Stats & Info: Matt Kemp

Names to know: Winter Meetings targets

December, 5, 2014
Getty ImagesJon Lester and Matt Kemp could find themselves with new teams after the Winter Meetings.
The Winter Meetings begin Monday in San Diego and there are expectations of major wheeling and dealing by baseball executives.

Here's a look at some of the players who figure to be headline-grabbers at this year's gathering.

Max Scherzer and Jon Lester
Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two premium pitchers available in free agency this year. Both could threaten or exceed the record for largest contract issued to a free agent pitcher, $161 million by CC Sabathia with the Yankees.

In 2012, Lester posted a 4.82 ERA in over 200 innings. It improved in 2013 to 3.75 before he re-established himself as an ace in 2014 with a 2.46 ERA. What was behind this renaissance?

Improved strikeout & walk rates: Lester has steadily improved his strikeout rate over the last three years – from 19 percent to 20 to 25 in 2014 – while simultaneously reducing his walk rate – from 8 percent in 2012 down to 5.4 percent last season.

Fewer home runs: Lester allowed 25 homers in 2012 (good for 3.2 percent of batters faced). He allowed just 16 (or 1.9 percent) in 2014.

Improvement against righties: Since 2012, Lester has lowered his batting average allowed vs righties by 48 points, and lowered his OPS allowed by nearly 170 points.
In 2011, Scherzer posted a 4.43 ERA, before taking a step forward in 2012 with a 3.74 ERA. He’s been a true ace since the start of last season, however, eclipsing 200 innings in both while finishing in the top-5 in the AL Cy Young in both 2013 and 2014.

What led to this improvement?

Better versus lefties: From 2011-12, left-handed batters hit .286 with an .837 OPS against Scherzer. Since the start of last season, lefties have hit just .233 with a .666 OPS.

Now a strikeout artist: Scherzer’s strikeout rate jumped from 8.0 per 9 innings to 11.1 from 2011-12, and has stayed above 10 strikeouts per 9 innings since. This relates to his performance with two strikes – opponents hit .206 from 2011-12 with two strikes, and just .149 since then.

Added a curveball: Scherzer did not throw a curveball in 2011, before throwing it under two percent of the time in 2012. He’s steadily increased its usage, though – from seven percent in 2013 to over 10 percent in 2014.

Matt Kemp
Kemp may be dangled to other teams by the Dodgers to alleviate their outfield logjam. He had a huge second half last season, leading the majors with a .606 slugging percentage and 35 extra-base hits. His 54 RBI ranked second to teammate Adrian Gonzalez.

Kemp’s value may be hurt by his defensive metrics. He ranked last among outfielders last season with -23 Defensive Runs Saved.

Kemp was one of 24 players to have an OPS+ (measure of OPS relative to league average) of 140 or better last season. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement was the lowest of the group. He was one of only three of those players with a WAR below 3.0.

Justin Upton
Justin Upton
J. Upton
The Braves have been rumored to be shopping Upton, who had a career-best 102 RBI last season. He brings durability, having played at least 149 games in each of the last four seasons.

Upton had four really good months and two bad ones last season. He didn’t close well, hitting .169 with 30 strikeouts in 83 September at-bats.

Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes, like Kemp, may be dealt to deal with overload at a position. He’s also coming off a career-high with 100 RBI between the Athletics and Red Sox last season.

Cespedes can make a good case that he’s a difference-maker in a lineup (despite on-base percentages of .294 and .301 the last two seasons).

The Athletics went 229-136 when Cespedes played for them from 2012-14. They were 49-72 in all other games.

Jeff Samardzija
Samardzija may be the best pitcher available via trade. He had a 2.99 ERA last season, split between the Cubs and Athletics, his best ERA in three seasons as a starting pitcher.

Samardzija is one of five pitchers with at least 200 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons, along with Scherzer, Chris Sale, Kershaw and Felix Hernandez.

James Shields
James Shields
James Shields may not command the price of a Scherzer or Lester, but whoever signs him will be getting an arm with a lot of mileage on it.

Including the postseason, only two pitchers have logged more innings than James Shields’ 1,969 2/3 since he debuted in 2006 – Justin Verlander (2,065) and Felix Hernandez (1,976 1/3).

Melky Cabrera
For the third time in four seasons, Cabrera produced a .300 batting average and .800 OPS. In fact, he was one of only three outfielders to achieve that in 2014 The others were Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley.

David Robertson
David Robertson
David Robertson is reportedly seeking one of the largest free agent contracts ever issued to a relief pitcher. The current mark is Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies.

For his career, Robertson has struck out 524 batters in 393 innings pitched, the best strikeouts per 9 rate of any active pitcher with at least 350 innings (12.2).

Andrew Miller
Miller has evolved from a top prospect who was struggling significantly to one of the most dominant relievers in the game. His 43 percent strikeout rate last season ranked second to Aroldis Chapman’s 53 percent among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings in 2014.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

July, 27, 2014

AP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly has his team playing .610 ball since June 9, tied for the best mark in the NL.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), first place in the National League West is on the line as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers go into the game with a half-game advantage in the division. Through June 8, Los Angeles trailed San Francisco by 9½ games. Since then, the Dodgers have gone 25-16, while the Giants are 15-26.

Still, it’s easy to wonder if the Dodgers have underachieved, given their MLB-leading payroll. Similar questions could be asked of the Giants, who rank sixth in payroll. Part of the reason is that several of their star players haven’t played up to their star billing this season.

Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez started the season on a tear. At the end of April, he was hitting .317 with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.021. But since May, he is batting .245, with just seven home runs in 282 at-bats. His OPS over the last three months is down to .685.

Matt Kemp
In 2011 and 2012, Kemp was one of the top outfielders in baseball, finishing second in MVP voting in 2011 and making the NL All-Star team both seasons. Since then, however, Kemp has struggled.

Over the last two seasons, Kemp’s wins above replacement is a minus-0.6, meaning he’s worth less than a minor league call-up in the same position.

This season, his WAR is minus-1.1, which ties him for the third-worst among NL position players, behind only Domonic Brown and Jedd Gyorko.

Andre Ethier
Ethier’s decline has been going longer than Kemp’s. Ethier batted .292 in 2011, but his batting average has declined each year since, down to .248 this season. His home run total has also declined, from 20 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 to just four so far this season.

Hanley Ramirez
Although Ramirez is producing much more than the previous trio, he is still well off his mark from 2013, when he had a 1.040 OPS. This season, it’s .840. Last year, Ramirez had 20 home runs in 336 plate appearances. At this year’s All-Star break, he had 11 homers in the same number of plate appearances.

Buster Posey
One of the Giants’ stars, Posey has failed to live up to his 2012 NL MVP season, when he batted .336 with a .957 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Posey is batting .288 with a .801 OPS.

The key to Posey’s success might be a positional change. In his MLB career, Posey has a .361 BA and .996 OPS when playing first base. Those numbers drop to a .292 BA and .822 OPS when he’s in the lineup as a catcher.

Pablo Sandoval
After a rough start, Sandoval has turned his season around.

Through May 10, Sandoval was hitting .173 and striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. Since then, his batting average is .332, and his strikeout rate is down to 11 percent.

His free-swinging style has worked for him. This season, no batter has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than Sandoval’s 43 percent; he ranked second in that statistic last season. But he is hitting .255 on pitches out of the zone, the third-best mark in the NL and well above the MLB average of .163.

Why aren't Dodgers great? Look to the stars

July, 19, 2014
With the past season’s success, their $230 million payroll and a cadre of easily recognizable players, the Dodgers were considered the heavy frontrunners for the National League West and among the favorites for the World Series.

Entering Saturday’s action, however, the team is 54-44 –- good, not great -– and a percentage point behind the Giants in the NL West. What's more, the Dodgers are only 6-7 in July.

The reasons the Dodgers aren’t better is actually quite simple: The players perceived to be –- and paid to be –- stars are, in fact, playing nothing like stars.

If you use Wins Above Replacement, the lack of production from Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Adrián González becomes apparent. Those three are being paid a combined $58 million this season yet have combined to produce below replacement level, at -0.7 WAR.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think of them not by their star names, but by comparisons to players at the same position producing at the same level. In other words, Kemp, Ethier and González have been as good as the decidedly less famous Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Mark Reynolds.

If you replaced Kemp, Ethier and González with Brown, Revere and Reynolds, the team wouldn’t have been any worse off this season, and far fewer people would be asking the question: Why aren’t the Dodgers better?

It would be obvious; their players aren’t that good. Using OPS, we can see that all three of those players (and to a lesser extent, Hanley Ramirez) are playing well off their previously established levels of performance. All three players have posted an OPS at least 100 points below their combined OPS from the previous three seasons.

It doesn’t get any more optimistic when you dig into each player individually. All three are not only playing below expectations this season, but are also in the midst of a prolonged decline:

Adrian Gonzalez
González is hitting .224 since the beginning of May and has two fewer home runs in the past two and a half months (6) than he did in April (8).

He is hitting just .280 with a .781 OPS since being acquired by the Dodgers in late August 2012, compared to .321/.895 while in a Red Sox uniform.

Matt Kemp
Only two position players in the NL have been worse by WAR than Kemp this season, as he’s cost the Dodgers more than a win with his play (-1.3). Since the start of the past season, he’s been worth below replacement level (-0.8). After hitting .315 with a .954 OPS during his peak in 2011-12, Kemp has hit just .268 with a .740 OPS since the start of the past season.

Kemp was worth 8.2 WAR in 2011 and signed a $160M contract following that season. He’s been worth 1.6 WAR in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (so far) combined.

Andre Ethier
Ethier hit .284 in 2012 and .272 in 2013 and is hitting .250 so far this season. His slugging percentage was .460 in 2012 and .423 in 2013 and is .375 this season. Both his current .250 batting average and .375 slugging percentage would be the worst marks of his career.

He hit 20 home runs in 2012 and 12 the past season but has four this season, entering Saturday.

Top things to know: Dodgers at D'Backs

September, 18, 2013

Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsDon Mattingly has the Dodgers on the verge of a 3rd division title in the last 6 years.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks play the third game of a four-game series in Phoenix tonight (10 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Arizona needs only one win in the next two days to win the season series for the third straight year.

Here are a few storylines you might hear about during the broadcast.

1. The Dodgers magic number to clinch first place in the NL West is two, meaning they can clinch with a win tonight.

This would be LA’s third division title in the last six years. However, in each of the last two instances (2008, 2009) the Dodgers were eliminated in the NLCS by the Philadelphia Phillies.

2. The Dodgers have overcome a number of injuries this season. In fact, they’ve used the DL 25 times, more than any other team in the Senior Circuit.

Matt Kemp made his first start off the DL Tuesday night and posted his first four-hit, three-RBI game since Sept. 26, 2012. This was also the fifth such game of his career (four have come against NL West opponents).

3. Paul Goldschmidt has belted five home runs and 18 RBIs off Dodgers pitching this season. His RBIs are tied with Colorado's Michael Cuddyer and San Francisco's Hunter Pence for the most among all players against Los Angeles this season.

In addition, Goldschmidt is riding a seven-game hitting streak that has seen him hit .566 (15-for-27) with nine RBIs.

4. The Diamondbacks have won their share of dramatic games this season. Arizona has 16 extra-inning wins, most by an NL team since the 1999 Atlanta Braves (17) and their 13 walk-off wins are a club record.

Misc. Notes
• Yasiel Puig is hitting .554 on the first pitch of an at-bat this season, the highest average in the majors (minimum 50 plate appearances).

• Arizona’s Didi Gregorius has had a solid rookie season. Among NL rookies, only Yasiel Puig (.401 to .328) has posted a higher OBP (minimum 300 at-bats).

• Opponents are hitting .071 (4-for-56) with runners in scoring position this season against Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen.

Harvey's heat can join Gooden, Pedro

April, 24, 2013

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
Matt Harvey is averaging almost 95 MPH on his fastball this season.

When Matt Harvey climbs the mound tonight against the Dodgers (7 ET on ESPN), he'll attempt to become the third pitcher in Mets history to go 5-0 or better in the month of April.

The company he'll attempt to join has four Cy Young awards and more than 5,400 career strikeouts between them: Dwight Gooden, who did it in 1988, and Pedro Martinez (2006).

It starts with the fastball...
Harvey is averaging almost 95 MPH on his fastball this season, second in the majors among qualified starters.

Incredibly, the top three in that category all play in the NL East and all three are under 25 years old: Harvey, Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez.

The fastball has been Harvey's strikeout pitch. He's racked up 19 strikeouts from the fastball alone this season, second in the majors to only Shelby Miller.

And Harvey has shown the ability to ramp up the velocity as the situations get tougher.

With the bases empty, his average fastball velocity is 94.6 MPH. With runners in scoring positions and two outs, he's bumped that average velocity to 95.5 MPH.

In his last start, Friday against Strasburg, Harvey had some of his best heat. His average fastball sat at 97.2 MPH.

...and sets up the changeup...
That fastball really sets up the changeup, which averages 86.3 MPH, a difference of more than eight MPH from his average fastball.

Only seven starters have a bigger difference between their average fastball and changeup. go with a hard slider
And his slider is nearly as devastating.

Harvey's slider averages 88.8 MPH this season, the fastest average slider among all starters. Harvey's slider has been thrown harder than James Shields' or Madison Bumgarner's slider.

Batters are just 1-19 in at-bats ending against Harvey's slider this season, striking out on it an astonishing 41 percent of the time.

It's the highest strikeout rate of any of his pitches, with the fastball second and the changeup third.

Key matchups against the Dodgers
Carl Crawford is hitting .385 (5-13) with a .923 OPS against changeups this season.

Crawford is having early success this season by laying off pitches outside the strike zone. His chase rate is down to 20 percent this season after hovering in the mid-30s in each of the last four seasons.

Likewise, Matt Kemp is hitting .375 (3-8) with an .875 OPS against changeups this season, his best numbers against any pitch. Overall, Kemp is batting .247 with an OPS of .594 this April.

That's a steep decline from last April when he batted .417 with a 1.383 OPS.

What's kept Kemp from being Kemp so far?

April, 21, 2013

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.

Inner-half issues
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.

Giants quash Kemp by pitching him away

April, 3, 2013

Most of Kemp's damage has been done on pitches over the middle and inside.

No team has been able to solve Matt Kemp lately quite like the San Francisco Giants.

Kemp is hitless in his last five games dating back to last season, the second-longest streak of his career. All five of those games have come against the Giants.

In fact, the Giants have actually held Kemp to 0-21 at the plate in his last six games against them. In 2011, Kemp raked Giants pitching to the tune of a .359/.446/.672 slashline (BA/OBP/SLG). But since the start of last year, San Franciso has held him in check, only allowing him to slash just .203/.238/.322.

The key has been a change in pitch locations to him from 2011 to 2012.

Kemp does the most damage to pitches middle-middle, middle-in and middle-up. His weakest zones are on the outer half.

In 2011, 41 percent of Giants pitches to Kemp were located on the outer third. In 2012 and into this season, that percentage has bumped to 46 percent. Pitches located on the inside part of the plate fell from 37 percent in 2011 to 30 percent since.

Facing Lincecum
Tim Lincecum has held Kemp to a .214 average overall, but Kemp has warmed up against Lincecum lately.

Kemp is 7-22 (.318 BA) against Lincecum over the last two seasons compared to 2-20 (.100 BA) prior.

An issue for Lincecum is his drop in velocity. Lincecum’s average fastball dropped two MPH from 92.2 in 2011 to a career low 90.3 in 2012. At the same time, his changeup velocity only fell by 0.5 MPH, meaning the difference between his fastball and changeup went from 8.5 MPH in 2011 to 7.1 MPH in 2012.

One of Lincecum's struggles last year was throwing his fastball high and in to righties. As his velocity is no longer elite, that didn't really fly, and it stands to reason that it won't if he tries to do it against Kemp.

Tidbits to know
• Since the start of 2009, these teams have played to an even 37-37 split.

• The Dodgers and Giants have split shutouts to begin the year. They haven’t played each other in three straight shutouts since 2000 when Darren Dreifort shut the Giants out twice in a row (7/23, 9/26) followed by a Kirk Reuter shutout of the Dodgers (9/27).

What's plaguing Matt Kemp?

September, 16, 2012

Matt Kemp is in a slump and the Dodgers have struggled right along with him.
The struggles continue for Los Angeles Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp, to the point where the St. Louis Cardinals willingly walked Andre Ethier to load the bases for Kemp in extra innings.

He obliged by flying out and extending the game, which the Cardinals would go on to win and split the four-game series

Kemp went 1-for-13 with six strikeouts in the last three games of this series, though the Dodgers did manage to win two of those.

Kemp hasn’t had a multi-hit game since August 25. He’s 8-for-60 with one home run and 19 strikeouts since then.

What has plagued Kemp most during this slump?

Quite simply. Just about everything:

The slow stuff
Offspeed pitches are currently Kemp’s kryptonite.

Kemp has missed on 27 of his last 44 swings against offspeed pitches, a 61 percent miss rate that’s well out of line with a miss rate of 39 percent entering this skid.

Since returning on August 31 after three days off following an injury when he ran into the fence trying to make a play, Kemp has seen more changeups than any hitter in baseball. His last hit against one came on August 8.

Kemp has also had issues when he’s swung at pitches out of the strike zone. He’s made 25 outs on pitches thrown out of the strike zone without getting a hit.

His out-to-hit ratio on pitches out of the strike zone prior to these struggles was 3.2-to-1.

But Kemp is also missing pitches he typically drives. Since August 25, he’s hitting just .229 when an at-bat ends with a pitch in the strike zone.

That’s 158 points below what he’d established in the first four-and-three-quarter months of the season.

In fact, Kemp’s batting average against pitches in the strike zone is almost a near-match for his batting average against pitches out of the strike zone this season (.232) prior to when this slump began on August 26

Inability to drive the ball
Kemp’s ground-ball rate has increased from 41 percent pre-slump to 49 percent since. That’s come at the expense of him hitting line drives. He was hitting them at a 21 percent rate, but that has since dipped to 15 percent over his last 60 at-bats.

Kemp is having a hard time with pitches on the outer-half of the plate, or just off the outside corner. His 10th-inning flyout against Fernando Salas made him 3-for-25 against such pitches since August 26. The image atop this article illustrates Kemp's difficulties at getting hits on pitches to that area.

What’s next?
Next up for the Dodgers are the Washington Nationals, whose pitching staff has been fantastic throughout 2012. They’ve been great against Kemp throughout his career.

Kemp’s .225 career batting average against the Nationals is his lowest against any NL team.

He has only three at-bats in his career against Tuesday’s starter, Jordan Zimmermann, but one of them was quite notable- he hit a grand slam against Zimmermann in 2009.

Craig crushes lefties as Pujols' replacement

August, 27, 2012

Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireAlbert Pujols is gone, but Allen Craig has been producing in his absence.
Remember when Allen Craig came through time-and-time again for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 World Series? He had the game-winning hit in Game 1, a go-ahead hit in Game 2, and notable homers in both Game 6 and Game 7.

Perhaps that was some foreshadowing for life without Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals (who face the Pittsburgh Pirates on ESPN on Wednesday night) have gotten near-Pujols levels of production from their combination of first basemen this season. Craig has been the latest and most significant part of that. After his home run and three RBI in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Reds, he’s now batting .318 with 20 home runs and 71 RBI this season.

Craig has homered on 19 percent of the fly balls he’s hit this season, and his rate of home runs to fly balls is better than any season Pujols has had in 2010, 2011 or 2012. In 60 games at first base (the most of anyone on the Cardinals this season), Craig is hitting .326 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.

Where Does Craig Excel?

Craig has crushed left-handed pitching this season, posting a .386 batting average with eight home runs and 21 RBI in 101 at-bats. His 1.149 OPS against lefties is fifth best in baseball, and he will face a lefty on Wednesday (Wandy Rodriguez). Craig has also been a well above-average hitter against right-handed pitching, with a .288 average and .518 slugging percentage.

His knack for the big hit has not left him in 2012 as well. He’s batting .409 with seven home runs with runners in scoring position this season, and his .409 batting average ranks best among those with 100+ plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

In addition, 10 of his 20 homers have come with men on base.

Craig is one of baseball’s top hitters against fastballs and fastball variants (cutter, sinker, etc). His .369 batting average and 1.090 OPS in at-bats ending in those pitches rank in the top 10 in the majors (minimum 250 PA this season). His .672 slugging percentage ranks third behind David Ortiz and Matt Kemp.

Pittsburgh is a team Craig has enjoyed facing, as he’s batting .388 with a 1.106 OPS against Pittsburgh for his career.

Show them the money, watch them get hurt

August, 20, 2012

AP Photo/Kevin CaseyAlex Rodriguez is one of a host of players with large contracts who got hurt this season

This isn’t necessarily the best time to be a big-money player. Carl Crawford’s decision to have season-ending Tommy John surgery is the latest in a run of significant injuries to players with $100 million contracts.

Let’s run through the list:

Carl Crawford After signing a $142 million contract in the 2010-11 offseason, Crawford was a disappointment in his first season with the Boston Red Sox. He then missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury, came back, but has since decided to have Tommy John Surgery and will miss the remainder of 2012.

Ryan Howard-- The Philadelphia Phillies signed Howard to a $125 million contract extension in 2010, though the deal didn’t kick in until this season. Howard’s contributions this year were stalled by an Achilles injury suffered while making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s played in just 35 games this season.

Matt Kemp-- Kemp signed an 8-year $160 million contract that began this season, but has had to battle through a pair of hamstring injuries. He’s had a fantastic follow-up season to his 2011 campaign, but has only played in 70 games.

Alex Rodriguez-- Rodriguez played only 99 games last season for the Yankees due to injuries. This season, in his 94th game, he suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez.

CC Sabathia-- Sabathia had a season and a vesting option added on to his massive contract this offseason, but has since fallen victim to the injury bug. He is expected to return from his second DL stint of the season on Friday, but has battled both a groin and elblow injury.

Johan Santana-- Santana proved to be worth the $137.5 million early into his contract with the Mets. But he then had to miss all of 2011 with a shoulder injury. He returned to throw a no-hitter in 2012, but has been greatly ineffective in the latter part of the season.

One stint on the DL doesn’t appear to have cured him and there is talk that the Mets could shut him down for the remainder of 2012 in the near-future.

Troy Tulowitzki-- Tulowitzki signed a 7-year deal worth more than $130 million with the Colorado Rockies after the 2010 season. This season, he’s been limited to 47 games by a groin injury and hasn’t played since May 30.

Joey Votto-- After signing a $225 million extension with the Reds this year (it kicks in in 2014), Votto got through 86 games before being forced to the sidelines with a torn meniscus. He has yet to return.

Vernon Wells--A thumb injury in mid-May sent Wells to the sidelines and he didn’t return for more than two months. Wells, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal that runs through 2014, is hitting just .222.

Jayson Werth-- Werth got a 7-year $126 million deal in the 2010-11 offseason, but was a disappointment with the Washington Nationals in 2011. Werth broke his wrist trying to make a catch in May and missed nearly half a season’s worth of games. He is hitting .389 since his return on August 2.

Dodgers look to solve Bumgarner's fastball

August, 20, 2012

Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesMadison Bumgarner's .222 opp BA vs his fastball is the lowest average among all lefty starters.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers meet Monday night (ESPN2, 10 ET) with the NL West lead on the line. The Dodgers lead the NL West by a half-game over the Giants despite scoring fewer runs than all but four teams in the National League. Those four teams -- the Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and San Diego Padres -- are a combined 99 games under .500.

The Giants continue to attempt to fill the gap left by Melky Cabrera's suspension, and will certainly miss his play on the road this season. Cabrera leads the majors in road batting average at .367, and is second in slugging percentage (.595), behind only Josh Hamilton.

Aside from Cabrera, Giants outfielders have not produced at a high level this season, batting just .255 with a .389 slugging percentage.

The Giants still have a considerable weapon on offense in Buster Posey, however. He leads the majors in batting (.424) and OPS (1.246) since the All-Star break, and his 4.9 wins above replacement this season ranks fifth among NL position players.

What's been the key? He's crushing the fastball, batting .554 since the break, and is having no trouble with the changeup either (.533).

Madison Bumgarner, who will get the nod for the Giants, will be looking to baffle the Dodgers with his heater, a pitch that has been lethal this year. Bumgarner is allowing the opposition to bat only .222 off his fastball this season, the lowest average among all left-handed starting pitchers.

Opposing Bumgarner will be Clayton Kershaw, who has excelled in two-out situations so far this season; his .166 opponent batting average with two outs is beaten only by Felix Hernandez among starters. What's more, Kershaw will be going to work in Dodger Stadium, a venue he has thrived in. For his career, he has just a 2.44 ERA at home, the lowest among all active starting pitchers, minimum 400 innings.

The Dodgers have struggled since jumping out to a 32-15 record through May 27th. Since that date, they've posted just a 35-40 record while averaging 3.7 runs per game (4.5 prior). Matt Kemp has been a significant reason why the Dodgers remain in a battle for the division title, however. He's batting .345 with runners in scoring position this season, and has a .324 average since the All-Star break.

Kershaw and the Dodgers have shut out the Giants in two straight games, and according to Elias, the Dodgers have never shut out the Giants in three consecutive games in their 123-year history. The last time the Dodgers shut out any team in three consecutive games was when they zipped the Atlanta Braves in three straight in 1971.

AP Photo/Reed SaxonMatt Kemp hit his sixth career walk-off home run as the Dodgers beat the Phillies
The Los Angeles Dodgers needed somebody to stop the bleeding after heading into Wednesday's game on a four-game losing skid. Who better than Matt Kemp?

Regulation baseball didn’t treat Kemp nicely as he went 0-4 with three strikeouts through the first nine innings. As it turned out, he was merely saving it for later.

After coming up with a game-tying infield single in the bottom of the 10th inning, Kemp went deep off of the Philadelphia Phillies Jacob Diekman in the bottom of the 12th for his eighth career walk-off hit.

Six of Kemp's eight walk-offs have cleared the fences including both this season. All six walk-off homers have come since 2010, two more than any other player in the majors and more than 12 entire teams.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kemp is the first Dodger to have a game-tying hit in extra innings and then follow it up with a walk-off homer since the team moved to Los Angeles. The last non-Dodger to accomplish the feat was Mike Young of the 1987 Baltimore Orioles.

The all-world centerfielder has been limited to 41 games this season due to nagging hamstring injuries, but drove in three huge runs Wednesday - all in extra innings. In fact his three RBI match the extra-inning total the Dodgers had as a team entering the game.

Kemp’s home run looked similar to many of the others he has hit this season in that it came off of a fastball and he didn’t pull the pitch. Of Kemp’s 13 home runs, 10 have been off of heaters – all of which went out to center or right.

With seven opposite-field home runs, Kemp is tied for second in the majors. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen has more with eight.

Beltran, CarGo strong NL picks in derby

July, 9, 2012
Here is a breakdown of the National League players in the Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 ET) field as well as players not in the field who merit consideration based on analysis from information provided by ESPN Home Run Tracker. Click here to check out our American League breakdown.

Of the 64 home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium this season, 24 have gone to left field (37.5 percent). The average home run distance there is 413.0 feet, second only to Coors Field in Colorado (414.2 feet). The participants likely to have the most success Monday night will have power to left field and have a high average home run distance.

Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran
The only switch-hitter in the field, Beltran has hit 15 of his 20 home runs from the left side of the plate. It might serve Beltran better to hit right-handed, as the three homers he hit to left field came as a right-handed batter. Only five of his home runs would not have been out of Kauffman Stadium and only six went fewer than 400 feet.

Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez averages 412.4 feet per home run, the best in the National League (min. 15 home runs). Despite hitting just two homers to left field, Gonzalez has hit 11 that would have been out of Kauffman Stadium.

Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen replaces Giancarlo Stanton, who had four home runs of more than 450 feet, the most in the majors. McCutchen has 18 homers, but he doesn’t have a single 450-foot home run and averages only 398.9 feet per homer.

Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp
Kemp is in because he’s the captain. He did hit 12 home runs in April but just four of them would have been home runs at Kauffman. None of those 12 went to left field and Kemp barely averages 400 feet per home run (400.2).

Other NL players who are not in the field but warrant consideration:

Ryan Braun
Braun leads the NL in home runs by a wide margin with 24, but averages just 405.6 feet per homer. Fewer than half of them would have left Kauffman (11), and only five were hit to left field.

Matt Holliday
Matt Holliday
Holliday has only 14 home runs, but he’s averaged 410.4 feet per long ball. Half of his homers went to left field and eight would have been out of Kauffman.

Wilin Rosario
Rosario would have been an interesting choice had he made the All-Star team. He averages 412.8 feet per home run and only four have traveled fewer than 400 feet. He has one 450-foot blast and 10 of his 14 homers would have been out of Kauffman.

Dodgers blues: offense disappears in June

June, 28, 2012

AP PhotoThe Dodgers are having one of the worst Junes in history and now may be without Andre Ethier.
Once the darlings of baseball and the hottest team on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Dodgers have fallen off a cliff this past month, perhaps reaching their lowest point of the season yesterday.

Not only did they suffer a historic sweep against the San Francisco Giants during which they scored zero runs, but Andre Ethier left the game with an oblique injury and could join Matt Kemp on the disabled list soon.

The Dodgers offense has struggled mightily since Kemp went on the DL for the second time May 31… how low can they go now that Ethier might be on the sidelines indefinitely too?

For the first time in franchise history, they were shut out in series sweep of three or more games, according to Elias. The Dodgers have been shut out a major-league-high five times in June; they were shut out just once in the first two months of the season. Even worse, the Dodgers have six home runs this month; 11 players in the league have more in June.

The Dodgers went 1-8 on their nine-game road trip, scoring a total of 13 runs. Perhaps the most embarrassing part of the trip for Dodgers fans is that six of those losses came against their California rivals – the Oakland Athletics and Giants – as they were outscored 24-2 in the two series.

The Dodgers are hitting just .219 with an OPS of .590 in June, both of which would be their worst marks in the month over the last 90 seasons. They have hit just six home runs in 25 games, a rate of 0.24 homers per game that would be their lowest in June since they averaged 0.14 per game in 1946.

Can the Dodgers offense survive without their two main offensive stars? Consider that if Kemp and Ethier are out of the lineup, that leaves A.J. Ellis as the only Dodgers player with more than three home runs. Kemp and Ethier have combined to hit 22 homers this season; the rest of the team has hit just 22.

Tonight the Dodgers return to Chavez Ravine to face the New York Mets, who are coming off a 17-1 win at Wrigley Field, in an unprecedented matchup of teams headed in different directions.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it will be the first game in major-league history matching a team that scored 15 or more runs in its last game versus an opponent that was shut out in each of its previous three games.

The Dodgers will be challenged to break their scoreless streak against a Mets team that has eight shutouts this season, the second-most in the NL. One thing they can probably count on, however, is a strong start from Chris Capuano, who is 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA in seven home outings this season.

Kemp's impact will be missed by Dodgers

May, 15, 2012

AP Photo/Chris Carlson Matt Kemp was just the third player to bat .400 with 10+ HR and 25+ RBI in April, joining Larry Walker in 1997 and Tony Perez in 1970.
The Los Angeles Dodgers placed Matt Kemp on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring after Monday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kemp's absence will certainly be felt offensively.

Kemp saw his MLB-leading active streak of 399 games played come to an end Monday, and while his production decreased this month, his early-season performance was impressive. His 12 home runs by April 30th were the fifth-most in MLB history, and according to Elias, was just the third player since 1920 (when RBI became official) to hit .400 with 10+ HR and 25+ RBI in April (excluding any March games).

Without Kemp, the Dodgers also lose one of the best high-ball hitters in baseball. Kemp is 11-for-21 (.524) against high pitches in 2012, tied with Ryan Sweeney for the best batting average on such pitches in baseball entering Tuesday.

For all of these reasons and more, Kemp has been one of the most valuable position players in baseball over the last two seasons. Using the Baseball Reference metric “Wins Above Replacement,” Kemp is second in the National League and fourth in Major League Baseball in WAR since the start of the 2011 season. Only Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist and Ryan Braun have a higher WAR than Kemp in that span.

Kemp, however, did see his production trail off drastically in May. During this month, Kemp was batting just .212 in 11 games and had not gone deep. The difference has primarily come against the fastball. During April, Kemp batted .465 against the heater with nine home runs. In May, that average dipped to .250. His strikeout percentage against the fastball also jumped significantly, increasing from 11.3 percent in April to 28.6 percent in May.