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Entries in B.J. Upton (12)

Tuesday
Feb122013

Three Holes in B.J. Upton's Swing

There are many reasons for Atlanta Braves fans to be very excited about the future outfield of the B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward. But before they get too carried away, when we take a look under the hood at B.J., there certainly seems to be some missing parts.

Over the course of his career, B.J. is a .255 hitter and it's not like he's getting better. Over the last four seasons, he's only hit .242. In fact, he and Humberto Quintero are the only players to hit between .230 and .250 each of the last four seasons.

Here are the holes in B.J. Upton's swing

On pitches up in the zone, Upton has hit .187.

On pitches away, Upton has .190.

On sliders, Upton has hit .191 since 2009.

The point here is that of course when you get a pitch in Upton's wheelhouse he will punish you, but there are numerous opportunities to fool Upton and I'm certain the knowledge from American League pitchers will very quickly spread among NL pitchers.

Friday
Jan252013

Atlanta's New Outfield: Young, Fast and Powerful

New Brave Justin Upton joins brother B.J. and Jason Heyward in an outfield that could make power/speed history.The Atlanta Braves ended baseball's longest-running soap opera, "As The Upton Turns," by acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal. Justin now joins brother B.J., who inked a five-year, $75 million contract earlier this winter, and Jason Heyward in Atlanta's new-look outfield. The Brothers Upton and Heyward all have youth on their side, and they can crack a game wide open with power or speed. How rare is it for a club to have three power-speed threats covering the outfield, let alone three young ones? Turns out, it's unprecedented.

All three of Atlanta's fly-catchers have turned in 20 home run, 20 stolen base seasons in the major leagues. B.J. hit the 20/20 mark in 2007 (24 HR, 22 SB), 2011 (23 HR, 36 SB) and 2012 (28 HR, 31 SB). Justin did it in 2009 (26 HR, 20 SB) and 2011 (31 HR, 21 SB), and Heyward cleared the bar this past year (27 HR, 21 SB in 2012). With the Uptons and Heyward in the prime years of their careers, manager Fredi Gonzalez might just get three 20/20 seasons from his outfielders in 2013:

    2013 Bill James Projections

While Heyward has more than 1,700 plate appearances in the majors and he can grow a beard between innings, he'll be just 23 years old next season. Justin is entering his age-25 campaign, and B.J. is the old man at all of 28. All young dudes, all 20/20 threats in 2013 and for years to come. So, when was the last time that a team boasted three 20/20 outfielders?

The answer, according to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, is "never." In all the years since we began this stick-and-ball business, no team has ever had its left, center and right fielders all go 20/20 in the same season. The Uptons and Heyward could very well make history next season. And the season after that. And the season after that. If Justin re-signs with the Braves following the 2015 season, B.J. keeps his wheels and Heyward stays healthy, they could be at this for a half-decade.

It's incredibly cool -- and rare -- for two brothers to man the same outfield. But if B.J., Justin and Heyward all hit 20 bombs and steal 20 bases next year, the story of the Uptons' shared bloodlines will be downright blasé by comparison.

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference, here's a list of teammates who have gone 20/20 in the same season while in their twenties. Only nine pairs have pulled off the trick, with Justin Upton and Chris Young being the most recent in 2011:

              20/20 seasons by teammates under 30 years old

Friday
Nov302012

B.J. Upton's Power Boost Comes at a Cost

B.J. Upton is an exasperating player. He's also a very rich man after signing a five-year, $75 million contract with the Atlanta Braves. He should be a superstar, right? Upton had a huge age-22 season back in 2007, looking like Carlos Beltran Jr. by popping homers (24), getting on base (.386 OBP) and swiping bags (22). The number two pick in the 2002 draft seemed blessed with a full tool set, and he showed the savvy to make the most of his skills. Yet since then, Upton has mostly just kept his head above water at the plate (his career on-base-plus-slugging percentage is five percent better than the league average).

What gives? Upton has certainly tapped into the power present in his svelte 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. His home run total has climbed every year during the Pitch F/X era, from nine in 2008 to a career-best 28 last season. But those bombs have come at a cost: Upton has sold out for power, chasing far more pitches off the plate and often coming up empty.

Take a look at Upton's swing rate by pitch location back in 2008, and then his swing rate this past season:

Upton's swing rate in 2008

 

Upton's swing rate in 2012

B.J. chased 17.5% of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone back in 2008, far below the 28% average for MLB hitters in recent seasons. Last year, however, Upton hacked at 29% of pitches thrown out of the zone.

In addition to widening his strike zone, Upton has whiffed more often while aiming for the fences. Here's his contact rate by pitch location in 2008, and then in 2012:

Upton's contact rate in 2008

 

Upton's contact rate in 2012

Upton missed 20.8% of the pitches he swung at in 2008, slightly above the 20.2% average that season. Last year, he whiffed 31.5% of the time he swung. Granted, the overall MLB whiff rate has climbed (to 22% in 2012), but Upton missed a higher rate of pitches than every AL hitter not named Josh Hamilton, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena and Mark Reynolds. Homers are sexy. They earn fat checks in free agency. But are they worth it if they come with a sub-.300 on-base-percentage?