The Braves finally made a move to bolster their offense prior to the trade deadline last year by acquiring multiple-time all-star Matt Kemp from the Padres for virtually nothing. San Diego even paid a fat chunk of Kemp’s heavy salary. While the Braves did not give up much, there were still a multitude of questions surrounding whether Kemp would ever be what he once was. However, it was the need to find some protection in the lineup for Freddie Freeman that made this deal a no-brainer for Braves management.
There is no doubt Kemp is never going to be a Gold Glove center fielder again. Although, his commitment to his game has been evident in his preparation. The Braves brought Kemp in for one reason: To rake. In the 81 games Kemp has played with the Braves, he has a .302 batting average, .350 OBP and a tremendous .551 slugging. His 18 home runs over that span are the second-most on the team, behind none other than Freddie Freeman.
Nobody has appreciated Kemp’s power presence in the lineup more Freddie Freeman. The MVP candidate candidates scorching hot second half of last season has only carried into this season. Freeman has homered in back-to-back games tying him for the MLB-lead at 14, putting him on pace for over 60 for the season. He is toting career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. Freeman has been on the cusp of becoming a superstar for a while, and it looks like finally having some protection in the lineup has allowed him to reach his full potential.
The two sluggers also have quite the relationship off of the field, as they became friends quickly once Kemp joined the team. When asked last season about some of the bad labels attached to Kemp prior to his time in Atlanta, Freeman said, “I saw that Players Tribune article where he wrote he’s had a (bad reputation) label, and I haven’t seen it. He’s been nothing but great. He’s been a big plus for us.” Freeman also commented about how great of shape Kemp was coming into the offseason. That commitment has led to Kemp leading the Braves in batting average at .348, while also allow him to reminisce about his days as a Gold Glover.
The two have carried an offense that is lacking firepower around them. The Braves offense has caught fire of late and will probably end up in the top half of the league in runs scored. They will have to if this team wants any chance of finishing above .500 this season. The Braves have the second-worst team ERA in the MLB at 4.75. While that is bound to go down a little, this Atlanta team is reliant on their offense, and begins and ends with the success of these two bombers.