It wasn’t that long ago when benching Matt Kemp would have seemed like a crazy idea. Two seasons ago he should have been NL MVP, and last season he posted a .905 OPS in 106 games. He’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup, so not having him in there seems crazy. But that has not been the case this season.
Kemp has hit .260/.312/.343 in 48 games and only has two home runs. His 14 walks to 54 strikeouts is his worst ratio since his first two seasons in the bigs. He’s hit poorly enough this season where he was actually pulled on Saturday and benched on Sunday.
Kemp struck out with two men on to end the sixth inning with the Dodgers up 4-3 on the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday. He was lifted as part of a double-switch that saw pitcher Kenley Jansen enter the game in his spot and Skip Schumaker replace him in center and bat in the pitcher’s spot. Manager Don Mattingly wanted Jansen to pitch more than one inning (which might result in his spot in the batting order coming up), and Kemp had made the last out, so he subbed him as part of a double-switch.
Kemp was ticked off when he entered the dugout, and he could be seen saying, “The f— is that bulls— about man?” toward Mattingly.
According to ESPN LA, Mattingly said that he saw Kemp’s reaction on replay and was not offended.
Mattingly also benched Kemp on Sunday to give the outfielder a day off against a tough pitcher. Mattingly noted that right-handed hitters are only batting .177 against Shelby Miller and decided that was a good time to give Kemp a break. Kemp did get a pinch-hit at-bat in the game and went 0-for-1.
Benching Kemp and Andre Ethier could make Mattingly less popular among some players, but he says he’s not concerned about that.
I’m not really questioning Mattingly at this point. The Dodgers are 20-28 and he’s trying to shake things up to get results. It’s just surprising that Kemp and Ethier, who have been the Dodgers’ most reliable hitters the past handful of seasons, are now getting benched.