Atlanta Braves: Can Matt Kemp Regain Old Form?

Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp was once one of the most feared players in baseball. Having one of the best seasons of recent memory, Kemp arguably should have been NL MVP in 2011. However, since injury struck Kemp in 2012, he has not been the same.

Matt Kemp used to be my favorite baseball player, as a Dodger fan, I remember always doing everything I could to mimic Kemp’s play. The man was a monster, and anyone that downplays his prime is doing a disservice to baseball. Kemp has seemingly never received the credit he deserves, especially being the case during the 2011 season. Despite having a historical great season, Kemp did not receive the accolade he deserved.

As you may know, Kemp lost that MVP race to Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Despite a steroid scandal occurring there after, Kemp still remained in the back seat to other big names. Although Braun did have a good year that season, it is hard to argue against Kemp being most valuable player.

Lets compare the numbers – first and foremost, Matt Kemp logged more Wins Above Replacement, 8.3 to Braun’s 7.1. Although, history has shown us WAR cannot be the sole decider of accolades, so lets ignore that. Kemp slugged 39 home runs, scored 115 times, drove in 126 runs, stole 40 bases, and batted .324. The only statistic Braun had the advantage in was average, as he batted .332. Besides that, Braun slugged 33 home runs, scored 109 times, drove in 111 runs, and stole 33 bases.

While Braun certainly had a fantastic season, it did not measure up to the great season Kemp put together. Heck, Kemp was one home run away from being the fifth ever player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. The Dodgers only played 161 games that year also, so whose to say if Kemp would have reached it or not on 162 games.

Regardless of that, Kemp has seen himself fall of the proverbial mountaintop. Kemp started 2012 off strong, then become the recipient of bad injury history. Kemp struggled in 2013, actually putting together a negative WAR, and never really regained his form. He did do somewhat better in his last season with Los Angeles, but failed to do much with the Padres.

However, 2016 saw Kemp’s power numbers increase, but that still did not make up for his lack of speed and fielding. Long gone was the decent fielding, fast base running Kemp, and in was the power hitting, high strike out Kemp. Before, Kemp could make up for his high strike outs with natural athleticism, but now that isn’t the case. However, slugging 35 home runs and 108 runs batted in is quite good, and if he was a DH those would be extremely great numbers.

Next season may be different for Matt Kemp, as he seemingly is looking to reinvent his career. Kemp reportedly slimmed down by 30 pounds this off-season, and despite losing weight, he gained more muscle mass. As AJC’s David O’Brien stated:

His waist, midsection and backside are slimmer, and his arms and chest are massive.

Now, we have all seen Pablo Sandoval lose and gain weight like it is nobody’s business, but this could be a very promising sign for Braves fans. Kemp already has the power, which is what he was likely brought in for, and now with the potential to return to his athletic state he could truly be a dynamic player. He likely won’t be a 40-40 guy again, or even 30-30, but with his change of physique we may have a 30-20 player at our hands.

Heck, Kemp’s worst attribute is easily his horrible fielding, and even at his best he was always just average (Minus 2009 in which he won a Gold Glove). If Kemp can use raw athleticism, he can manage his fielding to an extent where it won’t hurt the Barves. Playing in either cornner outfield spot, the Braves don’t need a Gold Glove Kemp.

Only time will tell if Kemp can perform up to his old potential, but if anything Kemp’s new physique is an extremely positive sign. Kemp is obviously taking baseball and winning very seriously, and that will directly translate into his play in some form.

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