2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2013 Fantasy Baseball, Hold or Fold: Matt Kemp

One of the peculiar things in professional sports is the pay structure involved. Most other businesses have established pay schedules or rules of thumb that govern what we get paid. In professional sports (particularly baseball) a player can be Hall of Fame worthy, but his pay early in his career will be paltry. Suddenly, he enters arbitration and it skyrockets. The key for fans and fantasy players alike is not to adjust their expectations after a player gets his huge pay day.

Enter Matt Kemp. Kemp began an eight year 160 million dollar deal this past season following what should have been a MVP campaign in 2011 (sorry Ryan Braun fans). The temptation is to take his huge contract and his 2011 season and assume that Matt Kemp has arrived as a superstar. The problem is that the numbers don’t necessarily back that up.

For those that have been following the hold and fold series, you know that we use past numbers (read: not 2013) to determine whether a slumping player is really just slumping or whether there is something else going on. Often times, we find that a player’s draft position was based on unrealistic expectations. That is why we look deeply at the past on multiple levels to see what is going on. We start with the simple numbers.

AVG

HR

Runs

RBI

SB

2008

.290

18

93

76

35

2009

.297

26

97

101

34

2010

.249

28

82

89

19

2011

.324

39

115

126

40

2012

.303

23

74

69

9

2011 is bolded because it sticks out like a sore thumb. Admittedly, basic numbers like these can hide a multitude of sins and can hide some goodness as well. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a sabermetrician) to figure out that 2011 was a career season.  Of course, we know that now. The Dodgers and many others thought it was the beginning of a strong peak before the 2012 season.

Take away some nagging injuries and you would see that he is generally improving as he goes. The problem is that 2011 made it seem like that improvement was coming faster and stronger than it really was. If you remove the season entirely you’ll find that Kemp is still a very good player and close to elite in fantasy terms when you add the speed into the equation. He just isn’t the all-world player that he was in 2011. The next two tables will tell this story in a lot more detail.

OBP

SLG

ISOpw

ISOpa

BABIP

2008

.340

.459

.168

.050

.361

2009

.352

.490

.193

.055

.345

2010

.310

.450

.201

.061

.295

2011

.399

.586

.262

.075

.380

2012

.367

.538

.236

.064

.354

Even if you had no idea what these numbers meant in context, you would still see the undeniable positive trend if 2011 is removed. The OBP numbers go from .340, .352. ,310, to .367. Even with 2010 thrown in, that is steady improvement. If we were to forecast his 2013 season from that we would probably expect something in the neighborhood of .370 to .375.

The same is true of the slugging percentage numbers as well as the isolated power (ISOpw) and isolated patience (ISOpa) as well. Each shows steady progress from 2008 forward. In fact, the isolated power and patience numbers show the steady climb for 2010 as well. The only major difference was an abnormally low batting average on ball in play (for him).

Normally, we would be concerned about the high BABIPs because a dip to normalcy would be expected. However, Kemp has been north of the 20 percent mark in line drives in each season of his career (including early 2013 numbers). The league average tends to hover around 18 percent, so anyone that hovers between 21 and 23 percent (as Kemp does) will see a higher BABIP. The last table will also demonstrate his steady improvement as well.

SO%

BB%

Oswing%

Contact%

SwStr

2008

23.3

7.0

31.5

74.1

13.1

2009

20.8

7.8

28.5

76.0

12.8

2010

25.4

7.9

30.9

71.8

12.6

2011

23.1

10.7

32.9

73.3

11.0

2012

22.9

8.9

32.9

72.9

13.1

If you looked at the Josh Hamilton tables you will see many of the same concerns here. We have someone with a slightly elevated strikeout rate (2o percent is league average) and lower walk rates than we would like (ten percent is the goal there). However, we do see some major differences between the two players.

The major difference is a steady increase in the walk rate for Kemp. Again, the 2011 numbers are causing a bit of statistical noise here, but if we remove those numbers the implications are clear. Kemp should approach a ten percent walk rate this season if the trend continues. The strikeout rate hasn’t gone down, but it also hasn’t increased in any real way either. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that his swing rate on balls outside the zone (Oswing%), contact rate, and swing and miss rate have all remained fairly stable.

The implication is quite clear. Unlike Josh Hamilton, we can feel very confident that Kemp will return to career norms and should even improve on those norms. The difficulty is in distilling out the 2011 season out of our mind. The Dodgers paid him based on that season, so no one should kick themselves for entering into their pre-draft thinking. Yet, the simple truth is that a 40/40 season is probably not in the offing. 30/30 might be a possibility and in that case he is well worth holding onto.

Now, if someone is foolish enough to offer you a package that makes Kemp look like a league MVP then you should take it. That being said, there is nothing to suggest that he shouldn’t be an all-star level performer this season and into the future. His strikeout and walk rates are elevated, but those don’t normally stabalize until the middle of May. I see some positive regression in  his future.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Joe Kennedy
    May 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm — Reply

    Hey, great article. I had been thinking of trading Kemp away, and was about to pull the trigger on Kemp & Chapman for King Felix & Cespedes in a Keeper league. My roster is below, as you can see I could do with a young SP like Felix. What do you think?

    Wilin Rosario
    (Col – C)

    Paul Goldschmidt
    (Ari – 1B)

    Jose Altuve
    (Hou – 2B)

    Miguel Cabrera
    (Det – 3B)

    Asdrubal Cabrera
    (Cle – SS)

    Mike Trout
    (LAA – OF)

    Justin Upton
    (Atl – OF)

    Matt Kemp
    (LAD – OF)

    Nick Swisher
    (Cle – 1B,OF)

    Kendrys Morales
    (Sea – 1B)

    Jose Reyes
    (Tor – SS)
    DL

    Mike Minor
    (Atl – SP)

    Cole Hamels
    (Phi – SP)

    Jon Lester
    (Bos – SP)

    RP
    Aroldis Chapman
    (Cin – RP)

    RP
    Ernesto Frieri
    (LAA – RP)

    Edward Mujica
    (StL – RP)

    Huston Street
    (SD – RP)

    Anibal Sanchez
    (Det – SP)

    Madison Bumgarner
    (SF – SP)

    Matt Garza
    (ChC – SP)

    Wandy Rodriguez
    (Pit – SP)

    Mike Leake
    (Cin – SP)

    David Price
    (TB – SP)
    DL

    • June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am — Reply

      Sorry for taking so long to respond. Keeper leagues are a unique animal. For this year alone, that looks like a very nice deal for you. Long term I worry about King Felix. His workload suggests his arm may fall off eventually. So, how worried are you about 2014 and beyond?

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