Colorado Rockies morning after: Give Matt Kemp the DH job in Denver

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 22: Matt Kemp #25 of the Colorado Rockies singles against the Texas Rangers in the sixth inning during a MLB exhibition game at Globe Life Field on July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 22: Matt Kemp #25 of the Colorado Rockies singles against the Texas Rangers in the sixth inning during a MLB exhibition game at Globe Life Field on July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

As the Colorado Rockies designated hitter on Saturday night, Matt Kemp showed once again just how high his comfort level is playing at Coors Field.

Always a monster when playing at 20th and Blake (and one of the biggest Rockies killers in recent memory), Matt Kemp is finally using his power for good as a member of the Colorado Rockies. Finally, Kemp can terrorize teams in the National League West and not have that list include Colorado.

Kemp, who will turn 36 in late September, continued to build upon his impressive stats at Coors Field in Saturday’s 6-1 victory over the San Diego Padres. Kemp blasted an opposite-field solo homer 457 feet in the third inning, giving him his fourth RBI in his first eight at-bats wearing purple and his longest Statcast-tracked blast in his career.

“That was a classic Matt Kemp swing,” Colorado manager Bud Black said after the game as the Rockies manager talked about how his swing showed power to right-center, exactly where the big swat landed.

And for Kemp? He said after the game that when he’s hitting the ball to right-center, that’s when good things are happening for him at the plate.

Yes, that’s all-important, but here’s the big thing to know about Kemp’s blast. It came off right-handed reliever Cal Quantrill. Yes, Kemp, who was in the game as the Colorado DH because San Diego started southpaw Joey Lucchesi did his biggest damage of the night against a right-hander.

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If Kemp can hit against right-handers and the Rockies are playing at Coors Field, it seems to be a natural thought that Kemp should just inherit the designated hitter role on a full-time basis for the foreseeable future.

In case you need a refresher about Kemp and Coors Field, heading into the season, Kemp had logged a .314/.365/.611 slash line against Colorado in 178 career games. He also owned a .976 OPS against the Rockies in all games. His tOPS+ of 134 is the highest the 35-year-old outfielder has against any National League team.

Sure, the numbers are impressive … but now look at what Kemp has done in Denver during that same span. He has a .327/.389/.616 slash line and 1.005 OPS in 375 plate appearances inside Coors Field.

That is by no means a small sample size. Is it any wonder the Rockies were actually glad to have him finally on their side when he signed as a free agent with the team on July 3?

Yes, I see the stats that show that, for his career, Kemp is hitting 40 points less (.274) against right-handers than lefties. However, Kemp’s clutch ways at Coors Field, on the surface, seem to outweigh any thoughts about which hand is dominant for that day’s pitcher.

In a preseason media session, here’s what Kemp had to say about Coors Field and his love affair with it through the years:

"“I do hit the ball well in this ballpark,” said Kemp. “I see the ball really [well] here. I like the background, with the batter’s eye with the trees. It’s just one of those ballparks that I really can get locked in [with]. If I was struggling at any time and I knew we were coming to Colorado, this was a place where I was like ‘Man, I could probably get locked in right here.’ Everybody has those one or two or three stadiums that they enjoy hitting in and this is one of [them for me].”"

Colorado manager Bud Black has given Raimel Tapia plenty of chances to grab the DH spot this season and the trial has, at least early on, not worked. Tapia has a .154/.200/.154 slash line in his first 13 at-bats of the season … and seven of those have ended in strikeouts.

Throughout his time leading the Rockies, Black has shown a penchant toward playing his veterans. In a shortened season, Kemp assuming the DH role for every game in Denver makes sense and, as shown on Saturday night, could provide Colorado’s lineup with four 2019 All-Stars at the top some much-needed length.

There’s also the time that Black and Kemp have spent together in previous years during a stint in San Diego. There’s a comfort level there for both men, and that’s something that can’t be overlooked.

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Yes, there are plenty of candidates for Colorado’s DH position. However, there is one who carries the credentials at altitude to make an impact in a season where every game counts a little more. When the Rockies are in Denver, Matt Kemp should be Colorado’s designated hitter. After all, he’s been in training for it his whole career it seems.