Monday, September 17, 2012

Noffense Explained (Part 1 of 2)

I really feel for the Dodgers' Superman, Matt Kemp. Despite a late double yesterday (he was, of course, stranded) and a game-changing defensive play in the ninth inning on Saturday, Kemp is clearly struggling from the plate this month.

In prior years, one probably would have called this petulance or arrogance on Kemp's behalf. Now, I think we have a good enough understanding of Kemp's psyche (and amazing potential) that we have to guess he's playing hurt, too proud to say anything, but suffering through because he knows how much he means to this team.

But for those of you looking to quantitative measures, ESPN's Mark Simon breaks down the statistics to dissect Kemp's performance from the plate:

What has plagued Kemp most during this slump? Quite simply. Just about everything:

The slow stuff

Offspeed pitches are currently Kemp’s kryptonite.

Kemp has missed on 27 of his last 44 swings against offspeed pitches, a 61 percent miss rate that’s well out of line with a miss rate of 39 percent entering this skid.

Since returning on August 31 after three days off following an injury when he ran into the fence trying to make a play, Kemp has seen more changeups than any hitter in baseball. His last hit against one came on August 8.


Kemp has also had issues when he’s swung at pitches out of the strike zone. He’s made 25 outs on pitches thrown out of the strike zone without getting a hit.

His out-to-hit ratio on pitches out of the strike zone prior to these struggles was 3.2-to-1.

But Kemp is also missing pitches he typically drives. Since August 25, he’s hitting just .229 when an at-bat ends with a pitch in the strike zone.

That’s 158 points below what he’d established in the first four-and-three-quarter months of the season.

In fact, Kemp’s batting average against pitches in the strike zone is almost a near-match for his batting average against pitches out of the strike zone this season (.232) prior to when this slump began on August 26

Inability to drive the ball

Kemp’s ground-ball rate has increased from 41 percent pre-slump to 49 percent since. That’s come at the expense of him hitting line drives. He was hitting them at a 21 percent rate, but that has since dipped to 15 percent over his last 60 at-bats.

Kemp is having a hard time with pitches on the outer-half of the plate, or just off the outside corner. His 10th-inning flyout against Fernando Salas made him 3-for-25 against such pitches since August 26. The image atop this article illustrates Kemp's difficulties at getting hits on pitches to that area.

I applaud Kemp's bravery soldiering through this, at a time when we're trying to backdoor into that second wildcard spot. But I've gotta think his inability to drive the ball (especially all the ground balls to third I seem to see most frequently) reflects the fact that there's just something fundamentally off for Kemp. Kemp means enough to this team that I'd rather shut him down now rather than risk him exacerbating any sort of lingering injury.

You don't have anything you need to prove to us in 2012, Matt. Just come back ready to rock in 2013!


Hideo Nomo said...

I also think this team has a problem with Nomentum, but that's harder to graph.