kemp_hr_2014-07-30

Visualizing Matt Kemp’s revamped stance

About a week ago, it was revealed that Matt Kemp had made changes in the batter’s box and that those changes are at least partially responsible for his increased production. Kemp himself didn’t expand on it, but assistant hitting coach John Valentin opened up a bit to Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register.

So Kemp is a slugger again, at least temporarily, and he’s clearly doing something differently. He has acknowledged that, saying repeatedly last week that he has “worked on things.”

When pressed to describe those things, he has been almost comically vague. But Dodgers assistant hitting coach John Valentin revealed that Kemp has changed the way he stands at the plate, and video evidence confirms it.

“He actually has straightened his stance,” Valentin said. “It used to be locked. What that created was a difficulty to have the freedom to stay through the baseball. This offers a clear path to hit balls in and away.”

As for the exact time period, it happened during the series against the Cardinals from July 18 to July 20.

During the opening series of the second half in St. Louis, Kemp went to Valentin and hitting coach Mark McGwire finally ready to make alterations, and so they started tinkering with his feet almost immediately.

The numbers certainly back that up.

Since that series, Kemp has put up a line of .357/.432/.671/1.104 and won an NL Player Of The Week Award, something that would’ve been thought of as comical just a couple months ago.

But were there really significant, noticeable changes? Yes, and I think it’s quite obvious once you examine the visual evidence.

(As an aside, my dad said “I’m telling you, Kemp’s crouching too much. Write it on your blogger.” to me while we watched a Spring Training game or something, and I brushed it off cause he was coming back from major injury and all that. As soon as I read this story, I immediately thought, “Never gonna hear the end of this.”)

Here’s Kemp on Apr. 4:

MattKempStanceApril4

And here’s Kemp on June 4, when his OPS hit a season low:

MattKempStanceJune4

His feet are slightly closed as they’ve always been, but he’s a little more bent over at the waist than in past seasons, especially in April. But in June, while going through struggles, it seems as though he turned his left shoulder inward in an attempt to generate more torque in his swing (power). As a result, his back elbow elevated, which likely affected his swing path.

Now here’s Kemp on July 29, during the first game at home since the changes:

MattKempStanceJuly29

As Valentin said, it all starts with the feet. He’s obviously opened his stance a bit, something that I’ve never really seen him do while setting up. Kemp has always opened his stance during the footstrike phase (sometimes too far) of the swing, but he’s never started in that position that I can recall. Additionally, Kemp’s more upright at the waist when compared to the start of the year, and his shoulders are now square to the pitcher, which lowers the angle of his back elbow as well.

The changes with his feet should allow him to get to the inside pitch with more power and greater frequency, which is important if his raw bat speed is no longer the same anymore. But in my opinion, the real advantage comes from squaring his shoulders to the pitcher since that allows him to use a bat path that stays through the hitting zone longer. Before, with his elbow raised and his shoulder turned in, Kemp frequently wasn’t able to square balls up because his swing would start with either his right shoulder dropping and/or his left shoulder opening during the loading phase. Thus, he would end up compensating for the longer swing by rolling over pitches with his hands to get the bat head in the hitting zone, or he would get lead shoulder dominant (especially when he was fooled) and the bat head would drag rather than get through the zone.

Kemp will always have significant swing and miss in his game, but he’s much more consistent now, and when he squares up the ball consistently, that has usually led to damage.

So there’s definitely been change going on with Kemp. While he hasn’t reworked his swing or anything, he’s made small mechanical adjustments that have perhaps helped him compensate for aging and a decrease in raw athletic ability following injury. This all isn’t to say that Kemp’s back to 2011 level or anything close. Rather, it’s visual evidence to back what Kemp and Valentin have revealed about changes happening, and it’s shown that there’s enough logic and reason behind the adjustments to believe they could lead to a more permanent positive change in value at the plate.



315 comments
LA_Woman
LA_Woman

YAY! Someone finally wrote about this. People always pooh-pooh me when I repeat stuff that I hear on Dodger Talk. A while ago, this is what I said Valentin worked on with Matty -- the positioning of his feet, which in turn squared up his shoulders.

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

I still don't get how the "TWTW" stat is calculated, though.

Spork in the Road
Spork in the Road

Interesting stat of the day:


The NL Central has 4 teams in the top 5 in terms of HBP (by pitchers), as well as hitters who have been hit.


Thankfully, the Dodgers only have 7 games left against the NL Headhunter division, with three against the Brewers who are the one team not in the top 5.


Should be lots of fireworks in the Central, as the season winds down, as these guys play mostly against each other.

- Casey -
- Casey -

Eephus making a good point on the Twitters. I used to feel this way when I knew even less about advanced stats then I do now. 

urbuddyhaysoos
urbuddyhaysoos

@TheConman It boggles the mind that major league managers do crap like bat BJ Upton and Drew Stubbs leadoff.

- Casey -
- Casey -

You measure the heart, Drank. It's all about the heart.

urbuddyhaysoos
urbuddyhaysoos

@Expressed anal gland Some Pirates fan was arguing with Keith Law the other day that because the Pirates, his team, were hitting a lot of batters, therefore they deserved to be intentionally plunked by the D-Backs. So, no one side with the D-Backs on this issue... except this random Pirates fan.

Hikaruu
Hikaruu

@Hoze I guess 2/3 of that is good.


Seems like cherrypicking for a medicore pitcher, though.

Paul ran out of puns, is just Paul now
Paul ran out of puns, is just Paul now

@- Casey - There's failing to understand advanced statistics (which I do pretty consistently), and then there's refusing to even acknowledge their value. I have no problem who isn't interested in learning more about them and just wants to watch baseball, but when people trot out the "nerds are ruining baseball!" trope, I think it's open season for mocking them. 

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

@- Casey - I uhhh.. i think there's a whole lot more mockery and so forth coming from the anti-sabr crowd. 

Hoze
Hoze

@Daiya no Ace @Hoze yeah, I dont know what get out of this stat other than he pitches to contact but nothing about the kind of contract. HRs can still be high but be maked by a really low K rate 

Raul Franklin
Raul Franklin

@Disgruntled Goat @- Casey - The point isn't us vs. them, it's that advanced stats are useful.  No matter what the anti-sabr crowd says, the useful stats will get used. So they are better off knowing.

And anyhow, it's not just stats, its a different way to watch a game, to follow a team, or evaluate a player.

It's more different than just understanding some acronyms.

This stuff doesn't need to be dumbed down, it just needs to be related to people on a more personal level.

- Casey -
- Casey -

@Disgruntled Goat @- Casey - Okay, sure. I use the glossary on Fangraphs all the time. And I realize some of it is just laziness on the part of the casual fan.

But even some of the definitions could be dumbed down (for lack of a better term) to allow the less dedicated fan to understand it. It doesn't have to be an elitist mindset.

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

@Lobo @- Casey - and yeah, i googled "sabr stats definitions" like two years ago when this stuff was going over my head. 

- Casey -
- Casey -

Ugh. You don't understand traditional stats. Dumb beverage.

TheConman
TheConman

@- Casey - @Disgruntled Goat there are many different problems with all of this. Sabr people can be "know it alls" at time and talk down to people that use traditional stats. Often, traditional stat people are unwilling to even consider learning about new stats, because they have no interest or because it they have stereotyped sabr discussions as nerd talk. 


I think what EEphus is saying is very true for people that maybe have not had a chance to learn or experience the new stats but aren't vehemently opposed to them. The problem is that it is difficult to explain these stats succinctly. and reading a definition isnt very useful unless you are very good at math. It takes time and repeatedly hearing that stat before you actually get an understanding of what it really means

Amblin
Amblin

@- Casey - @Disgruntled Goat they have some stats that they highlight as "intro" types that provide kind of a gateway to understanding the more in-depth stuff.

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

@Amblin @- Casey - @Disgruntled Goat i'm a fan of the baby steps program. OPS is really easy to understand and is a clear improvement over batting average. from there, OPS+ is even better and once you have that down, wRC+ is not too hard to grasp. 


that's the path i took at least. i am not mathematically inclined. 

Amblin
Amblin

@Disgruntled Goat @Lobo @- Casey - FG is a great resource but Cameron is the worst in terms of talking down to people ignorant of advanced stats.  He's smart and I like reading his stuff but he's a dick, lets face it.