Analysts prioritized the performance of Matt Kemp as the major key heading into the 2011 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers, who come into Tuesday three and a half games behind the Rockies for first place in the NL West with a 20-23 record, can't blame their struggling offense on Kemp.
The Dodgers are tied for 25th in home runs, 26th in runs scored, 24th in OPS, tied for 24th in RC+ and 23th in wOBA.
Let's take a look at Kemp's production 43 games into the season. Kemp comes into Tuesday with eight home runs, 28 RBI, 12 stolen bases, an ISO of .208, a wOBA of .414, wRC+ of 162, a WAR of 1.8 and an impressive slash line of .321/.404/.528.
He has also improved his stolen base percentage. He currently has stolen 12 out of 15, compared to the 19 out of 34 rate in 2010.
These numbers were propelled by Kemp's hot April, and he has struggled in May hitting .226/.323/.358 with two home runs. Kemp was not expected to have a BABIP over .400, and his May regression is not unexpected.
Despite those struggles, Kemp still leads the Dodgers in all the categories mentioned earlier except for batting average (Ethier leads the team with a .333 average).
Kemp is still twelfth in baseball in wRC+, and there have been improvements to his game which have made him a better all-around hitter. Kemp has improved his walk rate from 7.9 percent in 2010 (a then career best) to 11.5 percent, and he has cut down his strikeout rate from 28.2 to 24.5 percent.
He also has posted the second best contact rate of his career at 74.6 percent.
His rise in batting average and his BABIP of .381 can be explained by a four percent drop in his ground ball rate (40 to 36.4 percent), and a four percent increase in his line drive rate to 24 percent. I expect his average to come down to something around .300 because he will not be able to sustain his .381 BABIP.
Kemp still has some steps to take to become one of the best all-round players in the game, but at 26, he has made the necessary adjustments to improve upon his lackluster 2010 season.
He needs to work on his reads in center field and his strikeout rate needs to improve, but Dodgers fans and fantasy owners have to be impressed with Kemp's return to the path of rising star.
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