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Entries in Carl Crawford (6)


Can Kemp Reclaim Inner Part of the Plate?

Matt Kemp hasn't yet been medically cleared to run this spring, but the Dodgers star owed a combined $128 million through the 2019 season is putting as much distance as possible between himself and all of the fourth outfielder talk. The 29-year-old is coming off a season wrecked by shoulder, ankle and hamstring injuries that limited him to just 73 games and a career-low .395 slugging percentage -- nearly 200 points below the mark he posted while finishing as runner-up to Ryan Braun in 2011 NL MVP voting. But he told's Mark Saxon that "Beast Mode" should return in 2014 now that his swing is no longer compromised:

I couldn't really get through the ball. If anybody knows my swing, when y'all see that go up in the air like that," Kemp said, lifting his left arm over his head, "you know something good happened. I was cutting my swing off. I couldn't get extension, man. I couldn't do a lot of things.

The impact that Kemp's ailing left shoulder -- surgically repaired in each of the past two offseasons -- had on his game last year was most apparent when pitchers tried to bust him inside. He throttled inside pitches during his halcyon 2011 season, swatting 14 home runs and slugging .698. Kemp wasn't as much of a monster against inside stuff in 2012 (seven homers, .554 slugging percentage), but he was still way above average (MLB batters slugged .416 versus inside pitches that year).

Last year, though? Kemp admitted he couldn't do a lot of things while his body betrayed him. One of those things he couldn't do was drive inside pitches: he didn't hit a single home run on an inner-third pitch while slugging .290. Among the 249 hitters seeing at least 350 inside pitches last season, Kemp ranked 225th in slugging. A couple years ago, he did more damage than Miguel Cabrera when pitches challenged him inside. Last season, he inflicted less pain than Jose Tabata and Gregor Blanco.

Back when he was healthy and competing for MVP hardware, Kemp had no problem getting extension versus inside stuff. He sprayed the ball all over the diamond, hitting nearly as many home runs to center field (six) and he did to left field (eight).

Kemp's spray chart vs. inside pitches, 2011


Unable to fully extend his swing in 2013, Kemp pulled more inside pitches to left field (57.7% of balls put in play, compared to 42.9% in 2011) but did little more than roll over the ball, leading to lots of 5-to-3 outs scribbled on the score card.

Kemp's spray chart vs. inside pitches, 2013

Kemp's clearly no fourth outfielder when healthy, but he did hit like one last year when pitchers came inside. Perhaps opponents are starting to catch on, as he has seen more inner-third pitches three years running (29.3% in 2011, 30.9% in 2012, and 33.4% in 2013). Plenty of scouts will scrutinize Kemp's swing during spring training. If he looks vulnerable against pitches on the inner third, expect pitchers to make him prove that his mended shoulder will finally let him get extended in 2014.


Peter Gammons: MLB Sources Say...

Don Mattingly, Matt Kemp and the Ned Colletti's Next Move

While speculation about Don Mattingly’s job security was rampant a week ago, one Dodger official made a cogent observation:”We had a clearly-defined projected lineup before the season opened. That lineup has not been together for one game.”

Matt Kemp’s pulled hamstring is viewed as a blessing in disguise, because he is now beginning his weights program to strengthen his surgically-repaired left shoulder, and that lead shoulder is what has left his mechanics a mess in the first half.

Carl Crawford’s pulled hamstring has further weakened the Dodger lineup, although the word around the game is that they would like to deal Andre Ethier, knowing they have to eat a chunk of the contract. Considering Ethier is owed a guaranteed $70M 2014-2018, he’s 31 and is sometimes considered a platoon player(.634 OPS, 1 HR vs. LHP) that isn’t going to happen.

The scouting department would love to see Joc Pederson, who is hitting .303 with a .387 on base percentage and 17 steals in Chattanooga and has a plus-plus makeup, get a chance, but the front office believes he needs more time.

“If the Dodgers get closer to Arizona and into the race in the next month, it will be interesting to see if Dodger ownership tries to force Ned Colletti to deal a couple of their prospects to make a run at the playoffs,” says one rival GM.

Pederson, RHP Zach Lee and LHP Chris Reed would all be trade chips. Reed was a reliever at Stanford and has taken time to learn to start, but while he’s 2-5, 4.34 at Chattanooga scouts following the club say Reed has consistently been throwing in the 90’s and is an attractive piece, either as a starter or a reliever.

Nationals on the Mend

Ryan Zimmerman’s continued throwing problems have him up to 10 errors, and Mike Rizzo’s suggestion voicemail is getting all kinds of advice. Make Zimmerman a Jeff Kent-style second baseman, where he can throw sidearm, and put Anthony Rendon at third. Or put Zimmerman at first, bring up Rendon and trade Adam LaRoche. For now, Zimmerman will continue to work on his footwork and try to get his throwing back to normal.

There have been suggestions that Stephen Strasburg’s strained oblique is an ongoing problem, but the day after his previous start against Philadelphia several Phillies players talked Strasburg. “I think he’s going to end up better than Justin Verlander,” said one, which is high praise, indeed. “Not only does he throw 98 with that great breaking ball,” said another, “but his changeup has evolved into an 89 mile an hour sinker, a nasty sinker, at that. It’s an unbelievable pitch.

Twin Thrillings

In one week, three different general managers have said, “the Twins right now have the best talent up and down their organization—by far.” With Terry Ryan absolutely the right man to decide who can play, and who cannot.


Patient Crawford Setting Table for Dodgers

When the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the five years and $102 million left on Carl Crawford's contract last August, it was just the cost of doing business to get the player they really wanted: Adrian Gonzalez. The suddenly uber-wealthy Dodgers wanted a cornerstone first baseman. The Red Sox wanted salary relief. To put Gonzalez in Dodger blue, L.A. had to pay Crawford (injured and mostly ineffective the previous two seasons) a lot of green.

Someone forgot to tell Crawford he's a washed up rich guy, though. The 31-year-old is conjuring up memories of his pre-Boston, pre Tommy John glory days with the Tampa Bay Rays, batting .308/.388/.516 in 103 plate appearances. That's quite the improvement from the .260/.292/.419 triple-slash he put up in 2011-12. Crawford looks like a totally different man in 2013, laying off junk pitches he hacked at with Boston and working the count in his favor.

First, here is Crawford's swing rate by pitch location with Boston in 2011-12. He was especially jumpy versus chin-high pitches:

Crawford chased about 35% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone, far above the 28% league average. His walk rate with the Sox was downright Francoeur-like: 3.9%. In fact, the only hitters who walked less often while convincing their managers to give them 600-plus plate appearances were Yuniesky Betancourt, Miguel Olivo and Delmon Young.

Now, check out Crawford's swing rate so far in 2013. He's no longer chasing chin music:

Crawford's chase rate is down to just 20% in 2013. With a far more patient approach, he has more than doubled his walk rate to 8.7%.

One-hundred great trips to the plate don't necessarily mean that Crawford will be worth his $20-plus million a year salary between now and 2017. That said, his newfound strike zone discipline has to encourage the Dodgers that they acquired a quality table-setter instead of a sunken cost.