Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What should the Dodgers do with Kemp?

The Dodgers won on Memorial Day, thanks to a big night from Adrian Gonzalez and overcoming a five-run deficit.  Unlikely?  You bet.  Especially considering their #3 hitter went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

Yes, that would be one Mr. Matt Kemp, who continues his season of futility as each game passes by.  And boy are the boo birds making their presence felt as the K's continue to pile up.  Here's a look at his numbers right now:

49 G, .253 AVG, .304 OBP, 9 2B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 7 SB

Of his 47 hits, only 11 have gone for extra-bases.  And that's what he's become at this point - a glorified singles hitter.  More specifically, a singles hitter when he's not grounding out or striking out.

If Monday night didn't prove that something different needs to be done with him, then I don't know what will.  In my mind, there's three possible avenues the Dodgers can take.

1. Place him on the 15-day DL.  Maybe it's time Kemp admits that he once again rushed back too soon from an injury.  He had shoulder surgery in the offseason, and everyone thought he'd be all fine and dandy to start 2013.  Well, maybe the shoulder is fine, but it's hard to ignore a guy who's hit 20+ homers four times in his young career only having two thus far.  That's as big a red flag as there is.  Placing him on the DL would allow him to relax for a couple of weeks, rest his shoulder, then work on his swing when he's much healthier again.

I'd be surprised if this was to actually happen.  I think Kemp's stubbornness (and I don't mean that in a bad way) would prevent this from occurring.  But, say he continues to stink and Hanley Ramirez is ready to be activated.  Would the Dodgers make the swap?  It's something that should be considered at least.

2. Move him down the order.  This is something I've been saying for awhile.  I know it's a pride thing, which is why he was pissed he came out of the game last Saturday as part of a double-switch, but again, you can't ignore his stats.  How many times can this offense succeed when he provides no big hits in the heart of the lineup?  The Dodgers won in spite of him on Monday, and certainly not because of him. 

I would move him down to #6.  I was thinking #5, but even that seems too high right now.  The top four should be Carl Crawford, Mark Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez, and Scott Van Slyke.  That would leave someone like A.J. Ellis, Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, or (believe it or not) Juan Uribe to hit #5.  Kemp is simply too unreliable and too strikeout prone to keep hitting high in the order.  Don Mattingly needs to put Kemp's pride aside, point to his mediocre numbers, and make the right move.

3. Start benching him more and not view him as strictly an everyday player.  This would be the trickiest move, as Kemp's huge contract (eight years, $160 million) isn't exactly one that you'd want riding the pine.  While I wouldn't consider him a platoon player like Andre Ethier should be at this point, I have no problem sitting him once a week or so.  As long as he's not producing at the plate, then he should be held accountable and not automatically penciled in the lineup.  The Dodgers' offense has very little margin of error, so Mattingly can only take so much of Kemp's lousy nights at the plate.

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