Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kemp's Mental Lapses on the Basepaths...they've gotta stop

Matt Kemp tagged out at home on Monday night's game, a 5-1 victory. (photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Base running miscues finally caught up to the Dodgers last night.  All season long they have been happening, but somehow, they didn’t appear to cost the club the game.  Last night their luck ran out as the Dodgers ran themselves out of two innings with poor base running execution by the real MVP, Matt Kemp.   
It is hard to fault Matt on the first miscue.  Uggla made a tremendous catch, turn and throw, and the call at first was bad, but the play was too close for comfort and it cost him.  Kemp shouldn’t have been caught in no man’s land on the Rivera pop up.  It was Matt's second miscue on the basepaths that was costly.   Simply put, it was another mental lapse as he made a feeble two step commitment to dash towards second base before changing his mind.  Kemp knew what he did, and he didn't even bother arguing the point after the umpires conferred and called him out.  
For a player with Matt’s veteran experience, there is no excuse for these mistakes.  The days are gone where we can say that Kemp is a basketball player playing baseball.  Matt has dedicated himself to this sport now for 8-9 years and these mental lapses shouldn’t be happening anymore.  
The point I want to make here is that the Dodgers have been absolutely reckless on the basepaths and giving away outs way too often for comfort.  It caught up to them tonight in the 4-3 loss.  It should have cost them the night before where a base hit by Ethier resulted in an 8-6-2-1 double play on the basepaths. 
I must add that I believe Kemp is still the best player in the game.  He’s a beast.  A monster.  He is a dominating player and as the years have passed I think he has improved and matured as a player, with one exception.  He’s not an intelligent base runner.  He attempts extra bases at bad times, such as two games ago, when he sprinted through Wallach’s stop sign are ran home, only to be thrown out by 20 feet.  His base stealing technique is poor, where he often beats the throw and then slides past the base head first and is tagged out.  He has brain lapses out there, misreading cut off men, getting caught in run downs.  It is the one area of his game that needs to improve, and it isn’t as if Lopes and Wills haven’t been preaching to him each year.
Kemp’s aggression on the paths is second to none, but his decision making and technique is to be questioned.  One thing that Matt should remove from his mindset is his stolen base prediction that he made during the off-season.  He’s not going to steal 50 bags this year.  Twenty-five?  Doable.  Fifty? No way.  Nor should he even attempt more than 35.  He’ll be on base plenty of times, the decision to take off for second base, to simply pad his SB stats may not always be prudent.  

Matt Kemp searches for the ball after not coming up with Martin Prado's ninth inning fly ball to the right field wall (photo by Jason Redmond/AP)
I do realize we’ve been spoiled by Kemp’s super-human talent.  This has been an amazing month.  When he didn’t come up with that fly ball with two outs at the top of the ninth, I have to admit, I was surprised.  Matt usually makes that catch in his sleep.  Where Matt needs to stop sleeping though is on the base paths.  He’ll need to keep his head in the game and think intelligently.  Aggression is great, but at times, not the most smartest choice to make.


  1. One thing that's odd about this post is you talk about the need for Kemp to curtail his stolen-base attempts - which is something he has already done. He's only attempted three this year, I believe, and none of his baserunning mistakes the past two days came on steal attempts. Why, exactly, can't he approach his stolen bases the same way he did last year, when he stole 40 out of 51?

    There's zero indication that he's trying to pad his steals totals - if anything, he's been conservative, and one could even argue too conservative.

    Obviously we don't want him to make any baserunning mistakes, but these things happen, and the "there's no excuse" sentiment ignores the fact that we're all human and make mistakes. Kemp has been pretty great on the basepaths this year before Monday, and this post does show a level of expecting perfection.

  2. Hi Jon, Thanks for your comments. I highly respect your opinion, and you point out some flaws in my reasoning. Specifically the few base stealing attempts this year. I can't even argue that point. You're right, he has backed off on them. There hasn't been a time that I have thought, he should have stole second. Not this year so far anyway.

    Now am I expecting perfection? Perhaps. Maybe I'm guilty of expecting that from such an exceptional ball player who is playing out of his mind. It's just that the basepath mental errors the past few games really stood out and reminded me of previous years. He is a veteran and should have better baseball sense. Just my opinion.

    Steve Dilbeck's column today, (which posted about the same time I posted mine), called for calm, which was precisely the opposite of what I did. An emotional post and perhaps over-thinking things a bit. I was guilty of that the day before, saying that Uribe had perhaps tuned the corner and started hitting pitches to the opposite field, only to see him revert back to bad habits last night.

    I'll take my lumps though. I thought I might. Attacking Kemp isn't the smartest thing to do these days especially after the exceptional two and a half week he has played thus far.

    162 games...'aint this game grand?