MSTI.com’s 2008 In Review: Center FieldNovember 3, 2008 at 7:54 pm | Posted in 2008 in review, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp | 7 Comments
Matt Kemp (C+)
(.290/.340/.459 18hr 76rbi 35sb)
I suppose I’m going to have to give Joe Torre a little credit sometime, so here it is: in a season that began with us asking him to “Free Matt Kemp!”, Joe, well, did. Kemp’s 657 plate appearances were the most of any Dodger, just beating out James Loney’s 651 and Russell Martin’s 650 – and yes, 650 plate appearances for a catcher does completely blow my mind, thank you for asking.
Just like everyone else, it seems, this is a really difficult grade to assign. You can really look at Kemp’s season in a few different ways:
1) As compared to his own 2007. This one’s not going to go too well for the young Bison. Granted, Kemp played only about half a season in 2007. That said, between 2007-08, Kemp declined in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS (obviously), HR/AB, K/AB, EQA, and runs created – in addition to setting the all-time Dodger record for strikeouts with 153.
2) As compared to other outfielders. For the purposes of comparison, we’re going to compare Kemp’s entire offseason season to other center fielders, not just the games in which he actually played there. Now, he did finish 9th among all center fielders in VORP, which is pretty nice for a 23-year-old. However, VORP can be a little deceiving, because it’s a counting stat and therefore skewed towards players with more at-bats, which means that when Vernon Wells is just 2.4 VORPsicles behind Kemp despite nearly 200 fewer plate appearances, it’s not exactly a point in Kemp’s favor. (Then again, the ability to stay healthy and/or not having to get platooned should be considered important as well, but that’s another conversation entirely). When we look at VORP rate/game, Kemp drops to 15th among center fielders with at least 200 at-bats. That is higher than names like Aaron Rowand, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Cameron, but still leaves him in about the middle of the pack. While he does get credit for stealing 35 bases, that still places him seventh among center fielders, and on defense, Baseball Prospectus ranks him at 4 runs above average in center field.
Taking all this into consideration – plus his 108 OPS+ – it’s pretty clear that Kemp had an average-to-slightly-above-average 2008 campaign compared to his positional peers. Considering how fantastic he was in 2007, this has to be considered somewhat of a disappointment, and that’s why he gets a C+. He was good, but not as good as we’d hoped he would be. Now you might wonder why Kemp gets a C+ after we said basically the same things about James Loney, but gave him a much lower grade. Each came into 2008 with high expectations, and while certainly neither flopped, neither really lived up to what we’d hoped for them. The reason for that is simply experience. It’s a well-known fact that Kemp spent much of his childhood focusing on basketball, and was considered a very raw – though talented – prospect, which is partially why he was available to draft in the 6th round. Not only was Loney considered a much more polished player when he was drafted in the 1st round, he accumulated nearly 600 more minor-league at-bats than Kemp had. We’ve seen Kemp do a lot of on-the-job learning at the MLB level (as we’ve seen with his occasional baserunning gaffes), while Loney was expected to be ready, if not more than ready. In fact, age plays a central role in the final way of looking at Kemp’s 2008…
3) As compared to other players his age. There were 11 outfielders aged 24 or under who qualified for the batting title in 2008, and here Kemp compares very favorably. He finished third in OPS, HR, and RBI, second in stolen bases, and that becomes all the more impressive when you realize that the two guys who topped him in the first three categories are insta-studs Nick Markakis and Ryan Braun. If you expand it to all players regardless of position in that age range, you’re now looking at 19 players, but you’ve now added huge names like Hanley Ramirez, Prince Fielder, Brian McCann, and Evan Longoria. Still, Kemp holds his own, placing 7th in OPS, ahead of B.J. Upton, Loney, and Delmon Young. The point here is, among players in his peer age group, Kemp acquits himself pretty well – and that’s despite his relative inexperience compared to them and the fact that some of the best players in baseball are represented here.
So don’t let the C+ grade mislead you. Here at MSTI, we still think Matt Kemp is going to be a huge star (I had to defend him against claims of being overrated here in July). A 23-year-old who was a slightly above-average hitter, showed excellent speed in stealing 35 bases, and proved he could hold down center field (16 outfield assists between CF and RF) is an unbelievably valuable asset. Consider that this is what he’s doing now, just a few years after choosing baseball as a full-time profession, and it’s not that hard to get excited over what he might be able to do in a few years once he hits his prime.
So please. Please. Can we just leave him be, give him a lineup spot (be it CF or RF), and just leave him alone and let him play? No more overpriced free agent outfielders (Manny aside), no more complaints from Old Man Jeff Kent about lockerroom respect. Just let the kid play.
Andruw Jones (F)
(.158/.256/.249 3hr 14rbi)
No, that’s not quite right…
Andruw Jones ()
(.158/.256/.249 3hr 14rbi)
The pig is closer, but not exactly…
Andruw Jones ()
(.158/.256/.249 3hr 14rbi)
Ahh, there we go. Andruw Jones is a criminal. Yes, much better. Andruw Jones stole money from the Dodgers at such a rate that it’s making Jason Schmidt and Darren Dreifort look like sensible investments.
And really, I’m not even sure what needs to be said here. Do you really need me to tell you how unspeakably awful Andruw Jones was in 2008? Of course you don’t. But it’s just unfathomable how disastrous he was for this team, and how there was never once at any point a glimmer of hope. I mean, the first mention I can find of us wondering about Andruw Jones on this blog was way back on April 5, less than a week into the season. He hit .175 at home, and .142 on the road. He didn’t hit above .178 in any single month of the season, and he struck out in nearly a full one-third of his at-bats, He hit exactly zero homers at Dodger Stadium, and there were even rumors floating around that Frank McCourt might try to sue him for his astoundingly horrible “performance”. He had three multi-hit games all season (all of just two hits), and if anyone finds pitchers Chuck James of Atlanta, Ben Sheets of Milwaukee, or Ron Villone of St. Louis hanging by a belt in their closets, it’s because they form the unholy trinity of pitchers who actually allowed home runs to the Worst Player of All Time, Andruw Jones.
Oh, and lest you think I’m kidding about “the Worst Player of All Time”, avert your eyes. It’s no surprise that Jones was just about the worst MLB player in 2008 (no player with as many plate appearances as him had a lower VORP rate/game). But on July 12, ESPN’s Jayson Stark annointed him a contender for the all-time title, saying,
Sheez, what happened to this man? If Andruw Jones‘s second half resembles his first half, he’s potentially heading for (ready for this?) the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History. At this rate, he’d finish with a .172 average, .261 slugging percentage, five homers, 21 RBIs, 125 strikeouts and only 64 hits. And you shouldn’t be flabbergasted to learn that the all-time list of players who have had numbers that gruesome consists of, well, nobody. Heck, only three other players in history have even had twice as many strikeouts as hits (in a season of 100 or more whiffs): Rob Deer (175-80 in 1991), Dave Nicholson (126-60 in 1964) and Mark McGwire (118-56 in 2001). But at least those fellows made a few home run trots, or finished over the Mendoza Line.
Take a close look at that quote, especially the part where Stark says what Jones’ final stats would be if he continued on that rate. If he’d finished with the number Stark says above, then that would be good enough to get him to the level of worst ever. Considering that Jones somehow did even worse after this article came out (.128 with 1 homer) and couldn’t even reach the levels of ineptitude laid out above, I’d say he took this title and made it his bitch – and that’s not even considering the absurd amount of cash he was paid to do it.
The best part is, 2009 already sounds like it’s not going to be any better. One would assume that after a historically embarrassing season, a player would want nothing more than to be out of the public eye, work hard all offseason, and come back in the spring hungry to clear his name. That’s what you said to the Los Angeles Times, right Andruw?
Jones said he expects to be the everyday center fielder next season.
“I’m an everyday guy or I need to move out,” he said.
Great start. And about moving out, Andruw?
“I’ve got one more year in my contract,” said Jones, now playing with the L.A. Dodgers. “Hopefully, I can come back to Atlanta. I would love to finish my career here.”
Phenomenal. So now we’ve got a guy who’s not only despised in Los Angeles more than any combination of Paul DePodesta, Hee-Seop Choi, Juan Pierre, Georgia Frontiere, Al Davis, OJ Simpson, and Perez Hilton, but he’s already demanding a starting role and is plotting his escape.
Well guess what, you fat sack of crap? We’d love to have you gone. LOVE to. But there are almost no circumstances in which that’s going to happen, because you were so transcendently awful, your big contract is not even the concern. You were so dreadful that it’s questionable whether you even deserve a major league roster spot, even at the minimum. And it’s at that point where the contract does come into play, because even if a team decided to expend a precious 25-man roster spot at the veteran minimum (which is not a guarantee right now), that’d require the Dodgers to pick up nearly $20 million just to move you. Now we all know that just isn’t going to happen, unless the Dodgers take back a similarly awful contract in return, which is unlikely, because how could anything be nearly as bad as this? You’re stuck with us, and we’re stuck with you, except hopefully next year you won’t be shoveling Funions down your maw while watching Manny, Kemp, and Ethier patrol the outfield.
Unless… if a current Dodger is openly talking about playing for the Braves, maybe the lawyers can find a loophole in the deal to void the contract? Probably not. A man can dream, though. A man can dream.
– Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness