Without a doubt, the performance of B.J. Upton has been by far the biggest disappointment for the Atlanta Braves‘ 2013 season. Signed over the winter for a five-year $75.25 million contract, the Braves thought they were signing a consistent power hitter, but what they’ve gotten instead is a consistent let down.
For the season, Upton has hit .186/.269/.293 with a mere 21 RBIs. He’s dealt with injuries and has been in what seems to be a permanent slump, so Fredi Gonzalez has left him out of the lineup a good bit this season. Upton’s 338 at-bats are much lower than that of his slugging counterparts; he has 173 less at-bats than Andrelton Simmons going into Saturday night’s game against the Miami Marlins for reference.
Upton’s relatively low sample size versus his career numbers, developed over 3906 major league at-bats, leads me to believe that he still has a lot to offer, even this season. He’s had a few stretches of time in which he’s hit well, but it hasn’t stuck, and that’s what has made Upton so unproductive. The key for him is to find his swing and timing and not lose it.
Over the last four games, Upton has done very well. His swing has looked great and his timing has been on, and he’s hit a few really good pitches. The swing he put on a ball pitched by A.J. Ramos Saturday night was beautiful. It was a low and away pitcher’s pitch — a 93-mph fastball that Upton hit so hard that the second basemen couldn’t cleanly field it. Upton got four hits in that game, the second time he’s gotten at least three hits the entire season, which gives him seven in the last four games. He’s gotten seven hits, one walk and one hit by pitch in his last 16 plate appearances, giving him a .500 batting average and a .563 on-base percentage during that period.
The Braves have been a dominant force this season, they hold the best overall record in the majors as well as the best home record, despite the lack of production from their second-most highly paid player (Dan Uggla makes the most, go figure). Atlanta’s goal as they stretch through September is to maintain a lead over the National League and give the Braves home-field advantage in the postseason. If Upton can continue his good work at the plate, he’ll be a huge asset in maintaining the Braves’ lead over the NL and could be the difference maker for them in October.