“I believe in myself to the most,” said Matt Kemp. “I have confidence I can achieve it. I try to set my expectations as high as I can. I think I’m capable of doing it.” What is Kemp claiming he is capable of doing? No it’s nothing as grand as solving the mysteries of Stonehenge, nor is he talking about getting back together with his famous ex Rihanna. No, Matt Kemp was saying that he thinks he could go 50/50 this year – 50 homers and 50 steals.
“It speaks to his confidence and his self-awareness,” GM Ned Colletti said. “Even if he doesn’t make it, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It tells me about how he feels about his game. It tells me what he thinks about who he is.” (For the full report see Tim Brown’s article on Yahoo. By the way, if you want to play fantasy baseball this year, Yahoo Sports is a great place to sign up to play). I don’t know if I share Colletti’s vision here, but here are the facts as I see them.
1- Kemp is a supremely talented player who was one homer away from going 40/40 last year.
2- Kemp has nearly gone 20/20 each of the past four years (he missed out by two homers in 2008 and by one steal in 2010). The last four years he has averaged 28 homers and 32 steals. That’s nearly 30/30 for four years folks. Impressive.
3- Kemp has been as healthy as they come. Each of the past four years he has appeared in at least 155 games with between 602 and 606 at-bats in each season.
All of that information points to Kemp being an elite performer (duh). However, history is against Kemp and the potential run to 50/50. No one has ever done it. Ever. Only four men have ever gone 40/40: Jose Canseco in 1988, Barry Bonds in 1996, Alex Rodriguez in 1998 and Alfonso Soriano in 2006. Remember, Kemp was just a homer short of joining the club last season so he was close. Does that mean he could go 50/50? What would it take for Kemp to get to those numbers besides health and an unwavering need to concentrate for virtually every moment he was on the field in 2012?
Kemp hit 39 homers last year in 161 games. That equates to one homer every 4.13 games. If he appeared in 161 games again in 2012 he would need to hit a homer every 3.22 games. That’s a significant increase an one that he wouldn’t likely to be able to maintain over the course of a season no matter how much faith he has in his abilities (his 40.5 percent fly ball rate last year was a career best but his 37.4 percent career mark is just big league average).
Kemp stole 40 bases last year in 161 games. That equates to a steal every 4.03 games. If he appeared in 161 games in 2012 he would need to steal a base every 3.22 games. That’s a rather significant increase an one that would be almost impossible to maintain. Let’s not forget that every time that Kemp goes deep that’s one more time that he doesn’t have the chance to steal a base. An increase of 10 homers might lead you to say ‘but Ray, we’re only talking about 10 plate appearances,’ an if you said that you would be right. At the same time, he’s going to need every last plate appearance if he is going to squeeze out 50 steals.
Is Kemp going to thumb his nose at history and do something that no one else in the history of the game has every done? An elite athlete with immense talent, Kemp is in the prime of his career and never misses games. On the flip side he hits in a ball yard that favors pitchers and has little protection in the Dodgers batting order. Kemp also has only one season of 30 homers in his career and he has just one effort of more than 35 steals. Clearly Kemp has full confidence in himself, but it would be foolish to think that he could reach the lofty numbers that he says he is capable of producing in 2012.
For thoughts on how Kemp is being viewed by Fleaflicker click on the link.
By Ray Flowers