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Are the Los Angeles Dodgers Seeing Matt Kemp Break Through?

June 18th, 2014 at 7:43 AM
By Jimmy Reynolds

Matt Kemp has been on an offensive tear recently, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally starting to make headway in the standings. Some may simply chalk it up to coincidence, improved batting mechanics or even luck, but Kemp’s hot hitting began June 6 in Colorado, the first game after Don Mattingly called out his team for playing selfishly.

'Matt Kemp' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

While even Mattingly has said that it has not been his words that have made the difference, there has been a marked change in the club, both on the field and in the dugout.

And Matt Kemp has been at the center of it all.

Since Mattingly’s rant, Kemp has slashed .400/.490/.700 with six extra-base hits and 10 RBI. He has homered twice, hit two triples and two doubles, and he has played with aggression on the basepaths. And while he initially sulked about his move to left field, he has started each of these past 12 games in that position without further issue.

The clubhouse chemistry seems to have improved as well, as the Dodgers just seem to be having more fun lately. Perhaps it is a product of going 8-4 and gaining ground in the standings, or perhaps the club realized that they are playing a game that is supposed to be fun.

Hanley Ramirez made reference to this, saying:

“It's what we need. We need to start having fun…You win as a team. That's what you need. If you play together and pull for each other, it doesn't matter if you underperform."

In recent games, the players have employed the use of a bubble machine – yes, a bubble machine – for their celebratory dance parties. The Dodgers are happy, and they are beginning to look like the club they were assembled to be. And Kemp is a big reason.

Over the last 12 games, Kemp has benefitted from a BABIP of .452, which is hardly sustainable, but it is an indication of how well he has been hitting the ball lately. Nearly every time he has made contact it has been solid, and he is beginning to look like the hitter he was in 2011. While there is a lot to be said about small sample sizes and arbitrary end points (you could make a case that the manager chewing his team out is not arbitrary, but nonetheless), the fact remains that Kemp is hitting, the Dodgers are winning and there seems to be much more positivity surrounding the club.

If the Dodgers continue to play well, then it will be very easy to point to June 4 as the turning point, the day when Mattingly called out his team as selfish. Mattingly does not seem too comfortable with this, saying:

"You'd like to think your words have something to do with it, but I really don't. We're swinging the bats good, we're pitching good, and we've been playing pretty good defense."

Tags: Baseball, Don Mattingly, Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp, MLB

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