Winston Churchill once said, “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” Atlanta Braves coaches, fans and front office members should take that very same approach when it comes to center fielder B.J. Upton. As there is four years and $59.8 million left on the original five-year deal, he is going to be around quite a bit longer.
As difficult as it may be to find a reason for optimism after the .184/.268/.289 line and 33.9 percent strikeout rate that the elder Upton brother displayed in 2013, there is evidence to support a resurgence next season. The Braves shelled out the money to acquire the fleet-footed free swinger due to the 19 home runs and 36 stolen bases he averaged over the previous half-dozen years with the Tampa Bay Rays.
During the time spent playing his home games on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Upton also had a knack for producing in the clutch. His postseason numbers are very telling. Driving in 18 runs in just 25 games is not done by mistake. Likewise, that ratio is too abundant to be attributed completely to luck.
Though few and far between, Upton managed to give the Braves a couple of signature crunch-time moments over the course of the regular season. One came on a game-tying blast in the ninth inning vs. the Chicago Cubs back on April 6. Another happened much later in the season, August 31 against the Miami Marlins to be exact, when he delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th.
Fan frustration with the season that Upton struggled through is definitely warranted. The effort was dismal and discouraging. However, a player of this caliber simply does not forget how to hit in the middle of his prime. There is hope that Upton will regain his past form and make a 96-win division champion even better in 2014.
Atlanta Braves 2014: Why Dan Uggla Should Go and B.J. Upton Should Not
Atlanta Braves’ B.J. Upton: 2014 Comeback Player of the Year?
Top 5 Moves By GM Frank Wren That Led Atlanta Braves to 2013 NL East Title