What's kept Kemp from being Kemp so far?
April, 21, 2013
By Mark Simon | ESPN Stats and Information
Matt Kemp righted himself this weekend, at least a little bit, with a pair of three-hit games against the Baltimore Orioles, including one in Sunday’s win.
But what exactly is going on with Kemp through these first few weeks of the season?
Let’s take a closer look.
Power not Kemp-like
Kemp, who had surgery to replace a torn labrum in his left shoulder last offseason, has not hit the ball hard in 2013.
The video-trackers from Inside Edge chart something known as “hard-hit average” with their definition of a hard-hit ball being subjective, but unified such that all trackers should be in agreement.
When Kemp hit the ball from 2010 to 2012, his “hard-hit average” was .343, meaning that 34.3 percent of the balls he hit were hit hard.
This season, he has 11 hard-hit ball in the 48 times he’s hit the ball—a .220 well-hit average, boosted by two hard-hit balls this weekend.
Had Kemp been performing to his 2010 to 2012 rate, he should have had 16 hard-hit balls, or five more than he actually has.
Trouble with the slow stuff
Kemp is also dealing with some early-season trouble with offspeed pitches. He’s missed on 29 of the 57 swings he’s taken against them so far and netted four hits on the 127 he’s seen (one of every 32). From 2010 to 2012 (an admittedly much larger sample) he’s averaged one hit every 18 pitches seen.
Much of this has come against right-handed pitching. He is 1-for-17 against right-handers when an at-bat ends with an offspeed pitch.
Though Kemp is known for hitting the ball with power to all fields, through the first three weeks of the season, Kemp has done little against the pitches on the inner half of the plate, or that jammed him off the inside corner.
Kemp hit 35 home runs and had 36 other extra-base hits against pitches to that area over the last two seasons.
But in 2013, though he’s putting balls into play at the same rate as usual over the last three seasons, he’s not hitting it in an area where it has a chance to go out of the park.
Kemp has only hit two inner-half pitches in the air to left field this season. He’s seen 115 such pitches.
In the previous two seasons, he did so once for every 21 inner-half pitches he saw.
Again, the samples are small, but these are early indicators of things that Kemp figures to be working on to get back to the guy who was the best hitter in the game for the month of April exactly a year ago.