Dodgers really missed Kemp

Friday marks the start of the second half of the season and Matt Kemp's second return from the disabled list. Kemp's two absences, totaling 51 games, were clearly a huge blow to the Dodgers, and a deeper look into the numbers shows just how much the Dodgers missed Kemp.

Dodgers, This Season
With and Without Kemp in Starting Lineup

In Kemp's 35 starts, the Dodgers are 23-12; they’re 24-28 with him out of the lineup, including one game in which he played but did not start. The offense has predictably suffered without last year's MVP runner-up, averaging nearly a full run less per game without Kemp. In 36 games this season, Kemp has 12 home runs; in 37 games since Kemp went on the disabled list a second time, the Dodgers as a team have just 12 home runs. Kemp’s 12 home runs still lead the team even though he’s missed more than half of the Dodgers’ games.

This June, the Dodgers hit just six home runs; Kemp by himself had nine last June. The Dodgers were shut out once in Kemp’s 36 games and seven times in the 51 games in which he didn’t play. Kemp had 12 multi-hit games when he was healthy, and the Dodgers went 12-0 in those games.

Other than Kemp himself, Andre Ethier might be the person most thankful for Kemp’s return. Ethier, who struggled mightily in June, performed significantly better in the first half when he played with Kemp. In Kemp’s 35 starts, Ethier hit .336 with seven home runs and 34 RBI. In Ethier’s other 40 games, he hit .252 with three home runs and 21 RBI. Part of Ethier’s problem is how teams pitched him without Kemp in the lineup. When Kemp played, Ethier saw fastballs 56 percent of the time, a number that dropped to 50 percent without him.

One specific area Kemp will help with is the Dodgers’ hitting against left-handed pitching. With Kemp, the Dodgers hit .264 against left-handed pitching with 10 home runs and 57 RBI in 382 at-bats. In games when Kemp didn’t start, the Dodgers’ average dropped to .225 with 11 homers and 53 RBI in 618 at-bats. Kemp by himself had only 37 at-bats against lefties in the first half, but he still managed to collect 18 hits (a .486 average) with five home runs. Kemp’s five home runs against lefties are remarkable, given that no other Dodger has more than two homers against southpaws over this entire season. For the entire month of June, the Dodgers hit .189 with just two home runs against lefties in 371 at-bats.

Andre Ethier, This Season
With and Without Kemp in Starting Lineup

Further evidence of the Dodgers’ struggles against lefties comes in the performance of left-handed starters against the Dodgers with and without Kemp. Lefties made 15 starts against the Dodgers with Kemp in the lineup and were 3-8 with a 3.93 ERA in those starts. Without having to face Kemp, left-handed starters faced the Dodgers 17 times and fared much better. Although their combined record was only 6-6, the ERA dropped to 2.61, and they allowed two fewer home runs in almost 25 more innings than lefties who faced the Dodgers with Kemp in the lineup.

Despite’s the offense’s struggles without Kemp, the Dodgers still managed to enter the All-Star break in the first place in the NL West, thanks largely to the pitching. At four games under .500 with Kemp on the bench and 11 games over .500 when he starts, it’s clear just how important Kemp is to the team. With his return, as well as Andre Ethier’s, hopes have to be high for the Dodgers to return to their winning ways of the first month and a half of the season.