Kemp has started this season right where he left off a year ago. The Dodgers are off to a fabulous 11-3 start and there is no question that Kemp is the reason.
Kemp entered the 2011 campaign as one of the most hated players in Los Angeles, and came out beloved. People blamed his romance with singer Rihanna for his awful 2010 season, and fans wanted him out of Dodger blue. He dedicated that offseason to perfecting all of his skills and came out a new man the next year.
Kemp put together one of the most balanced seasons in baseball history, by finishing in the top-three in every single major offensive category in the National League. He led the league in home runs, RBI’s and runs scored. His 39 home runs and 40 stolen bases nearly put him in the exclusive 40-40 club, but they were enough to make him the first Senior Circuit player to end the year in the top-two in those two categories since Hank Aaron.
He also played in every single one of the Dodgers 161 games (one was cancelled due to rain), which helped him extend his baseball leading streak to 365 (now 379). As much as he scared pitchers, he frustrated opposing hitters with his defensive work, which helped him win his second Gold Glove Award.
Kemp was completely robbed of the NL MVP Award, which went to Ryan Braun. Braun might have finished ahead of Kemp in a few percentages, but he got help with those stats because he played in fewer games. Furthermore, Braun had Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan at the top of his lineup and another MVP candidate, Prince Fielder as his support the whole year. Pitchers never needed to throw to him, as he had the likes of James Loney and Juan Rivera behind him for most of the year.
Braun likely won the award because his team made the playoffs, but the MVP is an individual award and not a team honor. There was also Braun’s failed steroid test, but I will ignore that for the sake of sanity. Kemp congratulated Braun for winning the award and thought that he was more than deserving of the honor.
Kemp used his second-place MVP finish as a piece of motivation for 2012. During the offseason, he jokingly said that he had his eyes set on a “50-50” season. After what he has done in the first few weeks of this season, Kemp might not have been joking.
The Dodgers outfielder has put together one of the greatest starts to a season in Dodgers history. Through the first 14 games, he has tied Wally Moon’s 51-year-old franchise record for the most home runs in that span, with eight. It should also be noted that all of those homers have gone the other-way. Kemp also leads the league with 20 runs batted in, 16 runs scored, and 26 hits. His 1.000 slugging percentage and 1.525 OPS lead the league and are also tops in all of baseball. While he sits just behind Davis Wright with a still stellar .481 batting average through 54 at-bats.
It is far too early to really make any fair judgments about this season, but Kemp has sure got off to a great start and proven that he should have been last year’s NL MVP. In 2010, Kemp was booed at Dodger Stadium, but this year he gets that same response on the road, which is a sign that he has reached the stardom.
Even though the Dodgers have played 11 of their games this season against three of the worst teams in the league a year ago, Kemp has had to play most of those games in two of the toughest parks to hit in—Dodger Stadium and Petco Park. He has been a monster fair and square, and nobody should make any claims that state otherwise.
With voting for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game already underway, I would like to make sure that Matt Kemp is a part of every single voter’s ballot. There is no saying what this unreal athlete can do now that he has let “beast mode” off of its leash.