Moving Matt Kemp From Center Field To Right Will Not Extend His Career


Some people believe that moving Matt Kemp from center field to right field will extend his career, and prevent him from getting injured as often. This idea has been kicked around for the last few years now. But after Kemp’s injury plagued 2012 season, more and more people are clamoring for this. The idea is that by moving Kemp from center to right, will save wear and tear on his legs, allowing him more playing time, and less time spent on the disabled list. I guess people are scared after all of his injuries last year. I don’t subscribe to this notion.

I don’t think this is a good idea. First of all, you don’t move Kemp out of his natural position. You do not under any circumstances tell the team captain that he must move from his position. Some people think that right field is Kemp’s natural position. This is wrong.

Matt Kemp plays better in center than in right-Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Kemp has only had limited time in right field, and virtually no experience playing left field. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. Kemp played most of his minor league career in center field. As a matter of fact, he played nearly 50% of his minor league career in center field. Kemp played 171 minor league games in center, and 102 games in right field. He only played five games in left.

Kemp has always played better in center than in right. During his minor league days, Kemp posted a .987 fielding percentage in center field, with a +3 total zone fielding runs above average, meaning he saved three runs per season while playing in center field while he was in the minors. His runs above average was about the same in right field (+3), but he committed more errors, and his fielding percentage was considerably lower (.969).

Those numbers tell the same tale at the major league level. Kemp is much better and more comfortable playing in center than in right. He commits less errors in center than in right. The numbers prove this. Kemp has played 716 games in center field, and 168 games in right. His career fielding percentage is .989 in center compared to .973 in right. Bison has a career +8 runs above average in center field, and a -3 in right field. Need some more proof? Sure look at his range factors. Kemp has more range in center (2.31 per nine innings), compared to only 1.87 in right field. Now of course Kemp has more ground to cover in center than in right, but it still illustrates my point that he’s quicker and is capable of covering more ground easier playing in center than he is in right field. (I don’t like using UZR ratings, because they are too subjective in my opinion)

Here is something else to ponder. Kemp hasn’t played a single game in right field since the 2009 season. Even then he only played seven games there that season. He hasn’t seen any considerable amount of time in right field, since he played 63 games there during the 2008 season.

2012 was the first season that Kemp has ever gotten injured playing in center field. If you remember before last season, Kemp had only been on the disabled list once in his entire career. That was from a crash into the outfield wall back in April of 2007, when he suffered a separated shoulder. You know where he was playing that game? He was playing in right field that game, not in center field.

Matt Kemp commits less errors in center than in right-Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Moving Kemp from center to right would be a bad idea. It would weaken the outfield defense. Kemp is faster, and more comfortable playing in center. He has more experience playing in center than in right. Plus I believe that a move to right field would not necessarily extend his career. Now if you were moving Kemp from a more physically demanding position, to a position where you wouldn’t be running around so much, then I could understand. Like for instance, just hypothetically speaking, if Kemp was a catcher, and you were moving him to first base, then I could understand. Or if you were moving Kemp from third base, to first base, then ok fine. To me there is not enough of a difference between the two positions to really believe that his legs would be saved with a move to right field. Moving Kemp from center to right, would be worse than a lateral move, it would be a horrible mistake. Kemp can tear a hamstring in right field, just as easy as he could while playing in center. Also, there are just as many walls in right field to crash into, as there are in center field.

I have kind of an old school philosophy on this subject. I believe you do not move the team captain out of his natural position. let’s stick to the original plan. Kemp in center, Ethier in right, and Crawford in left. I would like to know what you guys think though. Do you think Kemp’s career would be extended from a move to right field? Let us know in the poll above.