It was Sept. 6, a lightly attended afternoon makeup game from the previous night’s rainout. It was Luiz Gohara’s big-league debut. It also was the day that the Texas Rangers kept hitting the ball to left field and running long distances.
There were moments when I wondered if Matt Kemp would collapse from exertion. The Rangers hit four doubles and a triple Kemp’s way. Twice they managed back-to-back extra-base hits into that sector. Watching Kemp lumber after those balls – you couldn’t really call it chasing – was equal parts comic and alarming.
I mentioned afterward to a Braves employee that Kemp appeared to have gained 30 pounds during the season. (He’d come to camp proclaiming that he’d dropped 15 over the winter, and he did have a pretty good first half.) The Braves man said: “More like 50 for me.”
On Tuesday, Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk reported that Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network claims Kemp has lost 41 pounds and hopes to shed nine more, which would make … er, 50.
Kemp is no longer the Braves’ concern, new general manager Alex Anthopoulos having sent him back to the Dodgers in a two-way salary dump. Still: How do you play a big-league season and gain as much weight as Kemp apparently did last summer? I know baseball isn’t especially strenuous – games involve lots of standing/sitting around – but Kemp ballooned so much over the course of the season that he appeared both the “before” and “after” of a weight-loss ad, except he flipped the order.
So: How high did Kemp actually go? His latest Dodgers bio lists him at 210 pounds. (So did the 2017 Braves media guide.) Did he finish last season at 250? Higher? Was it possible Bartolo Colon wasn’t the heaviest man to toil for the 2017 Braves? (Probably not. There’s big, and there’s Bart.)
Kemp had a Baseball-Reference WAR value of 1.3 as of June 1. He finished the season with a WAR of minus-1.3, which made him – this after a halfway decent start, we remind you – the third-worst position player in the majors. The Braves finished the season having the lowest WAR production from left field of any big-league club. Among the 23 left fielders who worked 500 innings, he was rated by FanGraphs as the second-worst defender. (And now you’re asking, “Who could possibly have been worse?” Answer: Oakland’s Khris Davis.)
Credit Anthopoulos for finding a way to rid himself of Kemp and his (heh, heh) weighty salary. Credit the Braves for getting a little something from him in the year and two months he worked here. Credit Kemp for reportedly slimming down, albeit yet again. And here I note what a Dodgers employee told me last summer when I mentioned the then-ex-Dodger: “He simply doesn’t care.” Now Kemp again works for L.A. We’ll see how long that lasts.