What Happened In 2014: What didn’t happen in 2014? Coming off two mediocre, injury-plagued seasons, people had firmly began to turn on Matt Kemp and wonder if he was done.
Over at Dodgers Digest, we went from giving reason for optimism before the season, to defending his offensive value in May, to wondering if he would get over a position switch, to pointing out again in July that his offense wasn’t an issue, to providing evidence of his new mechanics at the plate, to euphoria over his apparent return to MVP-level prominence, to…
Some roller coaster, huh?
When you really look back, it’s amazing how a couple months can change things completely. Kemp hit .287/.346/.506/.852 on the year, yes, but more importantly he was .309/.365/.606/.971 in the second half after posting just a .269/.339/.430/.760 line in the first half. Kemp’s second-half output would put him in an elite-elite class, but even accounting for the first-half struggles, he was still a top-15 hitter in the MLB with a 140 wRC+.
Just based on his 2014 splits alone, it would be reasonable to carry skepticism as to which half was the real Kemp, but factoring in Kemp’s injury history and mechanical changes leads me to have considerably more faith in his second half. We’re all familiar by now with Kemp’s 2012 and 2013 injuries, but Dan Farnsworth of The Hardball Times took an in-depth look at how Kemp’s injury changed his swing for the worse. Then in July, as Kemp’s shoulder health rounded into form, he also became more willing to search for mechanical fixes. Safe to say he found one.
Barring further injury (which is a real risk), I expect Kemp to continue to produce with the bat. But what about the defense, right? Well that’s been the problem for him in terms of value, and it’s why he was on the block to begin with. I don’t think he’s quite as bad as the metrics in recent years say he is … but it’s safe to say he’s a solidly below-average defender regardless and gives back some of his offensive value because of it.
2015 Status: Matt Kemp was traded to the Padres, you may have heard. Kemp is under contract for five more years at the price tag of $107 million, and the Dodgers will be paying around $32 million of the tab. The trade itself is justifiable even if I’m not thrilled about it, but the worst part will be seeing Kemp in those awful camo uniforms.