Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What's Happened to B.J. Upton

I believe that a big part of the Atlanta Braves struggles since their hot start of 12-1 to start the 2013 season has to do with the downright horrible offensive showing of free agent acquisition B.J. Upton. Upton was signed by the Braves during the offseason to a 5-year $75.25 million dollar deal which has him in a Braves uniform through the 2017 season.

Players can slump when arriving at a new team with a new park to deal with especially when the player changes leagues. Look at Albert Pujols. He struggled in his first season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It happens. But what stands out to me are three things when it comes to B.J. Upton's struggles on the offensive side of the game (Stolen Bases/OBP, Strikeouts and Batting Average). Here are his stats at the end of play on Sunday May 12th:

B.J. Upton341248194036
154733.248.258.153 .506 

B.J. is not getting on base in the way a player of his caliber should be getting on base. With his speed you would think that Upton would generate more walks and try to make things happen on the base paths. Up to now, Upton only has 15 walks with just 3 stolen bases and was caught stealing 3 times. He is a very aggressive runner so he does get thrown out more than you would like. In 307 total attempts at stealing a base for his career, Upton has been thrown out 72 times. That roughly a quarter of his attempts resulting in getting caught which I believe is a respectable percentage (Tim Raines is the best in the modern era with a .847 stealing percentage 808 stolen to 146 caught stealing). Upton's On Base Percentage is really low considering that until last season, he always had an OBP in the low to mid .300's. Last season his OBP was .298 which would lead me to believe that he is free swinging more for power hits instead of generating walks.

I would also say that his free swinging has led to a ridiculous amount of strikeouts. As it is Upton already has 47 strikeouts. At this rate (to be conservative) Upton is on pace to strikeout 180-200 times which would be a career worse. His worse season in terms of strikeouts was last season at 169 K's. His batting average reflects his seemingly reckless approach to hitting. He is batting an Adam Dunn-like .153 with only 19 hits in 124 at-bats. He has four doubles and three homers with 0 triples. I would have thought that playing in a somewhat open stadium like Turner Field that Upton would be driving more balls into the gaps and utilizing his speed in an advantageous manner generating singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Maybe B.J. would benefit from a move down into the lineup as Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez did the other day with Upton batting 7th. Maybe a bit of a relief from the pressure would help Upton out. Whether it does or not still remains to be seen.

Sisco Kid

- Click Here for B.J. Upton's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com