As the team's No. 3 hitter (most of the time) and center fielder, a .277/.327/.348 triple slash isn't going to cut it. And at this point, it might not be sustainable, as he has a higher-than-average batting average on balls in play. The league-average is around .300 -- Kemp's BABIP is .362. Usually, higher BABIPs lead to high batting averages.
Players with similar BABIPs include Cincinnati Reds' outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (.364 BABIP, .309 batting average), Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun (.363/.306) and Dodger teammate Adrian Gonzalez (.362/.350).
The Dodgers' offense hasn't been able to score runs this season, despite posting a National League-leading .335 on-base percentage and a .263 batting average -- third best in the NL. Kemp's struggles play into the team's struggles.
At this point, 2011 seems to be the aberration in his career. Kemp the most valuable player in the league, yet didn't win the award. It was a glimpse of what Kemp could do if he put it all together.
Kemp hit ..324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs, 126 RBIs, an 8.4 wins above replacement and an NL-leading 353 total bases. Kemp was on that type of pace to begin last season, posting one of the best Aprils anyone had ever seen (.417/.490/.893, 12 home runs, 25 RBIs) until he injured his hamstring. He was out a couple weeks, came back too soon and reinjured it, thus hampering the rest of his 2012.
If you take out the 2011 season, Kemp is a good player, but maybe not an MVP candidate or a guy worthy of a long-term, big money contract. Kemp's average season, without his 2011 numbers is rather pedestrian: .288/.340/.482, 19 home runs, 2.1 WAR. His 2006 and 2007 seasons were shortened because he was 21 and 22 years old and the Dodgers had veterans like J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton and Luis Gonzalez. The numbers are solid, but don't show his true impact potential like his 2011 season and first month-plus of 2012 did.
Kemp claims to be healthy. I'm not one to question him. However, something is different this season. Most of Kemp's swing numbers are pretty much on par with his career numbers. There are a couple that stand out as troublesome.
When Kemp swings, he's making contact with pitches outside the zone at a 51.1 percent clip. That's down from 62.2 percent in 2012 and 58.9 percent for his career. Kemp is also swinging through a lot of pitches. His 13.9 percent swinging strike rate is the highest of his career, save his 2006 rookie campaign when it was 17.1 percent.
Kemp just isn't making strong contact. His power is to right-center field, but he could also turn on an inside pitch like no other. When he turns on inside pitches these days, they're typically singles.
The following Dodgers have as many home runs as Kemp this season: Dee Gordon, Jerry Hairston, Clayton Kershaw, Nick Punto and Justin Sellers. That says quite a bit.
Kemp's isolated power is .073. The league-average is .145. His career number is .201. It seems offseason shoulder surgery has sapped him of his power -- for now.
His lack of power has been the most glaring deficiency in Kemp's game this season. It appears he's swinging with less authority, causing him to miss extremely hittable pitches -- pitches he absolutely crushed last April.
The Dodgers need Kemp to perform. With Gonzalez hitting well, but with minimal power, and Andre Ethier struggling this season, Kemp is the heart and soul of this offense. If he isn't hitting, the Dodgers aren't winning.
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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