Showdown: Cruz vs Kemp

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Showdown: Cruz vs Kemp

This season is full of intriguing two-player “Showdowns” that beg comparison and invite debate. In each Showdown we pit two players from the same position against each other, scrutinize their age, injuries (if applicable), and statistics, with only one coming out on top.

The 6th ticket on our Showdown Supercard features two veterans who were at the epicenter of the historical frenzy of moves in the offseason. Now entering the ring, it’s: Cruz vs Kemp.

The deeper we dig, the more we find in common with these two veterans:

  • They are both entering their 10th year in the majors, as they both just barely exceeded the rookie qualification of 130 AB in 2006
  • They are both Left Fielders who hit from the right side
  • They both have a history of injuries, yet…
  • They both had healthy comeback years last season
  • They were both acquired by West Coast teams in the offseason, in cities beginning with the letter “S”, no less
  • The stadiums, in each of these “S” cities, are notorious for being pitcher-friendly, and both end with -co (How significant is that, I ask you?).
  • They should each enter the 200-HR club in 2015
  • They are both expected to be a cornerstone of each franchise, and will have immense pressure to help bring their respective teams to the post-season for the first time in years (whether they feel this onus, or not, is another question)

Nelson Cruz is coming off a career year with the Orioles. He led the Majors with 40 HR, and added 108 RBI and 87 Runs with the Birds.

In 2014, the 34 yr. old tied his previous best (2012), as he played in 159 games, and stepped to the plate 613 times – a personal best (585 AB in 2012). I mention the ABs because they give a clear perspective of how few he’s averaged over his career: Cruz has averaged 437 AB over the last 7 years. This translates into 117 games per year over the same period. (Keep these numbers in mind when we get to Kemp.)

Despite the rash of injuries, and a suspension, Cruz has still averaged 29 taters and 86 RBI over the last 6 seasons.

Cruz signed a big (kind of redundant these days) $57 million contract with the deep-pocketed Mariners in the offseason and will call Safeco his home for the next 4 years.

In 52 career games at Safeco, Cruz has managed 9 home runs and 19 RBI, with a .240 batting average.

Matt Kemp is making believers of us once again. He’s coming off a big bounce back year that surprised many who fell off his bus over the previous two seasons. 

The 30 yr old had a year which best mirrored his 2010 campaign:


It’s easy to forget just how good Kemp was. He peaked in 2011, without question, as he will obviously never have that 40-steal speed again. However, I’d take the 9 SB if he continues with the .852 OPS, which included a .506 SLG. (66 of his 155 hits went for extra bases).

Onto his injuries: Kemp’s games missed come from one particular block of time. Kemp underwent shoulder and ankle surgery in October 2013, and has shown no signs of setbacks with either issue since. The arthritis that was discovered in his hips is in its earliest stages, and will not be a factor in the near future. Kemp has averaged 517 AB over the past 7 seasons. This translates to 138 games per year over the same period.

The Decision

Staying with the injury comparison Kemp has averaged 80 more AB/yr, and 21 more GP/yr, than Cruz over the past 7 years- significant chunks of contrasting absences.

In case you need any more convincing about my inevitable decision in our 6th Showdown, Cruz is more than 4 years older than his opponent.

On top of the “games missed” contrasts, and their age differences, is perhaps the most telling of all their stats: the Pre/Post All-Star splits:

 Pre All-Star OPSPre All-Star StatsPost All-Star OPSPost All-Star Stats
Cruz.923 OPS28 HR/74 RBI.769 OPS12 HR/34 RBI
Kemp.760 OPS8 HR/35 RBI.971 OPS17 HR/54 RBI

As you can see, no one was hotter in the second half than Kemp. This all came despite the logjam of talented outfielders in L.A. who were all bursting at the seams for full-time play. On the other hand, no one was hotter than Cruz in the first half. Yet he really fell of that torrent pace after the Break. It’s as if Kemp picked up where Cruz left off. And, you can expect this to continue in 2015.

The Winner: Matt Kemp



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