Found April 18, 2012 on
Fox Sports Wisconsin:
MILWAUKEE Last season, there was little arguing whether Milwaukee's Ryan Braun or Los Angeles' Matt Kemp deserved NL MVP consideration. Kemp led the NL in home runs (39) and RBI (126) and added 40 stolen bases, while Braun finished just short of him in all three categories and led the league in slugging percentage and OPS.
But with the direction Braun's Brewers were heading in -- their first division title in 29 years -- compared to the direction of Kemp's Dodgers, who finished just a few ticks over .500, the award ultimately landed on Braun's mantel.
Through 11 games of the 2012 season, however, Braun's and Kemp's teams are in entirely different places.
The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball, having blazed their way to Miller Park with a 9-1 record before coming two outs from another win Tuesday night. George Kottaras' walk-off two-run double in a 5-4 victory made the Brewers 5-6 and helped them sidestep a five-game slump -- something that happened only twice all of last season.
And while Braun and Kemp continue to pad the stat sheet on offense -- Kemp, in particular, leads the league in five statistical categories -- it's the spot below each player in the lineup that's made a noticeable difference in the offensive trajectory of both teams.
The prospect of replacing cleanup superstar Prince Fielder was near-impossible, as Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke has acknowledged on several occasions already this season. But by adding third baseman Aramis Ramirez, one of the NL's better hitters in 2011, the Brewers hoped some of Fielder's offensive output would be replaced.
But through 11 games, Ramirez has struggled at the plate, hitting just .103 -- without a home run -- and tallying an on-base percentage (.163) not much better than his batting average.
It was enough of an early-season struggle to prompt Ramirez to come to Roenicke's office before Tuesday's game, determined to apologize for his slow start in the cleanup spot.
"He wants to do something to help this team, and he feels like he isn't doing it right now," Roenicke said. "I still like where he is. He's the guy we're going to need. If we don't have him, if we don't have a good, solid fourth hitter, it's hard to get things done offensively."
It's been a different story for the Dodgers, though, as cleanup man Andre Ethier has been one of the best hitters in the NL to start the season, leading the league in RBI. He showcased his hot start on Tuesday with a two-run, go-ahead home run that would've been the game-winner had it not been for Kottaras' latest big hit.
"The runs Matt hasn't driven in, it seems like Andre has," Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly said. "It's been important. Putting two guys together like that in the middle of the order... that puts a lot of pressure on other teams."
That dynamite combo has accounted for 33 RBI in Los Angeles, while Braun and Ramirez have only nine combined through 11 games.
And without an improved threat at the four spot, Mattingly said he believes at-bats will ultimately change for last year's NL MVP.
"I think (Braun) is going to get pitched differently," Mattingly said. "He had like two intentional walks last year -- that's going to change, that's just the way it is. The guy behind him can hit, he's been a big RBI guy, but he's not Prince. It's going to be different for him."
It's likely too early to tell if Braun will indeed be pitched differently with a different guy in the cleanup spot, just as it's too early to tell whether Ramirez will thrive in Fielder's stead -- Ramirez did, after all, finish with 25 home runs and 83 RBI in 2010, after starting similarly slow.
And Ethier is no stranger to hot starts, so whether he can stay healthy and continue his current pace is just as much of a question mark.
But what's not in question is that both teams' direction this season could depend a lot on their production in the ever-important No. 4 spot. And for the Brewers, that means crossing their fingers that Ramirez can turn things around sooner rather than later.
Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
MILWAUKEE - When Matt Kemp talks about his sizzling start at the plate this year, he points to the two teammates batting behind him in the Dodgers lineup: Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera.
Before the Dodgers' game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Tuesday night, Kemp was asked whether pitchers can still throw around him, giving Kemp little to hit and possibly walking...
LOS ANGELES Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp has been named National League Player of the Week for the period of April 9-15, 2012. The announcement was made earlier Monday on MLB Network.
Kemp becomes the first player to win back-to-back National League Player of the Week honors to begin a season and the first player to win the award for three consecutive weeks (dating...
The Dodgers are currently the talk of baseball thanks to their 9-1 start. Now they get a chance to walk the talk.
Former Dodger greats Tommie Davis (left) and pitcher Don Newcombe were on hand April 15th to take part in baseball's salute to Jackie Robinson. (LA Times)
Some have questioned how good the Dodgers really are since their 2012 opposition has been limited to the...
Matt Kemp is on fire this season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, helping the team to a 9-1 start and putting him self ahead of his 2011 pace.
Kemp went 3-for-4 with a home run and a RBI in Sundays 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres.
Kemp leads the National League with a .487 batting average and leads the league with 6 home runs and 16 driven in runs.
After last year's campaign that saw Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers finish just one homer shy of a 40/40 season, Kemp has gotten off to a flying start this year with six homers in his first 11 games. This, of course, is leading to various reporters from major outlets pondering the possibility of Kemp having a 50/50 year. To those reporters, I say...are you kidding me?
Matt Kemp has shown no signs of slowing down from his terrific 2011 season when he hit .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. Armed with a .417 batting average coming into last weekend’s games, he powered the Dodgers to a 6-1 victory on Saturday. Kemp’s endeavors are a bit newsworthy considering the wasted big-money deals that litters the Dodgers’ recent history. Look no farther...
Matt Kemp hit his seventh home run and Aaron Harang pitched six solid innings as the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers avoided their first-ever sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers with a 4-3 victory.
Kemp is batting .451 with 18 RBIs after going 2-for-5 against Milwaukee, which won the first two games of the series in their final at-bats.
After striking out a career high-tying 13 batters...
Matt Kemp hit his seventh home run of the season and the Los Angeles Dodgers avoided a three-game sweep with a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera added RBI singles while Jerry Hairston Jr. made two big late-inning defensive plays for the Dodgers, who lost the first two games of the series on late-game fireworks by the Brewers.
Every year, some players start hot, others start cold. In the past, when a player had a high BABIP to start the season, we said, “Oh, well he’s lucky. His numbers will come down.” But now we can say with greater certainty, using Fielding Independent wOBA (or FI wOBA), what a player’s wOBA would actually regress to, given their performance in other areas.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' third-place finish in the NL West likely played a part in Matt Kemp getting beaten out for the 2011 MVP by Ryan Braun, who led the Milwaukee Brewers to their first division title in nearly three decades.
If there was early voting for the award in 2012, Kemp would be the runaway winner after helping Los Angeles get off to its best start in 31 years.
Nyjer Morgan scored on a fly ball by Ryan Braun in the 10th inning, giving the Brewers a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night -- Milwaukee's second late-inning thriller in a row.
With the bases loaded and one out, Braun lofted a shallow fly ball to center field. Morgan took off for home despite a stop sign from third base coach Ed Sedar and was called...
(Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated. With AP Photos.) By BETH HARRIS AP Sports Writer At 9-1, the Los Angeles Dodgers own the top record in the majors and are off to their best start since 1981, when they won their last World Series title. With new ownership and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier piling up hits, the bad feelings from the Frank McCourt era are beginning to fade.
The Dodgers are off to a tremendous start. Currently at 9-and-1 and with the best record in baseball, media outlets across the land are starting to dub them as the comeback team of year. Matt Kemp, who already put up incredible numbers last season, has shown no signs of coming back down to earth. Kemp has six home runs on the year -- all of which have come against the San Diego...
The Dodgers are the talk of baseball with their 9-1 start, the best record in Major League Baseball and their best start in 31 seasons.
The Dodgers beat up on the Padres (6-1 in seven games) and Pirates (three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium), two teams that combined for only a .441 winning percentage last season.
But manager Don Mattingly doesn't look at last year's records...
The season is just a few weeks in but there are already some trends and numbers that should make people take notice.
1. Matt Kemp
My pre-season MVP and 2nd place finisher last year is on fire. He is batting .487 with 6 hr and 16 RBI’s through the Dodgers first ten games. In comparison, the entire Pittsburgh Pirate team has 16 RBI’s and only 4 hrs. Kemp’s fast start has LA...