Kemp building case as baseball's most underrated player

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Matt Kemp went 3-for-3 with a walk and the go-ahead homer in the eighth
inning yesterday afternoon, scoring all four times he reached base as
the Dodgers won 4-3. In performing his one-man show Kemp became the first player since Dick McAuliffe in 1968 to score at least four times while accounting for all of his team’s runs.

What makes Kemp’s feat particularly noteworthy is that he scored four
times despite batting seventh in the Dodgers’ lineup, so he had Brad
Ausmus and the pitcher’s spot behind him. Only five players in the history of baseball
have batted more times than Ausmus while posting a lower adjusted OPS+,
but last night he twice drove in Kemp with doubles before Kemp later
scored on back-to-back errors and his own homer.

Kemp is now batting .321/.385/.500 with 30 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 90 games, rates as the third-best defensive outfielder in the NL according to Ultimate Zone Rating, and ranks third in the league
in runs above replacement level behind only Albert Pujols and Chase
Utley. Oh, and Kemp is just 24 years old and hit .299/.342/.474 in 305
games prior to this season after batting .311/.359/.519 in the minors.

Despite all of that, Kemp wasn’t picked for the All-Star game while
eight outfielders and a grand total of 21 position players made the NL
squad and has inexplicably batted higher than sixth in the Dodgers’
lineup just 13 times. Meanwhile, he’s batted seventh 40 times and
either eighth or ninth 18 times. Has a 24-year-old career
.305/.352/.482 hitter and Gold Glove-caliber center fielder ever
received less credit?

As a wise man once said: “I’m speechless. Speechless. I have no speech.”

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.