Matt Kemp is off to a slow start this season, and so are the Dodgers. (Gail Burton / Associated…)
This is not going to be fair, OK? The only thing truly comparable is the name, though that is rather significant.
On the surface, it seems reasonable. Comparing Matt Kemp’s first 18 games this season to last. That’s fair, right?
Only last April, Kemp was off to one of baseball’s greatest starts. This year, he’s scuffling through one of his worst individual periods.
Through 18 games last year: .455 batting average with nine homers and 22 runs batted in, with .513 on-base and .924 slugging percentages.
Through 18 games this year: .235 batting average with no homers and six RBIs, with a .270 on-base and .294 slugging percentages.
And that’s after he went 6-for-13 in Baltimore over the weekend, raising his average up from .182. All six hits were singles, two of the infield variety.
Maybe that’s what Kemp needs to get it going, to turn his personal page, to mentally put his off-season shoulder surgery behind him.
The Dodgers best hope so, because there is one other notable stat in comparing his two starts. In those first 18 games last year, the Dodgers were 13-5. This year with a superior lineup, they’re 8-10.
Kemp makes the Dodgers go. That’s not really fair either, but when a team gives you the richest contract in its history, being fair sometimes tends to be set aside. Kemp is the one electric presence in the lineup. The one what-will-he-do-now? guy.
They not only need him hitting, but hitting with power. And if all of his game has been slow to come around to his standards this season, it is particularly his power they miss. Only two teams in baseball have hit fewer than the Dodgers’ 10 home runs. Only one has scored fewer times.
The Dodgers have plenty of hitting problems beyond Kemp (see: left side of infield), but Kemp is the one batter who makes their lineup special. Whose power sets them apart.
And right now, it’s badly missing. He doesn't have to be that phenomenal Kemp of last April, but fair or not, he can't be this one for the Dodgers to win.