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Know Your Foe #8: Matt Kemp Aims to Finish April with 15 Homers as the Dodgers Invade Coors Field

Just one of many images that can be found of Matt Kemp's teammates piggy-backing him.
Just one of many images that can be found of Matt Kemp's teammates piggy-backing him.

With a record of 16-6, the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers come swaggering into Coors Field looking to continue their forever-long success against the Rockies. Okay, last year was sort of an outlier, as the teams split 18 games, but the Dodgers also outscored the Rockies by 17 runs, so the success thing still stands. Anyway, the Bums are coming off a three-game sweep of the resurgent Washington Nationals, the first series against a decent team that has gone the Dodgers' way. So far, they're 11-2 against the Padres, Pirates, and Astros, and were 2-4 against decent-to-good teams (Braves and Brewers) prior to the Nats series. The Dodgers set out to prove they could beat a good team, and they did just that by outpitching their opponent; they allowed just five runs during the three-game set, while scoring only nine. The upcoming series against the Rockies will pose a challenge of a different sort, as they'll look to contain a team that is great offensively in their home ballpark, but one that cannot pitch to save its life. The Dodgers will have to outscore the Rockies to win the series; fortunately for them, they have a guy on their team that is capable of doing it all by himself.

Matt Kemp

#27 / Center Field / Los Angeles Dodgers





Sep 23, 1984

2012 - Matt Kemp .425 .495 .887

If I told you that, right now, Matt Kemp is the best player in baseball, could you honestly put up an argument against me? Just ask yourselves that. Kemp leads the league in the following offensive categories:

Runs (23)

Hits (34)

Home Runs (11)

Runs Batted In (24)

Batting Average (.425)

Slugging Percentage (.888)

OPS (1.382)

OPS+ (282)

Surprisingly, his .495 on-base percentage does not lead the league, as that distinction belongs to a guy who just got done tearing up the Rockies' pitching staff (David Wright, .506). Kemp's numbers obviously won't stay at this same pace (as a .460 BABIP is hardly sustainable), but it would not surprise me if the guy hits 50 home runs. It will also not surprise me if he hits four home runs tonight (hence the headline) and about ten in the series. He has a 1.002 career OPS at Coors Field with ten bombs in 195 plate appearances. Ouch. Regardless of what he does in this series (although odds are whatever it is, it will only help his cause), another season like last year's (or better, as I think will be the case) and Kemp will cross the bridge to mega-stardom.

Naturally, on a team that is 16-6, Kemp isn't doing ALL of the damage on his own. Andre Ethier has been a formidable tag-team partner, as he has posted a 146 OPS+ with five home runs and 13 extra-base hits in all. The always-obnoxious AJ Ellis is off to a great start as well, as he has a rather OBP-heavy 141 OPS+ thanks to 14 walks (compared to 15 strikeouts). Everyone else in the everyday lineup has been below-average, and some considerably so; young sensation Dee Gordon, who hit .304 in 233 plate appearances a year ago, has regressed heavily and sports an OPS+ of just 41 currently. Another interesting note about the Dodgers is that only Kemp and Ethier own more than one home run. In fact, only five guys on the team have homered at all. Compare that to a team like the Rockies, who have had nine guys homer at least once and six who have homered multiple times.

That brings us to a phenomenon that deserves its own paragraph. James Loney, who is among the worst offensive first basemen in baseball against 28 out of the 29 teams he faces, and is Babe Ruth against just one - you guessed it, our Rockies. In 358 career plate appearances against Colorado, Loney is a .300/.356/.508 hitter with 15 homers and 75 RBI. Hell, those numbers aren't even heavily weighted from when he was highly thought of earlier in his career. To make my point, just last season, Loney hit .353/.371/.662 against the Rockies with six homers. He hit six homers against everyone else COMBINED. What's worse, Loney has posted a .966 OPS in 187 plate appearances in Denver. Don't feel bad, though - he does this to the D-Backs as well (1.071 OPS in 172 PA's at Chase Field). That guy is a grade-A dick to the opposition in hitter's parks.

Even with all of the offense they've been getting, the Dodgers' pitching has still been top notch, which is a big reason why they're ten games over .500. Four out of their five starters are above-average in terms of ERA+; only Aaron Harang is not, and it's not like he has been terrible, as his 9.9 K/9 would indicate. Chad Billingsley looks to be back to his former somewhat-dominant self, and Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. Some regression should be expected out of Chris Capuano (2.73 ERA, 130 ERA+) and Ted Lilly (0.90 ERA, 398 ERA+) - particularly Lilly, who has been operating with a .167 BABIP-against.

Pitching matchups and more after the jump...

LA is really Dodging (get it?) a bullet this series, as Chad Billingsley will not have to pitch at Coors Field, where he holds a 1-6 record with a 7.26 ERA. The Rockies will have to capitalize on facing contact guys (historically, at least) in Harang and Lilly.

Game 1 (tonight at 6:40 PM): Aaron Harang (1-1, 5.16 ERA) vs. Juan Nicasio (1-0, 4.76 ERA)

Game 2 (tomorrow at 6:40 PM): Ted Lilly (2-0, 0.90 ERA) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (0-2, 5.85 ERA)

Game 3 (Wednesday at 1:10 PM): Clayton Kershaw (2-0, 1.78 ERA) vs. Drew Pomeranz (0-1, 5.40 ERA)

Los Angeles Dodgers Roster

pitchers # Pos.
Chad Billingsley 58 P
Chris Capuano 35 P
Todd Coffey 60 P
Scott Elbert 57 P
Javy Guerra 54 P
Aaron Harang 44 P
Kenley Jansen 74 P
Clayton Kershaw 22 P
Ted Lilly 29 P
Josh Lindblom 52 P
Mike MacDougal 66 P
Jamey Wright 28 P
catchers # Pos.
A.J. Ellis 17 C
Matt Treanor 18 C
infielders # Pos.
Mark Ellis 14 2B
Dee Gordon 9 SS
Jerry Hairston Jr. 6 SS
Adam Kennedy 3 2B
James Loney 7 1B
Justin Sellers 12 2B
Juan Uribe 5 3B
outfielders # Pos.
Andre Ethier 16 RF
Tony Gwynn Jr. 10 LF
Matt Kemp 27 CF
Juan Rivera 21 LF


Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Aaron Harang foot 04/30/2012


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jerry Hairston Jr. hand 04/30/2012
Mike MacDougal other-excused 04/30/2012
Juan Rivera hamstring 04/30/2012


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Ivan De Jesus oblique 03/26/2012
Todd Coffey knee 04/14/2012
Matt Guerrier elbow 04/19/2012

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rubby De La Rosa elbow 02/23/2012
Blake Hawksworth elbow 03/27/2012