The 2010 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers was a frustrating one, as they followed up a 95-win season and two straight trips to the NLCS to an 80-82 clunker of a year and also-ran status in the NL West. Emblematic of the tough season at Chavez Ravine was center fielder Matt Kemp, who struggled personally as well. The co-cover boy of the Dodgers 2010 media guide followed up a .297/.352/.490 season in 2009 with a .249/.310/.450 campaign last year.
Kemp got off to a hot start in 2010, but struggled mightily for the bulk of the season. He had a sub-.300 on-base percentage in each of the last four months of the season, was caught stealing an abnormally high 15 times in 34 attempts, and saw his defensive play decline from both a scouting and statistical perspective. The easy, and lazy, way to explain Kemp's poor season is to mention his relationship with pop singer Rihanna and think, since the two are no longer a couple, Kemp is sure to improve in 2011.
However, Chad Moriyama actually dug below the surface, studying film and analyzing Kemp's underlying statistics last year. In his debut post at True Blue LA, Moriyama noticed differences in Kemp's swing from 2009 to 2010:
When he prematurely releases his hips through his stride action, his bat dips further under the contact zone than intended in order to compensate for left side pulling away, and the bat head will be slower to get to the launch position because the core is the primary mover in bat speed. So by Kemp not having his stride in gear, instead of keeping his weight back, power stored, and remaining on time, he's off-balance, drained of bat speed, and late on pitches.
Moriyama also notes that Kemp made adjustments in 2010 as well, which specifically led to a nice finish, hitting a home run in each of his last five games:
What I do believe though, is that Matt Kemp was making clear adjustments, and by employing the same approach and progress he was making at the end of last year to this coming season, paired with a little better fortune, he has a good chance of putting a horrible year behind him.
It's an old and tired cliche, but baseball truly is a game of inches, and even the slightest of adjustments could help Matt Kemp's star get back on track.
The Dodgers averaged just 3.3 runs per game after the 2010 All-Star break, and didn't really do anything to improve the offense much in 2011 (unless you know something about Juan Uribe, Rod Barajas, Jay Gibbons, and Marcus Thames that I don't). For the Dodgers to contend in 2011, they need production from their core of players, most notably Matt Kemp. Moriyama has laid out reasons why that production from Kemp very well could happen this season.
For more information on Matt Kemp and the Dodgers, be sure to read True Blue LA.