By the looks of things, the Dodgers ought to worry less about Matt Kemp‘s mechanics at the plate than what’s going on inside his head.
That image, courtesy of MLB.com’s Gameday tool, shows Kemp’s final at-bat Tuesday against Jason Marquis. Appropriate to the picture, the bat did not leave his shoulders. Kemp took an 83-mph slider, an 88-mph sinker, and an 82-mph changeup for strikes, ending the sixth inning with a whimper.
I didn’t have a chance to speak to Kemp after the game, but Kemp typically isn’t introspective in the midst of a slump. Most hitters aren’t; if they could explain why they were slumping, they would be hitting the ball better. Based on that sixth-inning at-bat, it would be tempting to pin Kemp’s problem on poor pitch selection. It might not be that simple.
Here’s how Marquis struck out Kemp to end the third inning:
In this at-bat, Kemp’s pitch selection is pretty good. He took two pitches low and out of the zone with two strikes (#3 and #4), then swung a pitch (#5) that might have been a strike — it was about an inch higher than the pitch before. Yet Kemp missed. You have to wonder what he was thinking on the second pitch of this at-bat, a swing-and-miss on a slider over the fattest part of the plate.
Kemp saw two sinkers from Marquis in his first at-bat. The pitch chart isn’t integral here — Kemp took a ball 10 inches off the plate then flew out to right field on the second pitch, which was in the strike zone. Both pitches were sinkers.
By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Kemp should have figured he wasn’t getting any fastballs from Marquis. Yet he took three breaking balls in the strike zone without swinging the bat.
Don Mattingly said after the game that he’s considering giving Kemp a day off, even though the Dodgers have an off-day Thursday. The manager seems to believe Kemp’s slump (he’s hitting .185) begins and ends between his ears.
“Matt’s pressing pretty good,” Mattingly said. “Tonight he seemed really frustrated. The game didn’t help. It’s one of those games that you jump behind early, nothing kind of seems to go your way, and he seemed to be — obviously it didn’t go very good for him.”
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