After yesterday‘s two homer, six RBI outburst, Matt Kemp is currently on pace for an absolutely ridiculous season. No, really; he’d end the year with a .318/.395/.576 line, 41 homers, 38 steals (8 times caught), and a 151/74 K/BB ratio. While it’s still early and there’s hardly any sort of guarantee that he reaches those totals, we’re beyond the silly season of two homers on Opening Day setting a pace of 324 for the year, and we have enough data to know that what we’re seeing from him is for real. (It’s at this point that I’ll happily remind that I spent most of last fall and winter predicting a huge breakout year from him, though I’ll admit this is even beyond what I’d hoped for.)
If Kemp continues this tear, these team records are within his reach:
* Best offensive season by a Dodger center fielder. For a team with the heritage of the Dodgers, they really haven’t had a ton of memorable center fielders. Other than Duke Snider, who has 7 of the top 14 seasons by OPS+, you have a few good years from Jimmy Wynn or an occasional standout year from a Pete Reiser or a Brett Butler. Kemp, playing in a tougher hitter’s park than Snider had in Ebbets Field, is just a hair out of the all-time lead.
You know what stands out the most to me in that list? The numbers in bold are stats that led the league, and Snider struck out more than anyone in 1954… with just 96. How times have changed.
* Most homers in a season, non-crazy-offensive-environment-of-early-2000s division. This is cheating just a bit, I admit, and Kemp isn’t going to reach Shawn Green‘s club record of 49. But take a look at the top five homer seasons in Dodger history, won’t you?
Call it a league diluted by expansion, call it PEDs, call it a juiced baseball, call it whatever you want, but it’s hard to ignore that in a franchise that’s been in existence for well over a century, four of the top five power years came in a five-season stretch in one of the most notorious offensive eras in baseball history. Besides, Beltre’s a fine player, but has only once ever even reached even 28 homers in any other season. That’s not to set those accomplishments aside – neither Green nor Beltre was ever really at the forefront of any real enhancing worries – but they were clearly playing a different game than Kemp is now, even though it was less than a decade ago. Besides them, Snider’s record of 43, which stood for 44 years, is within Kemp’s reach.
* Top five most valuable season in team history. Kemp’s bWAR is at 2.9 right now, and we’ve played 36.4% of the season. Extrapolate that over 162 games, and he’d be at ~7.9. That’d put him behind only Beltre’s 2004, Mike Piazza‘s 1997, and Wynn’s 1974.
Good lord, look at Wynn’s K/BB rate that year. 104/108? Unreal.
* RBI by a Los Angeles Dodger, non-Tommy Davis-unreal-fluke-year-division. In 1962, 23-year-old Tommy Davis, playing mostly left field and third base, drove in 153 runs. Davis had a quality career in parts of 18 seasons, yet never once drove in 90 runs in any other season. How’d that happen? Davis’ career-high 230 hits certainly helped, though I’m guessing hitting behind Maury Wills (104 SB) and Jim Gilliam (.372 OBP) didn’t hurt his cause either. Fluke? Fluke. Kemp, on pace for 126, would have the second-highest mark of any LA Dodger.
(Yes, RBI are stupid. But don’t think that the media and a majority of fans wouldn’t make a big deal over a large RBI total.)
Clearly, Kemp’s having a season for the ages, but it might be even better than that. One thing I couldn’t really check for was “best season by a guy surrounded by minor leaguers.” Beltre had Green, Jayson Werth, Milton Bradley, and Paul LoDuca around him in 2004. Snider had the classic “Boys of Summer” lineup on his side. Other than Andre Ethier and possibly Jamey Carroll, who does Kemp have? Not nearly enough, but in a season that is quickly slipping away, at least we have Matt Kemp.