Sunday, April 22, 2012

Matt Kemp is Pretty... Pretty... Pretty Good

The Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a pretty incredible start. Through 15 games Kemp has already gotten 27 hits, including a Dodger record 9 home runs. He has scored 17 runs and driven in 22 more. Kemp is batting .474, his on-base percentage is .523, and his slugging percentage is 1.018. I think Matt Kemp was the best player in all of baseball in 2011 (though Ryan Braun took home the NL MVP award), he seems intent on leaving no doubt about the matter in 2012.

There has already been a lot of virtual ink spilled over Kemp's great start, but one thing I haven't seen any mention of yet is his impressive number of total bases (a single is 1 base, a double is 2, a triple is 3, a home run is 4. Add them all up, and you get a player's total bases. I know that's obvious to most of you, but I can try to teach my mom a little on here too, right?). This is an understandable, as total bases don't have the history of home runs, hits, or RBI, or even of doubles and triples. But a guy with a lot of total bases is probably getting a lot of all of those things, and it's a fun way to look at things. Anyway, through 15 games, Kemp has 58 total bases, which would be a very strong total through 30 games.

Retrosheet is a non-profit organization that ha compiled box scores for every MLB game going back to 1918. Seasonal data is available even further back, but for single game stuff, 1918 is the starting point. Using Baseball-Reference's incredible Play Index, I looked to find which players accumulated the most total bases through the first 15 games of the season. Here are the top ten:

1. Alex Rodriguez (2007 Yankees) - 65 Rodriguez finished the season with 376 total bases, to lead the A.L. He also led the league with 54 home runs, and also in runs scored, runs driven in, slugging percentage, and OPS. It's close, but I think this is the greatest offensive season of Rodriguez's career.

t2. Willie Mays (1964 Giants) - 63 Mays finished the season with 351 total bases, second in the N.L. He also led the league in home runs, with 47, and in slugging percentage and OPS. This might not even have been one of Mays' five best seasons, which tells you how great a player he was.

t2. Chris Shelton (2006 Tigers) - 63 Shelton finished the season with 174 total bases. In fact, after these 15 games, Shelton managed just 151 total bases for the rest of his career. He had 18 home runs for the season. This was one of the greatest starts in history, but also proof that not every great start ends well.

t4. Hank Aaron (1959 Braves) - 60 Aaron finished the season with 400 total bases, to lead the N.L. This was the highest single-season number of total bases for any season in the entire 1950s. Aaron also led the league in batting average and slugging percentage that season, and hit 39 HR.

t4. Larry Walker (1997 Rockies) - 60 Walker finished the season with 409 total bases (one of the twenty highest totals ever), to lead the N.L. He also led the league with 49 home runs, and in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Walker was aided by hitting at Coors Field, but this still was a huge season.

6. Matt Kemp (2012 Dodgers) - 58 We'll see what Kemp does over the last 147 games of the season.


7. Cy Williams (1923 Phillies) - 57 Williams finished the season with 308 total bases, second in the N.L. He also led the league with 41 home runs. Back then he Phillies played in the Baker Bowl, one of the greatest hitting parks in baseball history, particularly for lefties like Williams.

8. Mike Schmidt (1976 Phillies) - 56 Schmidt finished the season with 306 total bases, to lead the N.L. He also led the league with 38 home runs. I believe Schmidt was the best player in baseball during the time he played (1972-1989).

9. George Brett (1983 Royals) - 55 Brett finished the season with 261 total bases, after missing big chunks of the season in June and September. He still hit 25 home runs, the second highest total of his career. He also lead the league in slugging percentage and OPS.


10. Ken Williams (1922 Browns) - 54 Williams finished the season with 367 total bases, to lead the A.L. He also led the league with 39 home runs and 155 RBI. Williams was one of the best players in baseball during the early and mid 1920s; this was certainly his best season.




All together, the nine other players on this list averaged 328 total bases for the full season, along with 39 home runs. Five of the other players led their league in total bases, while two more finished 2nd. Seven of them finished with over 300 total bases, five of them with over 350, and two of them with over 400. Kemp could suffer an injury, and he's certainly going to slow down, but the history of other players who've started this hot gives us good reason to expect a big season from Kemp. Though of course, after his 2011 season, we didn't need to wait 15 games to expect that,



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