Kemp Waging War on his Strikeouts Even as he Settles in as an Athletics Regular

Second baseman Tony Kemp isn't at all happy with his strikeout totals, and he's not near the top of Athletics offenders with Oakland leading the American League in Ks. He's a candidate to replace Ramon Laureano as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup when Laureano is forced to serve his currently-under-appeal suspension.
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Tony Kemp doesn’t rank in the top five on the A’s roster in strikeouts. He has fanned nine times; the strikeout-happy A’s have eight players who have struck out more.

So, it was a little surprising when Kemp, who comes into Wednesday’s series finale in Anaheim with a .280/.455/.280 slash line, said he was concerned that he was striking out too much.

“I’m not too happy about my strikeout rate,” he said, but it’s something I’m working on. It’s a progression.”

Kemp comes at the strikeout issue with a slightly different view than teammates like Matt Chapman (25 strikeouts), Marcus Semien (24) and Ramon Laureano (23), each of whom struck out at least 100 times in 2019. Kemp has never struck out more than 32 times in a season, and while part of that is lack of playing time, it’s also because he’s a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out much.

This year, however, he’s playing regularly and, he’s sad to report, striking out with entirely too much regularity. He’s struck out six times in his last four starts, including twice against the Angels’ Dylan Bundy Tuesday night. Although the season is just 60 games long and the A’s will reach the one-third mark come Friday, it seems that Kemp is likely to set a new career high for strikeouts if things don’t change.

“For me, it’s just laying off the off-speed stuff down,” Kemp said in looking at what he’s been doing and what needs to change. “I’m making sure that I’m seeing the ball up a little bit more. I’m still getting some of that season rust off.”

He’s not alone. After 13 strikeouts Tuesday, the club has an American League-worst 184 strikeouts, 15 more than the runner-up White Sox. Oakland is averaging more than 10 strikeouts per game, and the A’s have struck out at least eight times in 16 of 18 games.

Manager Bob Melvin said that Kemp might be a good option to move into the second spot in the lineup once Laureano’s suspension status is settled. Laureano was slapped with a 6-game suspension Tuesday by Major League Baseball for his part in Sunday’s brawl against Houston, a ruling he’s appealing.

Kemp would like to have the whole strikeout thing sorted out before that happens. He doesn’t seem to be that far off. He’s walked eight times, and his on-base percentage of .455 is the best on the roster

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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