Matt Kemp and the Los Angeles Dodgers' 10 Best Power-Speed Combos in History
Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is off to a fantastic start in 2011. He is hitting over .336 and is among the NL leaders in home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, extra-base hits and stolen bases.
Kemp possesses a rare combination of both power and speed that has been invaluable to the Dodgers since he came up to the big leagues five years ago.
Even when Kemp is having an off night at the plate, he can make up for it with his speed. We have seen countless instances of Kemp hitting a routine ground ball only to reach first base safely due to the infielder rushing the play and making an error because of the pressure that Kemp's speed can cause.
Kemp is just one of several players in Dodgers history that have exemplified the ability to both hit for power and run extremely well. Here are the top 10.
10. Willie Davis, CF
Davis was signed by the Dodgers in 1958 and spent the first 16 years of his career with the organization.
He was an incredible athlete and actually ran the 100-yard dash in just 9.5 seconds back in high school.
With Los Angeles, Davis stole 335 bases, including a string of 11 consecutive seasons where he had at least 20 stolen bases.
Davis was not a premier power hitter, but he consistently reached double digits in home runs and was frequently among the leaders in triples. He also had excellent range in center field, earning Gold Glove honors on three occasions.
A key member of the 1963 and 1965 Dodgers World Series-winning teams, Davis will forever be remembered in Los Angeles.
9. Jimmy Sheckard, Outfield
Sheckard played nearly his entire career during the deadball era (the seasons from 1900-1920, when very few home runs were hit), but he was still able to demonstrate a remarkable combination of both speed and power.
Arguably his best season came back in 1903, when he hit .332 and also led the league in both home runs and stolen bases, becoming the first player ever to accomplish that feat.
Sheckard used his speed in a variety of ways, showing an uncanny ability to turn doubles into triples, as well as covering a ton of ground in the outfield.
Overall, Sheckard stole 212 bases in his eight years with the Dodgers, leading the league in steals twice.
However, he is actually most famous for his arm, which is frequently described as one of the best outfield throwing arms the game has ever seen. He led the league in outfield assists three times, and his assist totals of 36 in 1903 and 33 in 1899 are among the highest regular season totals in major-league history.
8. Davey Lopes, 2B
Currently the Dodgers' first base coach, Lopes was the Dodgers' everyday second baseman from 1973-1980. Along with Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey, Lopes is well known for being a part of the Dodger infield of the 1970s and early 1980s that remained the same for a record of eight consecutive seasons.
Throughout Lopes' major-league career, he was consistently one of the top base-stealers in the game. He led the league in steals in both 1975 and 1976, and his success rate of 83 percent is among the best in history.
While Lopes was not especially known for power, he hit a total of 45 home runs between 1978 and 1979. His 28 home runs in 1979 are the seventh-most ever for an NL second baseman during the regular season.
7. Raul Mondesi, RF
A popular Dodger in the 1990s, Raul Mondesi's career got off to an impressive start. He was a unanimous selection for Rookie of the Year honors with the Dodgers in 1994 and was named to the NL All-Star team in just his second season.
The young Dominican also had a rocket of a throwing arm in right field, leading the league in outfield assists in three different seasons.
Mondesi had a tremendous balance of power and speed and became the first Dodger to join the 30-30 club in 1997 (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases).
However, Mondesi failed to improve after his fourth season and was eventually traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shawn Green.
6. Shawn Green, RF
Green was a tremendous athlete that could hit for power, steal bases and play great defense in right field.
When Green was just 25 years old, he had a rare 35-35 season (35 steals, 35 stolen bases) with Toronto. Eventually, Green would go on to hit more than 40 home runs in three different seasons, two of which were with the Dodgers. Green also stole at least 20 bases each season every year from 1998-2001.
When Green was traded to Los Angeles for former L.A. Dodger Raul Mondesi before the 2000 season, he immediately became one of the highest-paid players in baseball history.
Green signed a six-year, $84 million deal with the Dodgers, a $14 million annual salary that was the second-highest ever at the time. Due to the severity of his contract, most fans were disappointed with Green's overall production in L.A. Nevertheless, Green's 49 home runs in 2001 remain an all-time Dodger regular season record.
He also had one of the best individual regular season games in baseball history back in 2002, going 6-for-6 against Milwaukee, including a major-league record-tying four home runs.
5. Zack Wheat, Outfield
Widely regarded as the first great Dodger, Zack Wheat had the ability to hit for average and hit for power, as well as steal bases.
Like Jimmy Sheckard, Wheat began his career during the deadball era. However, he played well into the 1920s, the first decade of the live-ball era.
Wheat was always a good hitter, but he seemed to be a better fit for the live-ball era. He was a consistent .300 hitter for the first two-thirds of his career but began to hit well over .320 in the 1920s with home run totals that consistently reached double digits.
During his career, Wheat ranked in the top 10 in home runs 11 times. He also stole 203 bases in a Dodger uniform and had great range in the outfield.
A Brooklyn Dodger for 18 seasons, Wheat finished his career with 2,884 hits and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959.
4. Pedro Guerrero, 1B-3B-Outfield
Guerrero's career was limited by injuries, but he was extremely effective when healthy.
Besides earning 1981 World Series MVP honors for the Dodgers, along with third baseman Ron Cey and catcher Steve Yeager, Guerrero could hit for power and run extremely well.
In 1982, Guerrero became the first player in Dodgers history to hit over 30 home runs and steal at least 20 bases in the same season. Remarkably, he repeated the task the following year.
However, his best season came in 1985, when he hit .320 and led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, finishing third in MVP voting.
Although Guerrero had great speed, he was a poor slider, which likely prevented him from stealing more than the 97 bases he swiped for his career.
3. Jackie Robinson, 2B
Robinson was not given a chance to play in the big leagues till he was 28 years old, but he made the most of the opportunity.
A once in a generation type of athlete, Robinson attended UCLA as an undergrad and played not only baseball, but also basketball, football and track and field.
He broke the color barrier in 1947, becoming the first black man to play in the big leagues in more than 60 years.
Robinson made an impact with the Dodgers right away, stealing a league-high 29 bases and earning Rookie of the Years honors in his first season.
During Robinson's 10-year career, he was named to seven All-Star teams, earned NL MVP honors in 1949 and consistently showed the ability to hit for power and steal bases.
Robinson led the league in power/speed number four times. He hit at least 10 home runs in nine of his 10 career seasons and averaged 20 stolen bases per year throughout his career.
Robinson was also notorious for frequently stealing home base, as he did in the 1955 World Series.
2. Duke Snider, CF
One of the all-time greats, Duke Snider could hit for power and run well, among the many attributes he brought to the table.
Snider was a popular American icon in the 1950s, but he was just one of three elite center fielders in New York at the time, along with New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays of the New York Giants.
He hit at least 40 home runs in five consecutive seasons from 1953-1957 and is still the Dodgers' franchise leader in home runs with 389 for his career.
Snider stole at least 12 bases in four out of five seasons from 1949-1953. However, his speed was best displayed in center field, where he could cover more ground than just about anybody.
1. Matt Kemp, CF
Since the Dodgers drafted Kemp in 2003, his athleticism and overall potential have been a hot topic of conversation.
The 6'3", 215-pound center fielder had a slightly disappointing 2010 season, but he seems to have gotten better every year of his career otherwise.
A legitimate five-tool player, Kemp can hit for average, hit for power, steal bases, throw well and cover a ton of ground in center field. He has hit at least 25 home runs each of the past two seasons and has stolen 35 bases or more twice in his career.
This season, he is off to a great start and appears well on his way to having a breakout year.
At this point for Kemp, who is still just 26 years old, the sky is the limit.