One of the great stories of the 2018 Dodgers is the resurgence of outfielder Matt Kemp. The last time we saw Kemp in a Dodger uniform was October of 2014. The Dodgers were playing the Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Kemp hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of game 2 at Dodger Stadium that would end up being the game winner. It would also end up being Kemp’s final home run as a Dodger, or so we thought at the time. It was hard to forget that blast. Kemp hooking the ball just fair inside the foul pole as he mouthed the words “fair ball” while going into his home run trot. The Dodgers would go onto lose to the Cardinals in four games and that helped usher in the new era of Dodger baseball.
With that crushingly disappointing playoff exit, the ownership decided to bring in Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office. One of their first moves was the headline swap with San Diego. The trade brought Yasmani Grandal to Los Angeles, and sent Kemp to the Padres.
Flash forward to this winter when the Dodgers reacquired him from the Atlanta Braves in a notorious salary dump deal that sent Brandon McCarthy, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson to Atlanta. Nobody thought that Kemp would even break ground with the Dodgers in spring training and the Dodgers were rumored to be aggressively shopping him. Here’s the funny part, nobody wanted him apparently.
Now those teams must feel pretty silly because Kemp has been the Dodgers best hitter this season. He’s been one of the most dangerous hitters with runners in scoring position and one of the top hitters in the National league.
Kemp is slashing .426/.446/.745 with 4 home runs and 30 runs driven in with runners in scoring position. That’s the tops in baseball. He’s batting .409 with 7 home runs and 38 runs driven in with runners on base. The guy is an assassin with men in scoring position. Overall Kemp is slashing .336/.370/.566 with 12 home runs and 43 runs batted in. His wRC+ of .154 is the eighth best in MLB.
Not only has Kemp been good at the plate, he’s been good in the field as well. His defensive runs above average rating is a +3 and he’s committed just one error on the grass. He’s played 43 games in left field and 18 games in right. Not everything has been rosy for Kemp though. His 5.7% walk rate is alarmingly low. He’s drawn just 13 walks to pair with his 54 whiffs. However his 155 OPS + is nothing to scoff at.
The last time beastmode was patrolling the outfield at Dodger Stadium and playing at an MVP caliber level was many years ago. The Dodgers were still stuck in the Frank McCourt nightmare and Kemp was the best player on the team. Many years later he’s back and better than ever. He doesn’t complain and is a great teammate in the clubhouse. Beastmode is back and it feels like he never left.