Is Matt Kemp Pressing Under Pressure?


The pressure for Dodgers is mounting, and the leader, MVP, captain for the Dodgers is pressing. The Dodgers remained 4.5 behind the Giants after their dramatic 5-4 walk-off win Sunday, and a half game back in the wildcard.

No matter what adjectives or nouns you want to use to describe number 27, when it comes down to it Matt Kemp is The Man for the Dodgers. Its not responsibility isn’t just on Kemp to will the Dodgers into the playoffs, but don’t tell that to Kemp. That man is pressing. But he shouldn’t have to be.

With the acquisition of the new players for the boys in blue, Kemp’s responsibility should be shared one through nine. All the responsibility is not on Kemp to be produce runs. As the focal point, more was needed from him; but there was less outside pressure for success. The external expectations have raised Kemp’s internal expectations. The Dodger offense was unworthy of a nickname like the “Bronx Bombers” sending long balls out of Yankee Stadium old and new. The Dodger offense was about as explosive as the “LA Lavalamps.” But the blockbuster trade has put pressure on the team. The posted lineup card screams runs, runs, and expectations, and Kemp is feeling that very acutely.

Since the trade on August 25th, Kemp’s numbers have declined. In those 7 games his average has dropped 7 points, he struck out 7 times including 3 on Friday, he has only 2 extra base hits, and his home run Sunday was not just his first time going yard but his first RBI in that stretch. Missing two games after his speed dating session ended abruptly when he met the wall at Coors field has not helped over this stretch either.

Beyond the numbers though Kemp’s body language screams pressure. I am hesitant to say the All Star is choking, but he has not risen to the pressure like he is capable of—which has to be making it worse. On Sunday, as he ran out a ground-out to short with a men on, he slammed down his helmet in frustration in foul territory. He had opportunities to win Friday’s extra inning affair. No dice.

Every at bat is an opportunity to be a leader. He can put the club on his back. But he doesn’t need to because on paper this lineup is very capable of carrying the team night in and night out, man for man. But the expectations heaped on have added enough stress to affect the slugger.

Adrian Gonzales has felt it too despite his homerun in his first at bat as a Dodger and walk-off double down the line on Sunday. If these guys can relax, gelling on and off the field will be made a lot easier, and the wins will follow. Shane Victorino was spot on, when the Red Sox died their socks Dodger blue, he said to reporters it’s great to get those kind of guys, but the team still has to go out there and perform. You still have to win games, and pressing is not a good way to win games.