In his ill-remembered farewell season with the Mets, a 42-year-old Willie Mays had a .303 on-base percentage, .344 slugging percentage and adjusted OPS of 81 in 239 plate appearances with the New York Mets.
Recovering from one injury after another over the past year, 28-year-old Matt Kemp has been worse. This season with the Dodgers, Kemp has a .302 OBP, .327 slugging and 78 OPS+ in 214 plate appearances.
After returning from the disabled list last week, Kemp had a single, a double and no strikeouts in his first five trips to the plate — four of them June 25, plus one on June 27. Since then, he has gone 3 for 18 with two walks and nine strikeouts.
Dylan Hernandez wrote in the Times on June 27 about Kemp working with former hitting coach Jeff Pentland over an eight-day span. That period, according to the article, ended June 29.
“The biggest thing I noticed he was dropping his hands,” Pentland told Hernandez. “He was to a point where he was pushing and scooping the ball. Off of that comes everything else. Sometimes one thing can create five or six problems and I think that’s where he was at.”
Pentland spoke in the past tense, but with or without him, Kemp remains a work in progress.
Kemp ended a 1-for-10, six-strikeout slump with two singles June 30. Then, after Monday’s off day, he struck out in three of his first four at-bats in Coors Field on Tuesday before hitting a 400-foot out in his final appearance.
The strikeouts show how Kemp is still searching for a rhythm. He has started six games since coming off the DL, and he’s been good in two, average in two and awful in two. But the timing and mechanics issues still seem solvable.
“Kemp’s swing does currently does have significant flaws, but I highly doubt it’s anything permanent,” wrote Dodger analyst Chad Moriyama at the end of a lengthy examination in May. “This rings especially true since he made a similar adjustment a couple years ago, and I expect him and the Dodgers to eventually work through this as well.”
After that, we can get back to wondering whether Kemp’s power will return. Let Hanley Ramirez be your inspiration, and your reminder of patience.