I have spent the better part of the past two months tantalized by the possibility that Matt Kemp might win the National League Triple Crown, becoming the first player to do so since Joe Medwick in 1937 and the first in either league since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. My first post on the subject was on August 1:
No, we don't value RBI much as a stat in these parts — not without context anyway — and we value batting average even less.
Unless they give us something fun to root for.
Here we are on August 1, and Matt Kemp still is plumb in the thick of Triple Crown contention.
The thing I like most in Kemp's favor is that 33 of the Dodgers' remaining 55 games are on the road, where Kemp is batting .335 with 15 homers and 45 RBI in 48 games.
Admittedly, some of those games will be in pitcher paradises like San Diego, where the Dodgers begin a three-game series tonight. But most of them are in ballparks where Kemp's bat will feel much more footloose and fancy-free than it has in Dodger Stadium this year, where he is batting .301 with 11 homers and 42 RBI in 59 games.
The odds are against Kemp, but it's not ridiculous to think he could do it. ...
During most of that time, despite regular updates, I haven't completely understood why most of the baseball world was so slow to get excited about what might be happening. (Is it possible that I don't have that much influence in the baseball universe????)
I realize as much as anyone that batting average and RBI aren't as universally valued as categories – in essence, they're not part of the Triple Crown of stats themselves anymore. Nevertheless, the world stops every time someone is threatening to pitch a no-hitter, even if they've walked seven, and no-hitters happen almost every year.
The Triple Crown hasn't happened in 44 years. In August, Kemp entered the seventh inning of his pursuit. Hardly anyone batted an eye. Somehow, 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases were more intriguing than a feat many of us haven't seen in our lifetimes. Yaz finished his Triple Crown about two months before I was born. My Dad was two when Ducky had his.
Well, now he's in the bottom of the ninth. He's so close ... and finally, people are taking note.
The tough part might be playing in spacious Petco Park in San Diego, where home runs and RBI could be hardest to come by, while home run leader Albert Pujols and the Cardinals are hosting the Cubs and batting average leader Ryan Braun and Milwaukee are hosting Florida. (Jose Reyes, also in the batting average race, will play for the Mets against the Reds.) Kemp will face starting pitchers Wade Le Blanc, Aaron Harang and Cory Luebke in San Diego.
Then for the final three games, Kemp travels to a better hitting environment, Arizona. He's scheduled to face Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Joe Saunders, according to ESPN.com and pending any rejiggering by the Diamondbacks if and when they clinch the NL West. Pujols and the Cardinals go to Houston, Milwaukee hosts Pittsburgh and the Mets host the Reds.
I said it once and I'll say it again. The odds are against Kemp, but it's not ridiculous to think he could do it. ...