Step one: don't freak out, I'm not saying Kemp is going to be a bust. Step two: I am officially putting Matt Kemp on bust alert. Why? Well, quite frankly, Matt Kemp had the ultimate breakout season in 2011. Going by full seasons, he set career highs in plate appearances, runs, hits, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS+, and WAR. However, we aren't just talking about your normal breakout. We are talking about a 47 point jump in OPS+ from his career best. In short: that is ridonkulous. But why does this automatically mean Kemp is on bust alert? Well, he'll be 27 years old and has done this the last three years:
2009: .297/ .352/ .490 (124 OPS+)
2010: .249/ .310/ .450 (106 OPS+)
2011: .324/ .399/ .986 (171 OPS+)
*cleans glasses*....Am I reading that right? That's what he did at 24, 25 and then at 26? Well what the heck? How do we know what we're going to get in the future? Well, this thinking is what makes me put Kemp on bust alert. The rWAR produced by Kemp over the last three years would read 5.7, 2.3, and 10.0. For those that aren't aware, an rWAR of 10 is of historic proportions. Kemp's easily the best player in baseball if he keeps doing that. The problem is, there is no way anyone can expect Kemp to repeat last year.
Before jumping to conclusions about Kemp simply because he's inconsistent or can't be trusted, it's important to look at some of the metrics we've been looking at before. Here are some basic numbers for Kemp over the past 3 years, including 2011:
2009: 7.8% BB/ 20.8% K/ .193 ISO/ .345 BABIP
2010: 7.9% BB/ 25.4% K/ .201 ISO/ .295 BABIP
2011: 10.7% BB/ 23.1 % K/ .262 ISO/ .380 BABIP
Don't just look at the spike in BABIP and say it's the reason he jumped. His career BABIP rate is .352, so he's going to get good rates on balls put into play. That's not why he jumped. It contributed, but not to the tune of what happened in Kemp's case. What else would help? Let's look at some BIP data:
2011: 23.2% LD/ 36.3% GB/ 40.5% FB/ 21.4% HR/FB
Career Norms: 21.5% LD/ 41.1% GB/ 37.4% FB/ 15.9% HR/FB
From this, the obvious trends are there. He hit more line drives and fly balls and fewer ground balls. He then saw more homers come out of the fly balls he was hitting. However...still seems to not account for enough. Something else had to have happened. Maybe he saw more fastballs? Nope, he saw 50.4% fastballs in 2011 compared to his 52.7% career norm. Well, what about where he was seeing his pitches? From my data in my Inside Edge database (pitch-by-pitch account of everything that's happened), he didn't see any larger number of fastballs down the middle. So what the heck else could have happened? Well, here's what happened: Matt Kemp almost never missed bad pitches in 2011. He had a 1.200 OPS or higher in every zone in the middle of the plate, and he had an OPS of 1.800 on pitches down the middle. Here's a look at some of his individual pitch values from 2010 vs. 2011:
Fastballs: 6.5 vs. 37.9
Sliders: -1.1 vs. 6.4
Cutters: 1.2 vs. -0.8
Curveballs: -0.3 vs. 4.4
Changeups: -2.6 vs. 0.3
Sinkers: 0.1 vs. 0.9
There it is! Matt Kemp absolutely destroyed fastballs in 2011. However, he saw fewer of them than normal, which would suggest that he simply did not ever miss mistakes. Who does that? Well, legendary hitters like Albert Pujols, that's who. He got better at hitting 5 of the 6 primary pitches he saw in 2011. That just shows overall vast improvement. He didn't get lucky, he didn't face weaklings, and he didn't get aided by a ballpark or from hitting in a certain spot in the lineup. He just got BETTER.
So then, Wooly, why the heck would you project Kemp to falter at all? Well young padawans, I will tell you why: Matt Kemp's 2011 is one of the best non-Pujolsian seasons of the last 10 years. It's just going to be insanely hard to repeat. Plus, with the BABIP and HR/FB going down towards career norms, he's probably going to drop off just a bit. So regression is expected simply because of how good 2011 was, but he's officially on bust alert because he had never done anything like that before and he has publicly known attitude problems. So let's look at his value in a couple of different spots.
Real Life Value to the Dodgers
So I've shown you the overall value that Kemp has produced in each of the past three seasons along with some of the really specific statistics regarding what Kemp has done. What's to come in 2012? Well, assuming that the BABIP and HR/FB levels fall down towards career norms and aren't what Kemp is going to produce year after year, probably something between his 2009 and 2011. This means somewhere between a 5.7 rWAR and a 10.0 rWAR. Ladies and gents, the Dodgers were very smart to give Kemp his 8 year, 160 million dollar contract. Why? Well, since money loses value as time goes on (shout out to djiboutirox), Kemp is going to have to perform almost a win worse than his 2nd best season in order to wind up being at market value. Here's a look at what Kemp is going to make over each season and what the market value of dollars per WAR will be in my eyes:
2012: 10m- 4.0 D/WAR (2.5 WAR to meet)
2013: 20m- 4.35 D/WAR (4.7 WAR to meet)
2014: 21.5m- 4.7 D/WAR (4.57 WAR to meet)
2015- 21.5m- 5.05 D/WAR (4.26 WAR to meet)
2016-21.5m- 5.35 D/WAR (4.02 WAR to meet)
2017-21.5m- 5.5 D/WAR (3.91 WAR to meet)
2018-21.5m- 5.5 D/WAR (3.91 WAR to meet)
2019-21.5m- 5.5 D/WAR (3.91 WAR to meet)
Now, these are conservative market values to say the least. I would not be surprised to see that D/WAR ratio up well above 6.0 million dollars per unit of WAR in 2019. However, since the future of baseball business is so shaky (teams aren't making enough money to pay guys 7 million dollars per unit of WAR they produce under the current system), I had to go with a more conservative guess (and this HURTS Kemp by asking more of him to meet his dollar total that he's being paid). So, basically, Matt Kemp needs to produce a grand total of 31.78 WAR to be worth his contract by the numbers I gave (that's an average of 3.97 WAR annually). Kemp needs to totally bomb in center field to not be worth his contract. The Dodgers need to be really excited about this kind of deal. But what to expect from Kemp in 2012? Here are my predictions:
2012: .310 BA/ .382 OBP/ .553 SLG/ .935 OPS (160 OPS+)/ 7.5 WAR
Matt Kemp scared a lot of fantasy players with his 2010 campaign. I know for a fact that individuals were targeting him in the first round prior to 2010 (he was taken there in the competitive league I play in), and he bombed like you wouldn't believe. That made people hesitant to take him in 2011. It does not immediately come to mind where Kemp was taken in my draft, but it wasn't first overall, which means it was a steal. Here's what Kemp did for fantasy teams in 2011:
.324 BA/ 115 Runs/ 39 HR/ 126 RBI/ 40 SB
He was 7th in batting average, 4th in runs, 3rd in HR, 1st in RBI, and tied for 4th in stolen bases. He was a pure fantasy monster. However, I'm all about the first round of a fantasy draft being where you take your safest pick (save for injuries), so Kemp should be viewed in 2012 as Jose Bautista was in 2011. He's worth the first round pick, but I would fight myself over taking him over Pujols, Braun, Votto, Cabrera, and Tulowitzki. Now, there are a lot of individuals who would definitely take Kemp first overall on ceiling alone, but those 5 guys I mentioned are much safer bets to produce at elite levels than Kemp. If it came down to Kemp vs. Pujols/Votto/Cabrera at the #3 or #4 spot, I would probably jump on Kemp's upside because he's a center fielder. However, I think Tulowitzki and Braun are definite safer picks than Kemp. So what to expect from Kemp in fantasy in 2012? Here's what I like:
.310 BA/ 105 Runs/ 32 HR/ 112 RBI/ 36 SB
When you look at those numbers, they are darn near impossible to pass up, which is why I'm saying Kemp should go no lower in a 2012 fantasy draft than 6th overall. Unless he falls completely off the table, he's locked himself in as an elite fantasy pick. He's going to produce. However, there should always be that thought in the back of one's mind: he could always succumb to the mental problems he's had before and repeat 2010. Don't let it stop you from making what should be a smart pick at the 5 or 6 spot, but also don't let his 2011 be the sole reason for where you take him. If you get a nice offer for Kemp after the draft, don't be too hesitant to trade him. He's no Pujols or Cabrera. However, he has all the potential in the world, so take him.
However, Matt Kemp has officially been placed on Bust Alert.