Los Angeles Dodgers‘ centerfielder Matt Kemp isn’t shy about making bold predictions. As we all know, Kemp predicted he would become baseball’s first 50/50 man this season. But with only one stolen base in three attempts so far this season, it’s safe to say that goal isn’t attainable – well, at least half of it – because his 50 home runs prediction is definitely within reach.
In 21 games, Kemp has a slash line of .442/.506/.922/1.428. While that is flat out amazing, slash lines aren’t a part of the traditional Triple Crown criteria of batting average, home runs, and RBI. The offensive Triple Crown is something we haven’t seen accomplished since Carl Yastrzemski did it with the Boston Red Sox in 1967, and it hasn’t been done in the National League since Joe “Ducky” Medwick did it with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937. The Triple Crown fraternity is a special one, considering it’s only been done 15 times by 11 Hall of Famers (Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby did it twice).
So, who is going to stop Kemp from doing it? First off, let’s discuss the obvious, and that is his competition is all gone. There is no Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder taking one of the three categories this season. With that said, let’s look at players who could stop Matt Kemp’s run at the Triple Crown. I’ll look at it by the three categories, because even if he wins HRs and RBIs by a lot and loses in average, he isn’t our Triple Crown winner.
Kemp’s .442 average is a full .057 points ahead of the second place hitter, David Wright. It’s a safe bet Kemp isn’t going hit in the high .400s, but I’m going to assume he will hit over .350, so now we have to find a player who can hit .350 in the National League. The answer to that question is nobody. Matt Kemp’s jump start in batting average is so large that I can’t see how anyone catches him. If I had to take a guess on who could beat Matt Kemp in batting average, it would be Chicago Cubs‘ shortstop Starlin Castro, who is hitting .337 thus far.
This is where the departure of Pujols and Fielder help Kemp so, so much. The power of the National League is gone, with Matt Kemp being the only man standing. Matt Kemp’s five home run lead over guys like Corey Hart and Jay Bruce is definitely enough leeway from those hitters. And with Joey Votto struggling in the home run department, no one going to block Kemp from winning the home run title, unless a Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, or Ryan Braun get hot.
While the first two are locks in my opinion, RBI is way too random to really know who is going to lead the league in that category. Kemp’s 24 RBIs is tied with his teammate Andre Ethier for the league lead, while Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese is third with 20. Now, what has me worried about Kemp’s RBI total is he’s just too damn good. Sooner rather than later, he’s going to receive the Bonds treatment and get walked with runners on base, allowing Andre Ethier to clean up the mess. Even though Ethier could clean up the mess, I’m not all that worried about him because he is a notorious fast starter that slows down. It’s simply the fact I’m afraid Kemp is going to get pitched around even more when Ethier does slow down.
It does help Kemp that RBI fiend, Ryan Howard, will not block his way due to injury. But since RBIs is a team dependent stat, we really don’t know who is going to lead the league in this godawful statistic. For the sake of Kemp and the Triple Crown chase, let’s hope Dee Gordon and Mark Ellis reach base at a consistent rate.
All in all, it’s going to be fun watching Kemp chase down history. And outside of the random RBI statistic, I don’t see anyone getting in his way.