Matt Kemp Is Off to One of the Best Power Starts Ever

Led by their marquee slugger Matt Kemp, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball 10 games into the season. Kemp’s 6 HR place him among the top 10 seasons all-time for HR in the first 10 team games of the season.

After the jump, I’ll look at what those fast power starts portended for the players’ seasons.

Here’s the list of seasons with the most HR in the first 10 games of a team’s season. Note that the stats shown are for only the games in which the player homered. The # Matching column indicates how many of those games each player had.

Rk Player Year #Matching PA AB H 2B 3B HR 6 RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Luis Gonzalez 2001 7 Ind. Games 32 31 12 0 0 9 15 1 6 .387 .406 1.258 1.664
2 Mike Schmidt 1976 6 Ind. Games 28 26 10 0 0 9 16 1 6 .385 .429 1.423 1.852
3 Alex Rodriguez 2007 6 Ind. Games 30 24 9 1 0 7 15 6 5 .375 .500 1.292 1.792
4 Chris Shelton 2006 5 Ind. Games 22 20 12 2 0 7 10 1 3 .600 .636 1.750 2.386
5 Larry Walker 1997 5 Ind. Games 23 19 11 2 0 7 13 4 5 .579 .652 1.789 2.442
6 Dave Kingman 1976 5 Ind. Games 24 23 9 2 0 7 15 0 6 .391 .417 1.391 1.808
7 Willie Mays 1964 6 Ind. Games 26 23 12 0 0 7 15 3 0 .522 .577 1.435 2.012
8 Johnny Mize 1947 5 Ind. Games 21 18 8 0 0 7 12 3 0 .444 .524 1.611 2.135
9 Matt Kemp 2012 5 Ind. Games 23 19 10 0 0 6 12 4 1 .526 .609 1.474 2.082
10 Chase Utley 2010 5 Ind. Games 24 19 8 0 0 6 10 5 3 .421 .542 1.368 1.910
11 Nelson Cruz 2010 6 Ind. Games 26 24 10 1 1 6 11 1 5 .417 .462 1.292 1.753
12 Lance Berkman 2006 5 Ind. Games 24 19 9 0 0 6 13 4 2 .474 .542 1.421 1.963
13 Travis Hafner 2006 5 Ind. Games 24 18 12 1 0 6 8 6 1 .667 .750 1.722 2.472
14 Jim Thome 2006 6 Ind. Games 26 20 9 2 0 6 9 5 3 .450 .577 1.450 2.027
15 Miguel Cabrera 2004 5 Ind. Games 21 19 8 0 0 6 8 2 3 .421 .476 1.368 1.845
16 Jermaine Dye 2004 5 Ind. Games 21 21 7 1 0 6 10 0 5 .333 .333 1.238 1.571
17 Larry Walker 2001 6 Ind. Games 26 24 11 0 1 6 14 0 4 .458 .462 1.292 1.753
18 Jeromy Burnitz 1998 5 Ind. Games 23 16 9 1 0 6 14 7 3 .563 .696 1.750 2.446
19 Ken Griffey 1997 5 Ind. Games 24 19 9 1 0 6 12 4 3 .474 .583 1.474 2.057
20 Dante Bichette 1994 5 Ind. Games 25 23 13 5 0 6 13 2 3 .565 .600 1.565 2.165
21 Carlos Delgado 1994 5 Ind. Games 23 18 8 0 0 6 12 5 6 .444 .565 1.444 2.010
22 Kevin Mitchell 1991 5 Ind. Games 20 16 9 0 0 6 11 3 1 .563 .650 1.688 2.338
23 Dale Murphy 1985 6 Ind. Games 25 23 11 2 0 6 13 2 1 .478 .520 1.348 1.868
24 Jim Presley 1985 6 Ind. Games 23 20 10 2 0 6 13 2 3 .500 .522 1.500 2.022
25 Tony Armas 1981 5 Ind. Games 22 20 10 1 0 6 13 2 3 .500 .545 1.450 1.995
26 Fred Lynn 1979 5 Ind. Games 24 19 7 0 0 6 11 5 1 .368 .500 1.316 1.816
27 Reggie Jackson 1974 4 Ind. Games 18 17 11 2 0 6 13 1 2 .647 .667 1.824 2.490
28 Graig Nettles 1974 4 Ind. Games 19 17 8 0 0 6 10 2 4 .471 .526 1.529 2.056
29 Jim Wynn 1973 5 Ind. Games 25 24 11 0 1 6 8 1 6 .458 .480 1.292 1.772
30 Willie Stargell 1971 4 Ind. Games 19 17 9 0 0 6 8 2 4 .529 .579 1.588 2.167
31 Willie McCovey 1969 5 Ind. Games 21 17 9 3 0 6 10 4 0 .529 .619 1.765 2.384
32 Wally Moon 1961 5 Ind. Games 19 16 9 0 0 6 11 2 3 .563 .611 1.688 2.299
33 Ken Boyer 1960 5 Ind. Games 22 17 9 1 1 6 12 4 2 .529 .591 1.765 2.356
34 Don Demeter 1959 4 Ind. Games 19 17 10 1 0 6 12 0 3 .588 .588 1.706 2.294
35 Eddie Mathews 1959 5 Ind. Games 24 21 8 1 0 6 11 3 2 .381 .458 1.286 1.744
36 Eddie Mathews 1953 4 Ind. Games 19 16 8 1 0 6 14 3 1 .500 .579 1.688 2.266
37 Ken Keltner 1948 4 Ind. Games 21 20 7 0 0 6 13 1 3 .350 .381 1.250 1.631
38 Bill Terry 1932 4 Ind. Games 23 20 9 0 1 6 15 3 1 .450 .522 1.450 1.972
39 Gabby Hartnett 1925 5 Ind. Games 21 19 9 1 0 6 13 2 0 .474 .524 1.474 1.997
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2012.

And, here’s how those seasons turned out, sorted by bWAR.

Player OPS+ bWAR Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Willie Mays 172 10.2 1964 SFG 157 665 578 121 171 21 47 111 0.296 0.383 0.607
Alex Rodriguez 176 9.9 2007 NYY 158 708 583 143 183 31 54 156 0.314 0.422 0.645
Ken Griffey 165 9.4 1997 SEA 157 704 608 125 185 34 56 147 0.304 0.382 0.646
Larry Walker 178 9.0 1997 COL 153 664 568 143 208 46 49 130 0.366 0.452 0.720
Willie McCovey 209 8.9 1969 SFG 149 623 491 101 157 26 45 126 0.320 0.453 0.656
Eddie Mathews 171 8.9 1953 MLN 157 681 579 110 175 31 47 135 0.302 0.406 0.627
Mike Schmidt 150 8.5 1976 PHI 160 705 584 112 153 31 38 107 0.262 0.376 0.524
Fred Lynn 176 8.4 1979 BOS 147 622 531 116 177 42 39 122 0.333 0.423 0.637
Willie Stargell 185 8.1 1971 PIT 141 606 511 104 151 26 48 125 0.295 0.398 0.628
Eddie Mathews 167 7.8 1959 MLN 148 682 594 118 182 16 46 114 0.306 0.390 0.593
Luis Gonzalez 174 7.6 2001 ARI 162 728 609 128 198 36 57 142 0.325 0.429 0.688
Bill Terry 156 7.6 1932 NYG 154 677 643 124 225 42 28 117 0.350 0.382 0.580
Larry Walker 160 7.4 2001 COL 142 601 497 107 174 35 38 123 0.350 0.449 0.662
Johnny Mize 156 7.3 1947 NYG 154 664 586 137 177 26 51 138 0.302 0.384 0.614
Reggie Jackson 166 6.7 1974 OAK 148 604 506 90 146 25 29 93 0.289 0.391 0.514
Ken Keltner 146 6.2 1948 CLE 153 656 558 91 166 24 31 119 0.297 0.395 0.522
Ken Boyer 143 6.2 1960 STL 151 616 552 95 168 26 32 97 0.304 0.370 0.562
Travis Hafner 181 5.9 2006 CLE 129 564 454 100 140 31 42 117 0.308 0.439 0.659
Lance Berkman 163 5.3 2006 HOU 152 646 536 95 169 29 45 136 0.315 0.420 0.621
Dale Murphy 152 5.3 1985 ATL 162 712 616 118 185 32 37 111 0.300 0.388 0.539
Jim Thome 155 4.6 2006 CHW 143 610 490 108 141 26 42 109 0.288 0.416 0.598
Chase Utley 123 4.6 2010 PHI 115 511 425 75 117 20 16 65 0.275 0.387 0.445
Nelson Cruz 146 4.3 2010 TEX 108 445 399 60 127 31 22 78 0.318 0.374 0.576
Graig Nettles 107 4.2 1974 NYY 155 638 566 74 139 21 22 75 0.246 0.316 0.403
Tony Armas 125 4.1 1981 OAK 109 462 440 51 115 24 22 76 0.261 0.294 0.480
Wally Moon 141 3.4 1961 LAD 134 561 463 79 152 25 17 88 0.328 0.434 0.505
Jeromy Burnitz 118 3.3 1998 MIL 161 691 609 92 160 28 38 125 0.263 0.339 0.499
Miguel Cabrera 130 3.1 2004 FLA 160 685 603 101 177 31 33 112 0.294 0.366 0.512
Dave Kingman 128 2.9 1976 NYM 123 510 474 70 113 14 37 86 0.238 0.286 0.506
Jim Wynn 107 2.9 1973 HOU 139 581 481 90 106 14 20 55 0.220 0.347 0.395
Gabby Hartnett 126 2.6 1925 CHC 117 443 398 61 115 28 24 67 0.289 0.351 0.555
Kevin Mitchell 141 2.5 1991 SFG 113 423 371 52 95 13 27 69 0.256 0.338 0.515
Jim Presley 118 1.9 1985 SEA 155 625 570 71 157 33 28 84 0.275 0.324 0.484
Chris Shelton 106 1.6 2006 DET 115 412 373 50 102 16 16 47 0.273 0.340 0.466
Jermaine Dye 105 1.6 2004 OAK 137 590 532 87 141 29 23 80 0.265 0.329 0.464
Don Demeter 86 0.9 1959 LAD 139 401 371 55 95 11 18 70 0.256 0.294 0.437
Dante Bichette 111 0.3 1994 COL 116 509 484 74 147 33 27 95 0.304 0.334 0.548
Carlos Delgado 103 -0.7 1994 TOR 43 159 130 17 28 2 9 24 0.215 0.352 0.438

So, not unsurprisingly, the better players did better for the whole season. Nevertheless, it is a bit surprising to me how consistently strong those seasons were, and therefore how reliable a predictor the 10 game performance appears to be.

Here are the distribution moments.

bWAR OPS+ HR RBI SLG
Maximum 10.2 209 57 156 0.720
Top Quartile 7.95 169 45 125 0.628
Median 5.3 148 35 110 0.552
Mean 5.3 145 34 102 0.554
Bottom Quartile 2.9 121 23.5 77 0.492
Minimum -0.7 86 9 24 0.395

Some notes:

  • Over half of these seasons are among the players’ top 3 in OPS+
    • Best OPS+ season: Willie McCovey, Travis Hafner, Larry Walker, Alex Rodriguez, Fred Lynn, Luis Gonzalez, Ken Keltner, Nelson Cruz, Ken Boyer, Wally Moon, Jim Presley
    • 2nd or 3rd best OPS+ season: Willie Stargell, Eddie Matthews, Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey, Lance Berkman, Larry Walker, Bill Terry, Dale Murphy, Tony Armas, Chris Shelton
  • These players appeared in at least 90% of their team’s games in 24 of the 38 seasons, and in 75% of games in 33 of the 38 seasons.
  • Delgado’s 6 HR came in career games 3 through 11. Dino Restelli leads with 6 HR in the first 10 games of a career followed by Delgado and six others with 5 HR.

So, starting strong right out of the gate does seem to correlate well with great players, a great season and staying healthy.

I don’t know about you but I’m expecting a big season from Matt Kemp (not that I wouldn’t have expected this anyway).

 

11 thoughts on “Matt Kemp Is Off to One of the Best Power Starts Ever

  1. 1
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    Major drawback – the stats listed here all seem to be just for the games in which a player hit a HR through his first ten games, instead of all ten games. I clicked on Kemp’s name, and all of his 2012 counting stats (except HR) are less than on his B-R page.

    First tip-off: 10 full games should normally lead to about 40 PA and 35 AB. All these players are short of that.

    • 2
      Doug says:

      Good observation, Lawrence. That is P-I, though.

      I’ll add an advisory to that effect.

    • 3
      Hartvig says:

      I have to admit I didn’t catch that so those OPS numbers were pretty eye-popping. Funny thing is I DID notice how few strikeouts some of the players had and even looked to see how many plate appearances there were for several. Even so, quite a start he is off to. I would say that barring injury it’s a pretty safe bet that he will exceed that 5.3 WAR that seems to be the mid-point by a fair margin.

    • 6
      Richard Chester says:

      The second sentence of the third paragragh (just to the right of the photo) states that the stats are only for the games in which the player homered.

  2. 4
    JDV says:

    I remember Carlos Delgado’s tear in 1994. He had been a huge prospect and was making the jump from AA. But within a month he was at .215 and was sent back down…prematurely, I think. Granted they had Olerud (1B) and Molitor (DH), but Delgado was playing LF, and they went the rest of the way platooning Mike Huff and Darnell Coles out there. Delgado spent the rest of ’94 and most of ’95 crushing AAA pitching before sticking with the Jays in ’96. Losing those two seasons almost certainly kept him from 500 HR…probably 525.

    • 5
      John Autin says:

      In his first 12 starts of ’94, Delgado had 8 HRs … and 5 singles.

    • 7
      Hartvig says:

      When you wrote about Delgado being a rookie it brought Chris Shelton to mind- I missed him on my first look at the list. Whoever had him in the fantasy league I was in at the time was trying desperately to trade him to me before he cooled off- the asking price started off on something of the order of even up for Barry Bonds (or something almost equally ridiculous) and then started dropping more and more as the weeks passed. If he ever did manage to move him it must have been for pretty much market value and it wasn’t to me.

  3. 8
    kds says:

    A Marquis is a nobleman ranked below a Duke and above an Earl. Since we have no such in the US I don’t think Kemp qualifies. A marquee is a roofed covering over the front door, often with signage space as at a theater. A marquee name is a name up for advertising. Kemp clearly qualifies to have his name up in lights.

    • 11
      Doug says:

      Duly noted and corrected.

      Actually, there have been Dukes in baseball, the most famous one a former Dodger hero who had a 10 game start in 1955 similar to Kemp’s.
      4 HR, 13 RBI, 10 BB, .361/.500/.778

  4. 9
    BryanM says:

    Delgado was being converted from a catcher and his play in LF left a lot to be desired. BR has him at a seasonal pace of -33 runs defensively. He was sent down as much to learn a position where the Jays could use him as anything. They finally moved Olerud to make room for him at first a couple years later

    • 10
      Ed says:

      That plus he stopped hitting. After hitting his 8th homerun on April 19, Delgado went 15-82 with 2 doubles and 1 home run before being sent down. He got another chance in early ’95 and went 4-26 with 1 double and 1 homerun and was sent down again.

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