Matt Kemp had been mired in a massively disturbing second half slump before he smashed that go-ahead three-run home run off of Archie Bradley on Saturday night that beat the Snakes at Dodger Stadium. Kemp has been ice cold since the all-star break and particularly in the month of August where he batted .214 with a .577 OPS. He’s batting .211 since the all-star break while posting a pretty putrid .617 OPS.
Regardless of his second half struggles, manager Dave Roberts is sticking with him. Kudos to Dave because there’s more than one reason why he’s still starting in left field and batting cleanup. Kemp has had a great season. Even though he strikes out too much, but most of the Dodgers do anyways. Kemp has been super productive but his post all-star break tailspin is something that should not be a surprise.
Kemp is 33-years old. He plays the outfield, a position where you are required to cover vast distances. He’s got to use his legs a lot and for Kemp someone who’s had a history of leg injuries that’s something that can affect his hitting. He’s undoubtedly lost some bat speed along the way as well. An extended cold spell was probably on the horizon no matter what. It’s a long season especially for older players in their 30’s.
Saturday night vibes. pic.twitter.com/6dgXdaqvBh
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 2, 2018
Again, Roberts is sticking with him and it’s important to understand why. One reason is that Roberts is the kind of manager who doesn’t like to give up on his players. You don’t want to keep playing a guy who is actively hurting the club but if Roberts were to just throw players away then he would likely lose the respect of the rest of the players in the clubhouse. That’s the reason why he kept playing Logan Forsythe despite Logan not hitting a lick. Sometimes it can hurt the club though, example Austin Barnes. Most of the time it’s a good thing for the morale of the guys behind closed doors.
Roberts doesn’t like to give up on his players and it’s a very redeeming quality in the skipper. However there are still two other good reasons to stick with Kemp. First of all he can still hit the ball out of the park, as we all saw on Saturday night. He’s got power and even during a slump he has the capability to catch one and muscle a ball over the wall.
The other reason is because Kemp has been one of the best hitters in the majors this season with runners in scoring position. Before Saturday night’s game Kemp was slashing .347/.393/.561 with 6 home runs and 50 runs driven in with runners in scoring position. That’s right he’s driven home 50 runs in just 117 plate appearances. 50 runs people!
There you have it. Those two reasons are why Kemp is still getting the majority of the reps in left field. He has power and is one of the best clutch hitters in baseball let alone on the Dodgers. With the club’s obvious problems hitting with runners in scoring position, Kemp’s abilities are a breath of fresh air. Those reasons give him value. And that’s why Dave Roberts will continue to get him playing time.