In a season that’s been filled with its share of challenges, Matt Kemp has quietly — perhaps loudly — emerged as a candidate for the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Kemp heads into Wednesday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants hitting .284/.344/.498 with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs. Most of Kemp’s damage at the plate has come post-All-Star break as it became evident he was regaining better health.
Along with becoming further removed from the multiple surgeries he’s undergone in recent years, Kemp has benefitted from a change in his batting stance. When speaking about Kemp prior to Tuesday’s game, manager Don Mattingly pointed to his right fielder now standing more upright at the plate as a key change, via Jon Weisman of DodgerInsider.com:
I think the biggest change Matt’s made is to straighten up,” Mattingly said. “I think you see him taller, you see his feet a little bit more straight. A guy that dives or is striding into the plate, he limits himself what he can do.”
Mattingly furthered explained how the change allows for Kemp to better attack pitches over different areas of the plate:
As a hitter, when you cross into the plate and you dive, you block yourself off certain parts of the plate you can’t handle and you can’t get to,” Mattingly continued. “Certain areas and even certain areas on both sides, you get cut off, and you don’t have the same leverage. So to me, with Matt straightening up, he was able to get through the ball a lot better and really create more bat speed and then backspin.”
Kemp’s slugging percentage is second on the team behind Scott Van Slyke and Kemp is also second in RBIs, trailing Adrian Gonzalez. In a season where Yasiel Puig endured a slump that lasted over one month and Hanley Ramirez has struggled to remain healthy, Kemp has provided a power bat on the right side to complement Gonzalez.
With the Dodgers closing in on the start of postseason play, Kemp said he hopes the team will make a deep run with better health than they had during last year’s playoffs.