Time to Give Matt Kemp a Break

Looking around the internet, you can tell that some people are getting worried about John Ely, who turned in his second mediocre start in a row in which he allowed four earned over five innings last night against the Angels. Not me, though. For as much fun as #ElyMania was, from the very beginning we knew that he wouldn’t keep up quite such an exciting pace. Besides, four earned in five innings is hardly a disaster from the guy who was essentially your tenth starter when the season started, and especially so when they’ve come against the red-hot Braves and a perennially contending American League team. As Joe Torre said, we haven’t seen how Ely responds to struggles yet, and it’s worth giving him every chance to see what happens.

What we should be worried about, however, is Matt Kemp, and specifically Torre’s usage of him. (Credit due here to “EephusBlue”, who asked me this on Twitter). After his third straight 0-4 last night, Kemp is hitless in his last seventeen plate appearances (with two walks). He hasn’t had an extra-base hit since slamming a walk-off homer on June 1, and overall he’s hitting just .195/.277/.317 this month.┬áIn fact, since his red-hot start to the season, Kemp’s OPS has dropped each month (.880 to .837 to .544).

Coming as it does in the midst of such a bad streak, it’s fair to wonder if he’s tired, right? Kemp’s played 558 innings in the outfield this year, more than any other outfielder in baseball. Not only has he started all of the Dodgers’ 62 games, the only innings he’s even been able to take a breather for were the 2.2 innings (extra innings, at that) Reed Johnson filled in for as part of a double-switch on April 24th in Washington. That means Kemp has played 99.6% of available innings in 2010, and hasn’t missed a single one in nearly two months.

Kemp isn’t Manny Ramirez, of course. He doesn’t require a day or two off each week, or to worry too much about day games after night games. But is it too much to make sure he gets at least a day off every other month? No need to run what may be your most talented player directly into the ground. (See: Russell Martin).

I’m hardly the world’s biggest Reed Johnson fan, but he’s performed adequately in his few opportunities. Since Manny’s days off are planned so specifically, why not make sure that on a day you know Manny (and Ethier) will be playing, Kemp gets a breather? It’s not like he’s helping you as it is.

Update: Per Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA, who’s at the park today, I rule:

Dodgers lineup (rest for Kemp): Furcal SS Martin C Ethier RF Manny LF Loney 1B Belliard 3B Johnson CF DeWitt 2B Monasterios P

Going forward, I’ll try to use my powers for good rather than evil. But, no promises.

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  1. [...] Kemp didn’t have a month with an OBP over .300 for the rest of the season. In early June, I wondered if he’d been playing too much, but the shit really hit the fan in late June when he got into a confrontation with bench coach Bob [...]