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Entries in Matt Kemp (14)


Matt Kemp's BABIP

The Los Angeles Dodgers are up for sale, but Matt Kemp isn't going anywhere. The 27-year-old center fielder, who would have been arbitration-eligible for the last time this winter, signed an eight-year, $160 million deal that keeps him in L.A. through 2019. Kemp is a prime NL MVP candidate, coming off a season in which he batted .324 and set new career highs in on-base percentage (.399), slugging percentage (.586) and home runs (39).

Kemp's career year was driven by his power surge and pitchers treading cautiously against him (he was intentionally walked 24 times, behind only Prince Fielder), but he also got a boost from a .380 batting average on balls in play. While that's an extreme number for any hitter -- just 47 players have posted a .380+ BABIP during a season in which they qualified for the batting title during the Expansion Era -- high BABIP totals are nothing new for Kemp.

Speedy players who avoid pop-ups typically post higher BABIP figures, and Kemp fits both criteria. Despite standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 220 pounds, he missed a 40/40 season by one homer in 2011 and he has a career Speed Score of 6.5 (five is average). Plus, his infield/fly ball rate is just 3.1 percent, less than a third of the roughly 10 percent MLB average. Through his age-26 season, Kemp has a whopping .352 BABIP. That's fifth-highest among Expansion Era hitters:

 Highest BABIP Through Age-26 Season During Expansion ERA (1961-Present, min. 2,500 PA)


So, how has Kemp done it? Let's take a closer look at his high-BABIP hitting.

Kemp has posted higher-than-average BABIP figures against all pitch types, but that's especially the case on fastballs/sinkers and curveballs:



In terms of pitch location, Kemp has gotten hits on balls in play like Ted Williams unless the pitcher spots one low-and-away. Check out his in-play average by location over the past three seasons, compared to the league average for right-handed hitters. This does include homers, but it still gives us a good idea of Kemp's across-the-plate BABIP prowess:

 Kemp's in-play average by pitch location, 2009-2011

MLB in-play average by pitch location for right-handed batters, 2009-2011

The farther inside the pitch is, the higher Kemp's BABIP: he's got a .325 BABIP on outside pitches, a .333 BABIP on pitches down the middle, and a .358 BABIP on inside pitches. Perhaps that's why opponents stay away from him, throwing lots of pitches off the outside corner:

Opponent pitch location vs. Kemp, 2009-2011

At age 27, Kemp is in the prime of his career and shouldn't have a problem posting well above-average BABIP totals during the bulk of his new mega contract. No one should expect a .380 BABIP again (the new Bill James projections on Fangraphs show a .351 BABIP for Kemp in 2012, a near-perfect match for his career mark), but he has done this for too long for it to be considered a fluke. Kemp has the skills -- speed, few pop-ups, a powerful line-drive stroke -- to keep up his high-BABIP hitting for a long time.


Baseball-All-Starlytics: Inside story on Matt Kemp

Last season, at the All-Star break, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers was doing whatever players do who have not been selected to the All-Star team (and are not subsitituting for the players who are selected). This year at the break, he's batting third in Bruce Bochy's lineup in the All-Star Game.

How did Kemp go from a .261 hitter with 16 homers  at this point last year to a .313 hitter with 22 homers this year?

The answer is quickness inside.

Compare 2010 and 2011 on inside fastballs

It is really something to see the difference in Matt Kemp.

Here is 2010:

Kemp at the 2010 breakHere is 2011:

Kemp at the 2011 breakVisually the difference is stunning and the pictures are backed up by the numbers. 

  • 2010: 245 fastballs on the inside, 60 plate appearances, 50 at bats
  • 2011: 225 fastballs on the inside, 66 plate appearances, 59 at bats 
  • 2010: 14 hits, 2 homers, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts
  • 2011: 25 hits, 4 homers, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts  
  • 2010: .280 avg., .350 OBP, .440 slug., .790 OPS
  • 2011: .424 avg., .470 OBP, .729 slug., 1.199 OPS 

You have to admit, that is a pretty stunning turn-around.

And now, you have the inside story on Matt Kemp.


Kemp Killing Fastballs, Sliders

Last night, Matt Kemp went 4-for-5 and hit his National League-leading 22nd home run of the season as the Dodgers pummeled the Twins 15-0. Kemp doubled and notched a pair of singles on fastballs, and hit a 449 foot bomb on a slider. Following another big game, Kemp has a .336/.422/.636 line and ranks behind just a pair of Joses (Bautista and Reyes) in Wins Above Replacement.

L.A.'s center fielder has put himself in MVP contention by throttling fastballs and sliders. Look at his in-play slugging percentage on fastballs, compared to the league average:

    Kemp's in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs


  League average in-play slugging percentage vs. fastballs                     

Look at all that red! Kemp's overall slugging percentage against fastballs is .780. That makes a mockery of the .439 league average, and is way above Kemp's .500 slugging percentage last season. Twelve of Kemp's homers have come against fastballs. Only Curtis Granderson has hit more home runs against heaters.

Here's Kemp's in-play slugging percentage versus sliders:

Kemp's in-play slugging percentage vs. sliders


League average in-play slugging percentage vs. sliders          

Kemp is slugging .631 against sliders, compared to the .341 league average and his .446 mark in 2010. He has cracked seven homers on sliders, the highest total among MLB hitters.

Kemp's percentage of fastballs seen hasn't changed much over the course of the season, but pitchers seemingly got the scouting report on the slider and are throwing it less often. Kemp got a slider about 26 percent of the time in April, but that figure dropped to 20 percent in May and is slightly under 19 percent in June.