Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles recently wrote this article about Matt Kemp moving from center field, to right field. This is nothing new, because we’ve heard this before. For years now people have been calling for the Dodgers to move Kemp to right, Ethier to left, and find someone else to play center field. So to these people I say…move on! It’s not going to happen. The Dodgers are NOT going to move Kemp from center field. The Dodgers are not going to change their outfield alignment. Nor should they.
As we know, Matt Kemp had a rough year injury wise. Kemp missed 51 games because of a strained left hamstring, then in August, suffered a frayed left shoulder labrum, on a death-defying crash into the Coors Field center field wall, while chasing down a fly ball during a game against the Rockies.
Kemp finished the season playing in only 106 games. He still batted .303, with a team leading 23 home runs. Kemp when healthy is one of the best players in Baseball today. Obviously keeping Kemp healthy in 2013, is one of the Dodgers top priorities. Kemp is the Dodger’s offensive catalyst, the Dodger’s success is directly correlated to Kemp’s success.
Carl Crawford is slated to be the Dodger’s starting left fielder in 2013. Crawford acquired in the blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox, didn’t play at all for the Dodgers in 2012, because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Because of this, we couldn’t have Crawford play in center field even if we wanted him too, because his throwing arm isn’t going to be at full strength.
According to Saxon, Kemp has been a below average center fielder since 2009. Of course we all know this is not true. Saxon uses UZR, and DWAR to prove his point. The thing is, DWAR, and UZR, are not exact methods for evaluating a player’s fielding. Actually there really isn’t any stat that can accurately judge a player’s defensive ranking. It’s just to subjective to evaluate. You know what I use sometimes to determine a player’s defensive abilities? Errors. How many errors did this player make? It’s pretty simple. If a player that plays every day, only commits a few errors per year, then he’s pretty good with the glove. It’s a pretty simple thing. The best defensive players, make very few errors. So how many errors did Kemp make in 2012? ONE. That’s right, he made one measly error. He made only five last year in 161 games. His total zone fielding runs above average ranking, which is the number of runs above or below average, the player was worth defensively, based on the number of plays made. Kemp’s total zone fielding runs above average for 2012, was a +6. Last season it was a +9, and for his career in center field it’s a +12. Does this sound like a below average center fielder? Oh yeah, Bison has also won two gold gloves.
Saxon also goes on to speculate that if Kemp were to move out of center field, it would save a lot of wear and tear on his body. That could be true, however look at it this way. Kemp is just as likely to get hurt in right field, or left field. He could crash into any wall, weather in left, center or right. As a matter of fact, Kemp has only been hurt once before. This season was the first time Kemp has been hurt in years. Kemp had only been on the DL one other time in his career, and that was when he crashed into the RIGHT field wall on opening day of 2007, and separated his shoulder. Kemp had played in 399 consecutive games before he went down with the hamstring injury back in May.
Matt Kemp is the team captain, and you do not tell the team captain to move from his position because you’re scared of him getting hurt. I’m sure he wouldn’t like that. That’s why he played the rest of the year hurt, after tearing his shoulder crashing into the Coors Field wall. Team captains are like that. They want to play. They want the ball in those high leverage situations. When the game is on the line, they want to be at the plate. Kemp plays the game hard, and he’s not going to stop playing the way he plays.
It’s kind of foolish to think that Kemp would play his whole career without ever getting hurt. That’s no reason to move him from center field. There is no way around it. Of course there are going to be risks involved with playing any sport, especially Baseball. And there are risks involved playing anywhere in the outfield, or on the diamond. Derek Jeter just broke his ankle on a routine grounder to short for the Yankees. This proves nothing is guaranteed in life and in Baseball. Switching Kemp to right field won’t guarantee him health or even that it would save wear on his body.
Between you and me, I’m sick of hearing about this narrative. There are always people every season that clamor for the Dodgers to take Kemp out of center field, or move Ethier to left. According to them, Kemp, and Ethier are “So terrible defensively” that they “must” be moved for the good of the team. These guys complain and bitch constantly about it. I don’t get it. I guess amazing diving game saving catches, gold gloves, and making one error per season just isn’t good enough for them apparently. (I’m not calling out Saxon specifically on this, just talking about people in general)
Saxon talks about this being a possibility once Crawford fully heals from his Tommy John surgery, possibly in 2014. I just can’t see Don Mattingly doing this. Perhaps in a few years, when Bison is well into his thirties we can discuss this option. Until then, leave the outfield alignment the way it is. As I have said before, if it aint broke don’t fix it.