The Dodgers had great expectations going into the 2012 season, a lot of which had to do with Matt Kemp.
Kemp was the runner-up in MVP voting in 2011, led the league in home runs and RBIs, combined that with his 40 stolen bases and Kemp essentially had the single greatest offensive season ever by a Los Angeles Dodger (.324, 39 HR, 126 RBI).
The Dodgers rewarded Kemp with a lucrative 8-year/$160 million contract extension, the largest contract ever in team history. Kemp started the season on an absolute tear, hitting .417 with 12 homers and 25 RBI in the month of April, easily winning NL Player of the Month honors. Kemp left little doubt who the best player in the National League was.
However, May saw baseball’s most durable player go down with a hamstring injury that forced Kemp to miss two weeks. In only his second game back, Kemp re-aggravated the injury and missed the next month-and-a-half.
Kemp would return but his numbers had come back down to Earth since his out-of-this-world run in April. However, Kemp’s season would be derailed again when he ran head-on into the outfield wall at Coors Field when the Dodgers were playing the Colorado Rockies on August 28. Kemp badly damaged his left shoulder on the play and struggled down the, stretch watching his batting average drop from .337 at the time of the accident to .303 to finish the season.
Kemp underwent successful shoulder to re-attach a torn labrum in his shoulder subsequently following the season’s end.
The Numbers: .303 BA, 23 HR, 69 RBI, 74 R, .367 OBP, .906 OPS, 106 games played
Kemp had been baseball’s iron man, playing in every single game over the past two seasons. He is well known for his intense workout regimen that has garnered him the nickname Beast Mode.
It is hard to imagine that Kemp missed nearly two months of the season due to injury. Despite the injuries, Kemp hit .300 for the second consecutive year and his line of .303/.367/.906 was better than his career line of .295/.352/.853. Kemp also led the team in home runs and was second in RBI, runs scored and doubles behind Andre Ethier.
Although there were many factors that contributed to the Dodgers’ demise down the stretch, one of the biggest things lacking was Kemp’s electrifying presence in the lineup. Although Kemp played well when he returned in July after missing all of June, he never quite got back to the level he was playing at to start the season and his crash into the outfield wall further limited what he was able to do down the stretch when other new acquisitions started gelling.
Although Kemp’s main role is as a run producer now, his speed suffered as a result of injuries and lost time, as Kemp stole only nine bases this year, his lowest ever as a full-time player.
April 5 vs. Padres – Kemp picked up right where he left off in 2011, going 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs in a 5-3 Dodgers victory.
April 14 vs. Padres – Beast Mode was in full effect as Kemp went deep twice going 3-for-4 with four total runs driven in as the Dodgers handed down a 6-1 drubbing of the Padres.
July 18 vs. Phillies – Locked in an extra-innings duel in Philadelphia, Kemp drove in the game-tying run in the 10th inning and then slammed the game-winning two-run home run in the 12th inning off of Phillies reliever Jake Diekman. Kemp’s heroics gave the Dodgers a 5-3 win. It was his first home run and runs driven in since coming back from a six-week absence due to an injured hamstring.
July 28 vs. Giants – Kemp had one of his biggest games of the year and it looked like Beast Mode was back. Kemp went 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored. Kemp’s big day paced the Dodgers’ 10-0 thrashing of the Giants at AT&T Park.
Sept. 29 vs. Rockies – Kemp again provided most of the Dodgers’ offense, slugging another two solo home runs to lead the Dodgers to a 3-0 win over the Rockies. This was a must-win series for the Dodgers, who were battling for the final wild-card spot.
Kemp underwent successful shoulder surgery and is expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. Both Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez underwent similar procedures in the past and had full recoveries. Kemp had set a goal of a 50-50 season prior to the start of 2012. In a recent conference call with reporters, Kemp said he simply wanted to stay healthy next year.
Good things happen, he said, when he is healthy.
Matt knows what he’s talking about.
The Dodgers sorely missed the presence of, without question, one of the best and most dynamic players in all of baseball.
Even in a season where he struggled with injuries, he still managed to hit .300 with 23 home runs, most guys would kill for numbers like that.
Matt made $10 million this season and he will get a significant pay bump, up to $20 million next season.
Kemp will remain the face of the Dodgers for the long-term, he is signed through 2019. Kemp’s injuries were not foreseeable and a healthy Kemp in 2013 should revitalize the team.
Additionally, the team that was thrown together after the trade deadline will now have a full Spring Training to get on the same page and a full 162 games to prove what they’re made of.
Kemp should have a ton of motivation to start 2013 to get back to being the best player in the game. Expect big things from Kemp and the Dodgers in 2013. Kemp is 28 years old.