There’s no way around it. The first half of the 2013 MLB season was a disaster for B.J. Upton, and some adjustments need to be made.
The Atlanta Braves‘ outfielder is hitting .177 with eight home runs, seven stolen bases and 20 RBIs. He’s posted a .266 on-base percentage, .300 slugging percentage and .565 OPS to go with 102 strikeouts. Among qualifiers, he ranks last in the NL in average and OPS, second-to-last in OBP and third from the bottom in slugging.
It’s also worth noting he’s hitting .103 (7-for-68) with runners in scoring position and .026 (1-for-38) with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Should I mention that Upton is in year one of a five-year, $75.25 million contract — the richest in Braves history?
Upton will begin the second half on the 15-day DL as he deals with an adductor strain, which should give him and hitting coach Greg Walker plenty of time to correct his swing. Based on the eyeball test along with advanced stats, Upton is not keeping his hands inside the ball on a consistent basis.
Keeping your hands inside the baseball allows hitters to let the ball travel further and drive the ball where it is pitched. A longer swing in which the hitter goes around the baseball leads to pulling weak groundouts and pop-ups.
According to Fangraphs, Upton has a 47.2 ground ball percentage, which is up from his past three seasons (40.3, 40.9 and 39.7). Consequently, his fly ball percentage has dropped to 35.4 in 2013, also a low from his past three seasons (41.1, 40.9 and 43.7).
The numbers support what Braves fans have seen all season from Upton. If not a strikeout, he’s pulling the ball weakly to the left side of the diamond rather than driving the pitch up the middle or to right field.
Upton has had a history of being a hot and cold player, but an improved second half won’t happen magically. His stint on the DL is a perfect time to analyze his issues in the box with the mindset of executing a much more fundamental swing upon his return after the All-Star break.