Should the Los Angeles Dodgers Move Matt Kemp Down in the Lineup?

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Examining Matt Kemp's Potential Fit With the Seattle Mariners
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Matt Kemp.

COMMENTARY | Matt Kemp is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, and it's been nearly a two-month slump. It has looked -- at times -- he was ready to bust out of his slump. Yet, it's nearly June and he's hitting a putrid .253/.304/.333 on the season.

With guys like Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez carrying the offense right now, the question begs: Should Kemp be dropped in the batting order?

Kemp hasn't hit anywhere but third or fourth since the 2010 season. That year -- the worst of his career to date -- he hit in every spot except eighth.

This is a tough one. I'm of the belief star players shouldn't be dropped when they're struggling. Kemp is a star player, but he hasn't played like it this season. In fact, he's probably doing more harm than good by batting third or fourth in the lineup.

I still suspect his shoulder isn't 100 percent, but it's clear the Dodgers aren't going to disable Kemp anytime soon. So, perhaps the best move is to move him down.

Kemp's strikeout percentage, while never considered to be even average (20 percent), is at a disappointing 28.4 percent this season. He took the Golden Sombrero in the May 27 game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

Kemp is posting career-lows across the board, most of which are well below his career (or even league) average. The only number close to his career rate is his batting average on balls in play, which is .349. He isn't getting lucky because he isn't hitting the ball hard.

His line drive percentage is up from last year (23.7, up from 21.8), but not all line drives are frozen ropes. The Hardball Times estimates about 75 percent of line drives end up as hits. Kemp's biggest issues are an extremely poor 4.5 percent home run/fly ball ratio and the aforementioned increased strikeout rate.

I tweeted six days ago that maybe Kemp needs LASIK. I said it in jest, but I'm starting to wonder if that's not part of the problem. I'm not saying moving Kemp down in the lineup will solve his lack of contact problem, but at this point, it needs to be done.

The Dodgers' projected lineup with, say, Kemp hitting fifth, would look like this:

Crawford LF

Mark Ellis 2B

Gonzalez 1B

Andre Ethier RF

Matt Kemp CF

A.J. Ellis C

Nick Punto SS

Juan Uribe 3B

Yeah, not exactly the way it was drawn up in April. Hanley Ramirez should be back in the next few weeks, so the Dodgers just have to tread water -- something they haven't been able to do this season -- until he gets back. But even then, it might be too late.

Kemp is a great person, but he's far from a great baseball player at this point.

Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.

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