Let’s Get Matt Kemp Fewer At-Bats

Back on March 6, I doled out some praise to Joe Torre for Torre’s announcement that he’d be placing Matt Kemp second in the order:

If Kemp really is going to be the man in the second slot, it’s a good sign as far as the decision-making tree goes, and an even better sign for lineup productivity. 

Kemp then batted second in most of the games he played in, including yesterday’s finale, and with no further discussion about it from anyone, that seemed to be that. In fact, Kemp hitting second was such a foregone conclusion that Steve Dilbeck at the LA Times Dodgers blog complained just a few hours ago that he’d prefer to see Kemp hitting lower. I don’t agree, but the point is that as far as anyone could tell, Matt Kemp was your second hitter, no questions asked.

Except that the official blog posted tomorrow’s Opening Day lineup, and…

Furcal, SS
Martin, C
Ethier, RF
Manny, LF
Kemp, CF
Loney, 1B
Blake, 3B
DeWitt, 2B
Padilla, P

So now Russell Martin is inexplicably in the #2 hole, and Kemp is down to #5? Kemp is likely the best hitter on this club, and what this does it make it more likely than not that he won’t hit in the first inning. It also means that (keeping in mind that Blake DeWitt is a total unknown) you’re giving what will likely be 2 of your 3 worst hitters in Furcal and Martin the most at-bats.

If Martin can get back to what he once was, then this could make sense. At his best, Martin is an on-base machine and a pretty decent runner. But Martin’s hardly at his best. He’s coming off a horrendous season, and more importantly his health is still questionable. He played in just 5 spring games with the big club, and while he seems fine, many – including myself – think he’s rushed back unnecessarily. So why put the undue pressure on him of being counted on to get on base, when you could easily slide him in at 7th for a few weeks to get his feet under him? If he’s healthy and hitting better than last year, you can always slide him up to maximize his OBP skills and move Kemp down into a more traditional run-producing role. To do it now seems premature, in addition to being completely unexpected.

Another way of looking at the lineup is with this arrangement of bats that showed up on the official Dodgers Twitter today. All I can think when I see this is, “Vicente Padilla has his own engraved bat?”

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