Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Over/under: Matt Kemp's home runs

By David Schoenfield

In 2011, Matt Kemp had one of the greatest seasons by a position player in Los Angeles Dodgers history. By Baseball-Reference WAR, his 10.0 wins above replacement trail only Adrian Beltre's 10.1 from 2004 and rank ahead of Mike Piazza's 9.3 from 1997.

Kemp is apparently determined to do even better. After hitting 39 home runs and stealing 40 bases, he's making noise about going 50-50. ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski has a piece up assessing Kemp's chances to do just that (as well the chances of somebody to hit .400 or hit 73 home runs). Dan's ZiPS system projects Kemp to hit 31 home runs, right in line with other projection systems. As for hitting 50, Dan ran a million simulations and Kemp reached 50 3 percent of the time.

While that total may seem a bit optimistic, especially for a player who hadn't hit more than 28 previously, consider that Kemp's home run totals have increased each of his four full seasons: 18 to 26 to 28 to 39. Kemp's home runs/flyball percentage was 21.4 percent in 2011, sixth-highest in the majors. But like his raw home run totals, Kemp has improved that percentage in each full season. He continues to get stronger and apparently make harder contact.

I'm going to be cautious but more optimistic and set his over/under at 34.5 home runs.

What do you think? Was Kemp’s leap to superstardom in 2011 for real? Will he come close to swatting 39 home runs again?