There are few stats that give a comprehensive reason for a players performance. Clearly Matt Kemp has struggled for the better part of a month now. He hasn’t been the sole reason that the team is losing, but maybe a few days off is good for his aching shoulder, both for him and the team.
He’s most Dodger fans favorite player. He’s the perennial all-star, MVP, gold glove, 5 tool BISON BEAST! However, calling upon beast mode has led to paltry results. He isn’t the only Dodger struggling over the last month. Some of Kemp’s faults are career norms. Makes 8% less contact that the average player, makes 11% less contact on pitches outside of the zone. Obviously he isn’t a contact hitter. But over the last month his contact numbers have severely slipped. Even though Kemp isn’t swinging at more pitches outside the zone compared to his average, he is definitely missing more. His O-Contact% is at 55.9%, down from his career normal 58.9, while the league average is 69.2%. Even his contact percentage on pitches in the zone is down 1.5 percent. It’s fair to assume that his shoulder is affecting him. Mostly, his swing and miss ways have increased since his collision in Colorado.
There are many good players this year that have high swing percentages. Among them is Luis Cruz. Over the last month, at 56.5% Cruz would sit among the top 10 swingers in baseball. The more the merrier! (as long as he keeps on hitting) In what we know as the year of the pitcher, maybe its time we see a new approach from hitters.
The moneyball era produced a set of hitters that learned how to take a walk. The pitchers have adjusted to limit walks and let the batters hit. The “walkers” have mostly gone away and the contact hitters are thriving. However, AJ Ellis is also thriving by doing exactly the opposite. Over the last month AJ’s swing% sits at 40! And that figure is up from his career number of 36%. Only Joe Mauer swings less at pitches. There are a number of players for which this approach works as well.
Is there some correlation of players that don’t swing as much to players that swing more often? Are some more streaky? Where do the power hitters, lead off hitters, and contact hitters mix in?
From the naked eye, it appears like the Dodgers most recent struggles have come from plate discipline issues. In truth, 3 of our main hitters, Gonzalez, Victorino, and Kemp have all struggled. Even though they might be making decent contact, it has largely been bad contact. Victorino has an infield fly ball percentage of 22%. Kemp’s line drive percentage is down 4% which means his BABIP has suffered quite a bit and dropped to .250. Adrian isn’t being as selective as we are used to seeing him be. Maybe pitchers are pitching him tougher knowing that behind him is a couple of legitimate bats.
Whatever the reason, the Dodgers 2, 3, 4 hitters need to start producing in a big way if we want to make the playoffs. Part of it will come from a better approach at the plate. I’m curious how much Don Mattingly knows about the struggles of some of his best players. Gonzalez and Kemp need to be more selective, while Victorino needs to make better contact.