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Matt Kemp is the Biggest Dodger Dolt

September 28th, 2009 · 8 Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Been following this Dodgers road trip? For the sake of your sanity and the structural integrity of your TV screen, I hope not.

The club began a seven-game trip last Tuesday, three games in Washington and four in Pittsburgh. Teams that were 51-98 and 56-95 when the Dodgers left LAX. That is, the Dodgers were going off to play the two worst teams in baseball … and ought to just leave behind some smoldering wreckage when they were finished, in D.C. and Pittsburgh.

They just finished going 3-4 on that trip, playing more ineffectual baseball as they went along. It got really serious on Sunday when they blew a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth and lost 6-5 — missing a chance to clinch the National League West. And then they bottomed out on Monday (in a day game they can only hope no one other than I saw), losing 11-1.  Missing another chance to clinch because of more bone-headed plays, mental lapses, poor decisions …

Wait! Bone-headed plays, mental lapses, poor decisions?

That reminds me of Matt Kemp!

Matt Kemp gets lots of love, of late, for his raw talent. He was on espn.com’s MLB home page for most of a day, over the weekend, and was the subject of a fawning profile. “Emerging superstar” comes up a lot. Someone said something about how he will be a “top-five fantasy pick” in drafts next spring. Presumably because he steals bases as well as hit for power. Well and good.

But imagine how good this guy would be if he weren’t an utter dolt.

Is there a dumber guy in baseball than Matt Kemp? Not talking real-world IQ (but maybe we could), but “dumb plays involving a guy who no longer is a kid.” Baseball IQ, that is.

And on that scale, is anyone dumber than Matt Kemp?

Search your mind, for a moment, and consider how many times you have seen Matt Kemp thrown out on the bases. Yeah. A lot. Not as often as you’ve seen Juan Pierre ground out weakly to second (that’s a number in the hundreds), but a lot. Somebody somewhere must have that stat, Matt Kemp outs-made on basepaths …. and I will bet you $5 that (subtracting caught-stealing) no one in baseball has been tagged out on the bases more often than Matt Kemp.

Matt Kemp tries to take extra bases all the time. And often doesn’t make it. He gets doubled off a base. He strays too far off the bag and gets picked off. He’s just a disaster out there. And this has to do with a really low baseball IQ.

Some Matt Kemp gaffes (including one on defense) from just the past week:

–In Washington on Thursday, bottom of the sixth, lazy fly ball to left-center. Kemp is playing center. Manny Ramirez is playing left. Repeat: Manny Ramirez is playing left.

Kemp jogs over near to where the ball will come down. Manny does the same. Neither player calls for it. The ball falls untouched for a single. The Nationals go on to score twice in the inning to erase a 6-4 Dodgers lead.

This is Matt Kemp’s fault, 100 percent. He is playing next to Manny Ramirez, one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. (If not the worst.) Any ball Matt Kemp can reach, in left, he should take. Every time. Because Manny doesn’t do defense. Yet Kemp pulled up and, apparently, thought (if he thought at all) that Manny would catch the ball. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

At the end of the inning, Dodgers broadcast analyst/apologist Steve “Psycho” Lyons talked about how playing center field is a learning experience for Matt Kemp.  This is the same Matt Kemp who is now 25 27 and has played 152 games in center field this year.

No, Psycho, there is no such thing as a learning experience for Matt Kemp. He is a gold fish in the fish bowl that is baseball; every trip around the same small world somehow is a brand-new experience for “Goldy” Kemp.

–Top seven, same game, in Washington, no outs. Kemp hits a ball to deep left that Josh Willingham tracks to the wall … and doesn’t catch. The ball hits the top of the wall, falls to Willingham’s feet, and he can’t find it. He’s looking everywhere for it, and he’s almost standing on it. It’s almost comical.

Meanwhile, Matt Kemp is running … and as he rounds second base he becomes so engrossed by Willingham’s inability to find a ball lying at his feet (Kemp is staring out to left, as he runs) … that Kemp is no longer running toward third … he is running toward a point somewhere 30-40 feet up the foul line. When Kemp finally looks around to see where he is … he is in short left field and has to make something resembling a hard left turn to get to third base. Arguably, he could have scored if he hadn’t run 350 feet while getting to third base. Just another example of his brain-dead work on the basepaths. Oh, and he was stranded at third.

–Today, in Pittsburgh. Top second, scoreless game. Matt Kemp leading off. He reaches second on the Pirates’ second error of the game. James Loney follows with a shallow pop to shortstop … which turns into a doubleplay when lookie-loo Matt Kemp decides to jog about halfway to third … and can’t get back to second in time to avoid being doubled up.

If he says alive, maybe he scores when the next batter, Mark Loretta, singles, and the Dodgers lead, and perhaps what finished as an 11-1 humiliation goes in some other direction entirely (Pittsburgh’s first five runs were unearned, by the way) and the Dodgers did the champagne in the clubhouse thing today — instead of lugging it all to San Diego for a game tomorrow.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, while watching Matt Kemp play. And marveling at what a complete dope he is. He is a valuable player because he does so many things so easily … hit, hit for power, run. But he could do so much more if he brought, say, the brain of Torii Hunter to the game instead of the brain of Abby Normal. (“Young Frankenstein” reference there.)

I have been wondering when was the last time I saw someone with that much talent do so many stupid things, and wondering if Raul Mondesi or Pedro Guerrero could rival Matt Kemp for the sheer volume of bone-headed plays … and thinking, “No. Probably not.”

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Murphy // Sep 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I think all the Dodgers are equally dolt-ish.

  • 2 Jacob Pomrenke // Sep 29, 2009 at 12:47 am

    It shouldn’t surprise you, of course, that these baserunning stats are kept. Here’s Matt Kemp’s: http://bit.ly/QqY0D.

    But … turns out the numbers don’t quite back up your eyes (and mine eyes tell me the same thing about Kemp as yours do.)

    Except in one category: pickoffs. Kemp’s been picked off a base 6 times this year, 5 last year, which is a LOT. (For comparison, just to pick two similar hitters to Kemp, Hunter Pence has been picked off 6 times in his career, just once this year; Nick Markakis also has been picked off 6 times in his career, none this year.)

    But otherwise Kemp doesn’t make more outs on the bases (6 in ’09, 23 career) than most guys. (OK, in ’08, Kemp made 11 outs on the bases, which was terrible.) Overall, though, Ethier’s numbers are about the same, and so are Russell Martin’s.

    And you’ll lose that $5 bet, because across the county line, another famously mistake-prone youngster, Erick Aybar, had made more non-CS/PO outs on the bases this year than Kemp has (7 to 6). Here’s Aybar’s numbers: http://bit.ly/hXTJF.

    In fact, believe it or not, Kemp could be considered a major *asset* on the bases because he regularly takes an extra base on hits at a rate that is much higher than the league average (52% to 39%. Aybar’s at 64% there.) Kemp’s only been thrown out once going from 1B to 3B on a single this year. He’s only been thrown out once trying to score from 1B on a double. Hasn’t been thrown out at all trying to score from 2B on a single.

    I hate to take the position of defending Kemp’s baseball IQ, because I think he’s made more than his share of boneheaded plays. And numbers always can be manipulated. But the stats do show that he does a lot of good things, too, so that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

  • 3 ted // Sep 29, 2009 at 1:41 am

    this is probably the errr… DOLTiest thing i’ve ever read

  • 4 Fite Club // Sep 29, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Paul, your article is mean spirited and lacks specific evidence that Kemp’s baserunning and fielding have been detrimental to the Dodgers’ success this season rather than beneficial. Kemp is one of the best base runners on the team, a competent CF, and certainly the best all around young player on the team. I have a hard time believing a “smarter” player like Juan Pierre would have given anywhere close to the production of Kemp this season in CF.

  • 5 Mr. LA Sports Fan // Sep 29, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Hey Paul, you owe me five bucks. Did a little research on your “no one in baseball has been tagged out on the bases more often than Matt Kemp” and I found out that he has made 13 outs on the basepaths. There are 16 other players who have made that many outs, and 10 who have made more than 13, including Chone Figgins (22), Carl Crawford (19), and B.J. Upton (16). I’d be careful calling people dolts when you fail to conduct proper research, rather than just using individual instances to prove your point.

  • 6 El Lay Dave // Sep 29, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Paul, go open your front door and growl at the kids to get the hell off your lawn.

    After all the fielding disasters on the road trip, you’re going to pick on the kid who is hitting .300+ with 100 RBI (despite hitting seventh or lower in seventy [70!] starts), 96 R, 26 HR, about a .500 slugging percentage, etc. etc.? How many grounders did Rafael Furcal misplay in what should have been the division-clinching ninth inning on Sunday? Oh, yeah, right.

    Kuroda was not sharp and helped himself to those four (not five – although it sure looks like an error by the official scorer there) unearned runs by allowing four sharp hits – sure some after the inning should have been over, but the pitcher has to suck that up. Nothing was going to change the pounding he took.

  • 7 Justin // Sep 29, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Mr. Oberjuerge,

    I’m not sure where Matt Kemp earned this reputation, but ripping him has seemed to be the fashionable thing to do over the last year or two. A great site, baseball-reference.com tracks many of the stats that you throw out there in your article without actually checking. It really isn’t that hard to check to see if your claims are accurate. For example, Matt Kemp has made 7 OOB (outs on the bases) this season. Your esteemed Tori Hunter has made 6 OOB. Kemp has 34 SB and 8 CS for a 81% success rate. Hunter has 18 and 4 for 84%. Better, but pretty close. Pick-offs (PO) is the only place where there is a noticeable difference – Kemp has 6, Hunter 1. Considering the fact that Kemp runs twice as much, meaning that pitchers are probably that much more wary of him on the basepaths, I don’t think that that’s a crazy number of POs for him to have. Thinking that Tori Hunter is so smart and Matt Kemp is so dumb and they’re that close, there must be someone out there that is more stupid than Kemp by your standards, right?

    So, I’ll go ahead and take that $5 bet, if you don’t mind (but I’m guessing that if I win this you’ll renege and I’ll never see my $5). Let’s look at the MLB leaders for POs, shall we? Wow, there’s Chone Figgins with 11… Kemp is 11th with his 6. How about OOB? Again, wow, Albert Pujols must be a baseball novice as well since he leads MLB (along with Sandoval and Crawford) with 12 OOB. To be clear here, that’s 12 times that Pujols has been thrown out on the bases… what a moron! Back to the bet, it was that nobody in baseball has been tagged out on the bases more often that Kemp (minus the CS of course). Well, Figgins has those 11 POs and he has 11 OOB to make 22 times that he’s been thrown out on the bases this season. That’s 9 more times than Matt Kemp has been. Just eyeballing the list real quick, I see that there are actually quite a few players that are well in front of Kemp here.

    I think you owe me $5.

  • 8 Dennis Pope // Sep 29, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    There’s a lesson to learned here. I’m sure of it.

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