Thursday, April 09, 2009

It Must Be the...Contact Lenses?

Spring training is always filled with stories about players who have added muscle, or shed fat, or become more flexible, or reworked their delivery, or started using new we barely batted an eyelash when the LA Times reported on Matt Kemp's new contact lenses:

Matt Kemp said he didn't know if his eyesight was responsible for his franchise-record 153 strikeouts last season.

But he said he saw the seams of the baseball more clearly in the Dodgers' 8-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday than he did last year or in any game this spring because of the new contact lenses he received this week.

"It made it way, way clearer," Kemp said. "It's better. I feel really good at the plate."

Kemp must be feeling really good in the field, too, if his defensive performance in the Dodgers' first three games is any indication. In addition to his Game 1 heroics, Kemp appears to be getting better jumps and/or taking better routes in tracking balls hit to center field. He's made at least one nice shoe-top grab and has easily run down several hard-hit balls that might have tied him up last year. Kemp's 2008 center-field UZR* was a mere (but still positive) 1.3. While it's too early to project his 2009 numbers, it's safe to say things are looking up for Matt Kemp.

*UZR = Ultimate Zone Rating, "considered by many to be the most comprehensive defensive metric out there" (read more about it at and—thanks to Kensai for the links)