Can Matt Kemp Actually Go 50-50?
When the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth in walkoff fashion, there were a few different takeaways for baseball fans. The most notable is the historical significance of the magic that we saw unfold yesterday at Chavez Ravine. On a day in which baseball celebrated the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in a Dodgers uniform, Matt Kemp laid his claim to the title of "best baseball player in the world right now" and Dee Gordon provided the late inning heroics. Kemp and Gordon, both African-American players, are playing for the franchise that not only carries the legacy of Jackie Robinson, but as of a few weeks ago, is also home to the first African-American owner in major league history in Magic Johnson. Sunday also marked the return of the legendary Vin Scully to the broadcast booth after a 5 game absence, the same announcer who had called Dodgers games with Robinson on the field some 60 years earlier. What’s more, with the win, L.A. moved to 9-1 on the season, one of the best starts in franchise history and making them the surprise story of the year in the early going. In summary, all of this made for a pretty great storyline.
Another takeaway from Sunday’s game, however, is the acknowledgement of the incredible misery that must come with being a San Diego Padres fan (believe me, I know). After going 20-31 in one-run games in 2011, and 4-12 in extra innings, the Padres have already lost 4 games in the ninth inning or later this season. But Sunday’s loss was even more devastating than usual, as a freak play (one that could only happen to the Padres) ended up costing them the game.
By now I’m sure you’ve all already seen the wacky triple play in the top of the ninth, when Jesus Guzman squared up to bunt with nobody out in hopes of moving the go-ahead run to third base. Instead, the pitch was wildly thrown high and tight, but when Guzman tried to get out of the way, the ball somehow hit his bat. Now make no mistake, the ball was bunted fair and the ultimate call on the field was correct. But before making the right call, umpire Dale Scott clearly raised his hands and gave the signal for a dead ball, causing the Padres baserunners not to run. Scott is now denying any wrong doing, almost going so far as to brag about the validity of his call. Look, I get that umpires are human. But if you make a mistake, own up to it. The recent ineptitude of officials in American sports is really starting to get to me (don’t even get me started on the unbelievable rise to prominence of the offensive charge call in this year’s NCAA tourney).
Anyways, now that I got that digression out of my system, I can turn my attention towards what, in my opinion, was the major takeaway of Sunday’s ballgame. My suffering from the Padres loss was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I have Matt Kemp on my fantasy team, and the realization that his level of dominance thus far in 2012 has truly been something special. Kemp, who was the rightful 2011 NL MVP (with or without the Braun steroid scandal), predicted this offseason that he would go 50-50 in the upcoming year. While he did have an incredible 2011, finishing one homer shy of 40-40, most people believed Kemp was due for a slight regression. Considering only 4 players have ever gone 40-40, his claim that he was going to enter the 50-50 club seemed downright absurd.
That appears to be a thing of the past, however, as Kemp is playing like a man with something to prove. Batting .487 and already having blasted 6 homers, Kemp is destroying the league in all 3 triple crown categories. He is definitely motivated, and if he can stay hot enough to get to 50 bombs, I think he’s got a shot to get there. Yes, he does only have 1 stolen base currently, but he’s got the green light, and if the power’s there, Kemp will definitely start attempting steals at a higher rate. Keep in mind, stolen bases can be manufactured in a way that homers cannot. My biggest concern right now is that Kemp is hitting so many balls over the fence, he’s not staying on base long enough to swipe the necessary bags. If he starts getting pitched around more frequently and gets on base via the walk, those numbers should start to even out.
I think 50-50 is within the realm of possibility at this point. What do you think? Can Matt Kemp actually get there?