Should Matt Kemp Participate in the 2012 Home Run Derby?

We all know that Matt Kemp was recently selected by Major League Baseball as captain of the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby National League team, an event which will take place on Monday, July 9th at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during All-Star Week. As captain, Kemp gets to select the four participants who will represent the National League in the contest. Although I’m probably in the minority, I’m hopeful that Kemp is smart enough to exclude himself as a participant in the Home Run Derby.

Matt Kemp hit only two home runs during the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby and was quickly eliminated. He went on to win the 2011 NL home run title with 39 home runs. (Photo by Jeff Gross)

First off, it’s a meaningless exhibition event.  If he were to somehow win it, it isn’t like Dodger fans have bragging rights to anything.  We won’t move a game up in the standings or anything like that.  Yes, there are monetary rewards to winning it, but Matt’s already making $20 million a year for the next eight seasons.  The Home Run Derby is a circus show that exhausts participants and can lead to injury or into bad habits with their swing.  That is something that you don’t want to tamper with.

By the time the HR derby participants arrive in Kansas City in July, Kemp will be coming off about two months of disabled list time with hamstring issues.  He doesn’t need to risk more injury in this event.  I fear that peer pressure and MLB pressure may get him out there swinging.  Hopefully he doesn’t succumb to their enticement.  The event is what it is.  A contest to see who can hit the most lollypop pitches into the bleachers.

One of the greatest batting practice hitters I ever saw was Billy Ashley who would hit these mammoth homers in batting practice.  We all know how he turned out.  He simply wasn’t able to handle major league pitching.  But against B.P. pitchers, Billy was one of the best.

In 2005 Bobby Abreu dominated the event and it threw his swing so far out of whack that he went into a tremendous slump.  Abreu’s first half numbers that year were 18 HRS, .307 BA, .428 OBP, .955 OPS.  His second half numbers dipped to 6 HRS, .260 BA, .376 OBP, .787 OPS.  After the derby, (where he hit 41 homers), he failed to hit a home run for a month once the season resumed.  His July batting average after the All-Star game was .214.

I understand that Matt Kemp isn’t anywhere near the same hitter as Bobby Abreu and that the derby may not affect him at all, but why risk it?  We have seen so far that Matt is susceptible to injury, really for the first time ever in his career.  I think we’d all agree that a healthy Matt Kemp is vital to this teams’ success during the pennant stretch drive. Jeopardizing his health for a meaningless home run exhibition is not a wise move.

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7 Responses to “Should Matt Kemp Participate in the 2012 Home Run Derby?”

  1. lindav says:

    I agree with you Evan. We need Matt healthy and a Dodger team member with no distractions or possibility of injury or change in his batting habits. He should show the appropriate gratitude for being asking and politely decline.

  2. Ron Cervenka says:

    I don’t necessarily agree that Kemp participating in the HRD would hurt him because there is no running involved. Now, as for the ASG itself well that’s another story because it does require running. Another reason why I’m not too worried about Matt participating in the HRD is because, quite frankly, I do not think that he would go very far in the competition (again). I’m not saying this because he can’t hit home runs, Lord knows he can, but I say this because Matt Kemp is NOT a pull hitter and history has shown that pull hitters win these things. Now Andre Ethier on the other hand could definitely win the HRD because he is a dead pull hitter.

    I also do not think that participating in the HRD would adversely affect Matt’s swing – it certainly didn’t last year. I think that because the pitching in the HRD (what you call “lollypop pitches”) is so very different that actual game pitching, Matt would be able to separate the two. He has worked long and hard to be able to go to right and right-center (and with power) that I do not see him losing this. I’m actually more worried that he will have lost his timing while being on the DL for over a month and that he may press too hard to try to catch up on lost time and begin chasing bad (low and away) pitches again, as he did prior to his incredible 2011 season. Hitting lollipop pitches over the wall may be the best thing for his confidence after not hitting at all for over a month – just my $.02.

    Ironically, when you (Evan) sent me this article a couple of days ago (even though I didn’t post it until this morning), I thought that Andre would be much better suited for the HRD than Kemp, and lo and behold, yesterday (Sunday), Matt announced that he was going to invite Ethier onto the NL HRD team. After doing so, Donnie-B came out publicly and said exactly what I had been thinking all along:

    “Andre would be really good in that. Matt is not good in a home run contest. He doesn’t pull. Try winning that contest going to right-center… all the guys who win pull everything.”

    As I said, I am more concerned about Matt playing in the actual ASG than I am about him participating in the HRD, but I would be fine if he elected to forego the HRD too; but as I noted in my post about Kemp being named the NL HRD captain, knowing Matt, he will do both.

    • Evan Bladh says:

      Good point about Kemp and his opposite field power. Mike Piazza had the same problem, he participated in one HRD and was shut out. A huge embarrassment to him too.

  3. desertdodger says:

    Of course he should participate. I won’t worry about him changing his swing, he knows his swing and how it works and he won’t change it for the Home Run derby.

  4. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Shouldn’t participate in either the all-star game or the HRD. It’s a no brainer for me. Matt doesn’t play half heartedly. He plays all out and I expect he wouldn’t slouch in either event. If he per chance was to aggravate his hamstring in the events, the decision would forever be questioned. And yes, we can live in fear of what might happen in two show case events, because he doesn’t have to participate, and we really need him for a stretch run.

    Will he hurt himself? Who knows, but why take a chance. The home run hitters are pooped after hitting for a round. I agree that the HR contest is a totally meaningless exhibition and not worth the risk. It seems to me it is quite possible to hurt oneself over swinging on a slow pitch in a show case event. It’s not the same as batting practice because of the stakes involved.

  5. MFGRREP says:

    I’m confused, don’t these guys hit BP every day ?? And don’t they try to refine their swings to the parks and the pitchers they’re playing ? IMO his should do the HRD and only play in the ASG if he is completely healed.

    • Evan Bladh says:

      The difference between everyday BP and the HR Derby is enormous. HRD is on the world stage with one thing in mind: to hit every ball out of the park. Batting practice you take shots to all fields, work on mechanics, try to hit grounders through the hole, line drives to the gaps and then you take your shots at hitting it over the fence.

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