Still red hot, Matt Kemp goes 3-for-4, hits sixth homer

24 Comments

The Dodgers have been a two-man offense so far, but when those two are as hot as Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are, that’s plenty good enough.

Kemp went 3-for-4 and hit his sixth homer Sunday as part of a 5-4 win over the Padres, moving the Dodgers to 9-1 on the season.

Kemp is batting .487 this season and has driven in 16 runs in the Dodgers’ 10 games. Ethier has 15 RBI. No one else in either league has more than 12 RBI. Combined, those two have knocked in 31 of the Dodgers’ 50 runs.

Kemp should have been the NL MVP last year, yet he’s already way ahead of his 2011 pace. After 10 games last season, he was hitting .441, but he had just one homer and five RBI.

No one pounds the zone anymore

Getty Images
4 Comments

“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.