowest amongst players with at least 57 plate appearances. The next closest is Jose Bautista with seven. Not only is he dead-last in hits, he is also dead-last in AVG (.060), OBP (.140), SLG (.080), OPS (.220) and wRC+ (-35).
It’s been a historically bad stretch for Kemp.
The first thing that stands out is how hard he’s been hitting the ball. Back when Kemp was hitting .318, 44.6 percent of the balls he was hitting were hard hit balls. The number has dropped nearly 15 percent, as now 29.7 percent of balls are hit hard, which is a very significant drop.
During Kemp’s hot-stretch, 26.4 percent of Kemp’s at-bats were line drives, back to the hitting the ball hard part. Now, only 10.8 percent of the time he’s hitting a line drive.
Another key note is that Kemp is falling behind in the count more often. During the first few months, Kemp would start the count 0-1 1.97 times per game. Now, he’s seeing a first-pitch strike 2.21 times per game. The numbers aren’t too significant of a difference, but the more times you fall behind in a count, the tougher it will be to tack on hits.
Though the differences aren’t too drastic, his strike-out percentage has risen from 22 percent to 26.3 percent, and his walk percentage has dropped from 8.5 percent to 5.3 percent.
For his career, Kemp has continuously hit left-handers well. During his career, Kemp has hit .315 off of lefties, including .318 during the first few months. During this stretch, Kemp has looked completely lost in the box, with zero hits in 19 at bats versus a left-handed pitcher.
There’s no question that Kemp’s lack of performance has been hurting the Dodgers. Since his slump started, the Dodgers have gone 8-11 and currently find themselves in second place of the division.
If there’s a silver lining in this, five of the next six starters the Dodgers face are all left-handed pitchers, who Kemp has thrived against his whole career.
Although it’s been a tough stretch, this week looks as good as any for Kemp to put an end to this hitless streak, and help the Dodgers win some games again.