Matt Kemp Is Tuned In

It’s something of a mantra through the first month of the season: Small sample sizes. The term, while annoyingly overused, is meant to caution those looking to pass judgment on anything baseball related at this point in the schedule. You see, things tend to get exaggerated at the beginning of the year because things lack the context of a larger sample.

A slump through the first three weeks of the season looks far worse than a three week slump in August because overall numbers only reflect the slump, and not the months of true talent or better than true talent play leading into it. Misinterpreting an early season slump for the definitive decline of a baseball player is a constant threat to the thinking fan. But instead of worrying about what Albert Pujols has to do to get back on track, we should be laughing at this comic:

Having said that, there are certain accomplishments being made early in the season that aren’t entirely surprising. For instance, Matt Kemp has been very, very, very good. And while we maybe didn’t expect Matt Kemp to have a slash line resembling Orson Welles’ blood alcohol level, we know his true talent to be quite high.

By the way, this is Kemp’s slash line through 22 games and 93 plate appearances:

  • .425 AVG, .495 OBP, .888 SLG, .463 ISO and .567 wOBA.

According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers center fielder has 19 batting runs above average. That’s more offensive production than all but four of the entire teams in baseball. If you take Kemp’s total away from the Dodgers, the average player on the team has a negative offensive output. If you were to take Kemp out of the Los Angeles lineup, the team’s offense would be closer to resembling the Seattle Mariners or San Diego Padres than any other teams.

In the parlance of terms I don’t entirely understand but still use as though I do, he is seeing the ball well.

Opposing pitchers are recognizing this, and unsurprisingly throwing Kemp less pitches on which he¬†theoretically¬†can get around and make good contact. While the most memorable hit from Kemp over the course of this past weekend’s series against the Washington Nationals is likely going to be his walk off home run in the tenth inning on Saturday night, there was an instance from the previous game that sticks out more in my mind.

Nationals’ starter Ross Detwiler in his second match up against Kemp on Friday, after giving up a single in the first inning:

That was third pitch of the at bat, and it was rather perfectly placed by Detwiler, who was up 0-2 in the count at the time. He threw a 93 miles per hour fastball about as low and inside as is humanly possible without hitting a batter’s shins, and somehow, Kemp’s tremendous bat speed allowed him to pull the ball through the infield for another single.

Adding to how tremendous this little bit of two strike hitting was, of course, is Detwiler’s reaction, who, unbelieving, watches the ball fall in for a hit, looks at Jesus Flores, his catcher, then at Kemp, back to Flores and then the beleaguered pitcher checks the field one more time to confirm the ball got through.

Matt Kemp is tuned in right now. And since we’re writing about small sample sizes right now, it’s worth noting that Kemp has been down 0-2 in eleven plate appearances this season … his OPS is 2.091.