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Kemp building case as baseball’s most underrated player

Matt Kemp went 3-for-3 with a walk and the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning yesterday afternoon, scoring all four times he reached base as the Dodgers won 4-3. In performing his one-man show Kemp became the first player since Dick McAuliffe in 1968 to score at least four times while accounting for all of his team’s runs.

What makes Kemp’s feat particularly noteworthy is that he scored four times despite batting seventh in the Dodgers’ lineup, so he had Brad Ausmus and the pitcher’s spot behind him. Only five players in the history of baseball have batted more times than Ausmus while posting a lower adjusted OPS+, but last night he twice drove in Kemp with doubles before Kemp later scored on back-to-back errors and his own homer.

Kemp is now batting .321/.385/.500 with 30 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 90 games, rates as the third-best defensive outfielder in the NL according to Ultimate Zone Rating, and ranks third in the league in runs above replacement level behind only Albert Pujols and Chase Utley. Oh, and Kemp is just 24 years old and hit .299/.342/.474 in 305 games prior to this season after batting .311/.359/.519 in the minors.

Despite all of that, Kemp wasn’t picked for the All-Star game while eight outfielders and a grand total of 21 position players made the NL squad and has inexplicably batted higher than sixth in the Dodgers’ lineup just 13 times. Meanwhile, he’s batted seventh 40 times and either eighth or ninth 18 times. Has a 24-year-old career .305/.352/.482 hitter and Gold Glove-caliber center fielder ever received less credit?

As a wise man once said: “I’m speechless. Speechless. I have no speech.”