They call him The Bison for a reason: the man is a BEAST. And Beast Mode was certainly on display throughout 2011.
After a disappointing 2010, 2011 was clearly an important step for Matt Kemp, one way or the other. Another disappointing season, no matter how unlucky he may be, would almost certainly signal a trade. A good year, or better, and a new contract would be in his future as he entered his final year of arbitration. Whether that shiny new contract kept him in Los Angeles is an entirely different question, and one I don’t ever want to have to consider.
In my 2010 review of Kemp, I said I had no doubts he would rebound and have a successful campaign, and from day one, when he stole a base and reached in all four of his plate appearances – walking in three of them – Kemp produced like he has never produced before.
Kemp’s numbers on the offensive side of things improved across the board from 2010. He set career bests in wOBA (.419), OBP (.399), SLG% (.586), ISO (.262), HR (39), SB (40), Total Bases (353), OPS+ (171), total BB (74), and unintentional walks (50). Kemp cut down on his strikeouts by almost two and a half percent, upped his BB% to double digits for the first time (10.7%), and appeared in every game yet again. He lost a game due to a rain out that was never made up, getting shorted in his attempt to become the fifth player to go 40/40.
In the field, Kemp improved as well, as his UZR/150 improved drastically (-27.5/-4.7), though he still makes his most important mark with the lumber. While he would certainly benefit from being a right fielder with his cannon of an arm and needs-some-improvement jumps on balls, you can do a lot worse in center, and with Trayvon Robinson’s trade, there’s no one to play every day and shift Matty to right.
Whether it was hitting bombs on a balky hamstring, throwing out runners (11 outfield assists), or winning the Hank Aaron Award, Kemp put up a season for the ages, and one that should win him the 2011 NL MVP Award, what with him being the most valuable player to his team in 2011 and all. Kemp hit – with no protection in the lineup, mind you – .324/.399/.586/.986 with that aforementioned .419 wOBA, and led all NL players in both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference WAR calculations (8.7 and 10.0, respectively). He hit lefties – .341/.461/.682/1.142; he hit righties – .319/.380/.560/.939; he was the only one to hit on most nights, period.
In need of a new contract, Ned Colletti better get moving. Ned – or whomever is GM, should he be (mercifully) fired – must lock up Matty as he now enters his prime years. Hell, he should be on the phone with Dave Stewart as I type this. Even should he be moved to right field, Kemp is still the Dodgers best offensive player by a mile, and one of the elites in the game today. A Dodgers team sans Matt Kemp is a Dodgers team nobody wants to see.