Friday, May 23, 2014

The old Matt Kemp's not walking through that door

Cue the infamous Rick Pitino quote from above.  Today felt like a great time to resurrect it after watching Matt Kemp's flailing attempt to play center field Thursday night.

And the "gray and old" part at the end of the clip?  Well, that certainly sounds like the direction Kemp is heading.

The Dodgers won the first couple over the Mets, but couldn't finish off the sweep as the Mets got the victory 5-3.  The game was highlighted by an absolutely amazing catch from Yasiel Puig in right field, robbing Wilmer Flores of extra bases.

What was not amazing?  The play of Kemp in center.  Time and time again he allowed the ball to get over his head, and also had a costly bobble to let Curtis Granderson go from second to third leading off the second.  It soon led to a run, tying the game at one.

In all, four balls got over Kemp's head, plays in which he appeared to get horrible jumps on.  Then there was a play late in the game in which he somewhat mistimed a jump at the wall, but failed to glove it.

Through all of these plays, the one thing that kept coming to my mind over and over was this: the old Kemp would've made those plays.  But my oh my, do those days appear to be far behind.  And you know what?  I'm doubting they ever come back.

I think the time has come for the Dodgers to seriously reconsider not only playing Kemp in center, but if they want to dangle him as trade bait.  Remember when he was younger and his name kept popping up in trade discussions?  Ned Colletti always resisted, and Kemp went on to post a good three-year stretch from 2008-2010, topping off at his monster (should've been) MVP season of 2011 in which he hit .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases.  He was an All-Star and won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.

Little did we know at the time that that was probably the peak of his career.

Injury after injury after injury have just derailed his career, and now he looks about as average as can be.  In 41 games, he's hitting .265 with 5 homers, 13 RBIs, and 5 steals.  That's it.  All from a guy who declared himself an everyday center fielder coming into the season.  Not only is he completely botching fly balls, but he can't hit either.

Over at, Kemp is currently ranked 20th in advanced statistical center fielder rankings.  If that isn't bad enough, then the fact that there's only 21 total players on the list should be even worse.  His "Ultimate Zone Rating," which measures how many runs a player saves or gives up, is a -7.5, only slightly ahead of Dexter Fowler and his -7.7.  That puts him in the range somewhere between below average and poor.  I'll keep it simple for all of you - he's been poor.

In a way, I can understand why Don Mattingly has been giving him so many chances.  He's three years into his massive eight-year, $160 million deal, and will be making $21 or $21.5 million through 2019.  We've all seen just how dominating he can be.  So, Donnie almost had to choice but to let Kemp try and earn his everyday spot back.

Well guess what?  He hasn't.  And it's time to make a change.

There's no team on Earth that would take on all of that money for a guy clearly declining.  Well, the Dodgers would, but they can't trade for a guy they already have.  Unless the Dodgers want to eat a whole chunk of his money, it's hard to imagine him going anywhere anytime soon.

What the Dodgers can do is simple: don't put him in the lineup so freakin' much!  Puig is fully entrenched in right.  Then there's Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Scott Van Slyke looking for more time.  There's even Joc Pederson, the guy in Triple-A who's hitting .343 with 14 homers and 29 RBIs through 41 games.  He's also the 34th ranked prospect in baseball, and just happens to be pretty darn good.

I don't get the feeling the Dodgers want to call Pederson up quite yet just to split playing time, so what they should do is get Van Slyke's bat and his .970 OPS into the lineup more often (Kemp's OPS is .785).  Ethier can play all over the outfield and sports a -1.1 UZR, which is certainly better than Kemp's.  He seems to be the forgotten man these days, but in 25 less at-bats than Kemp, has eight more RBIs than him (21 to 13).

No matter how you slice it, Kemp is being treated with kid gloves right now, and it needs to stop.  Until he proves that he has his legs completely back and is capable of being a great outfielder again, and can prove he can start hitting for more power, it's time to ride the pine more.  It's for the good of everybody.

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