Matt Kemp batted .417, had a .490 on-base percentage, .893 slugging percentage,… (Barry Gutierrez / Associated…)
And the answers are: 1) Absolutely; 2) Maybe; 3) It wasn’t even the best April for a Dodger.
I offer multiple answers not to go all wimpy on you, but because the answer requires a close examination of statistics. And as Mark Twain wrote, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and baseball statistics.
Picking a greatest whatever in baseball inherently demands the use of statistics, and this means not only picking which numbers to play with, but which ones to place the greatest significance.
And Kemp offered some amazing April numbers to play with: In 23 games he batted .417, had a .490 on-base percentage, .893 slugging percentage, 12 home runs, 16 extra-base hits, 24 runs and 25 runs batted in.
As The Times’ Dylan Hernandez pointed out, this is only the fourth time in major-league history a player has finished April with a batting average higher than .400, with more than 10 home runs and more than 20 RBI.
The others are Barry Bonds (2004), Larry Walker (1997) and Tony Perez (1970). Bonds and Walker went onto to win the National League MVP and Perez is in the Hall of Fame.
ESPN’s wonderful Jayson Stark examined whether Kemp managed the greatest April ever and concluded: “It is, at the very least, The Greatest April Ever By A Hitter Who Played His Home Games At Sea Level.”
Using the same statistical categories listed above for Kemp, it could be argued only Walker in ’97 edged Kemp’s April: .456/.538/.911, with 11 homers, 18 extra-base hits, 29 runs, 29 RBIs.
Walker, of course, played in Denver during the pre-humidor era, when balls at Coors Field made like NASA projects. And 11 of Walker’s 23 games were played at Coors.
Then there were these numbers by Bonds: .472/.696/1.132, with 10 homers, 15 extra-base hits, 21 runs, 22 RBIs. He walked a staggering 39 times.
Stark lists 10 other contenders for the April award, including Ron Cey for the Dodgers in 1977: .425./543/.890, with 9 homers, 15 extra-base hits, 18 runs, 29 RBIs in 20 games.
Whether Kemp’s April was the greatest, or just one of the best, doesn’t matter too much in the end. It was at least knocking at the door. And for every Dodgers fan, a wonder to behold.
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