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B.J. Upton made some mechanical adjustments

Feb 21, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Getty Images

B.J. Upton became one of 12 players since the start of the millennium to post an OPS below .560 while taking at least 400 trips to the plate. Upton, who established himself as one of baseball’s most dynamic players while with the Rays, could never get it going in the first year of a five-year, $75.25 million contract with the Braves. It got ugly.

Trying to put the past behind him, Upton has made some slight adjustments in his swing. Hitting coach Greg Walker liked what he saw when he visited Upton at his home in Tampa in January. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

What Walker noticed first when he visted Upton at his Tampa home in January was how much movement he’d cut out of his swing and stance, including eliminating the leg lift and long slide step with his front foot. Upton, 29, said his swing gradually deteriorated over the past several years after he began trying to pull the ball more after his early success with the Rays.

“If you go back and watch (video of) B.J., his misses got bigger from year to year,” Walker said. “His swing got looser and looser. The only thing we told him to do — we don’t want you to change anything, we don’t want to turn you into somebody you’ve never been. All we want you to do is go back to the way you hit when you were a kid.

The Braves as a team had the third-highest strikeout rate in baseball. Upton’s 34 percent strikeout rate led the team and was the second-highest in baseball behind Chris Carter. While Upton has always been known for striking out, his rate was never that high; rather, it ranged from 21 to 28 percent while with the Rays. As a result, Upton’s average plummeted to .184 (career .248) and his power vanished as he finished with a .105 isolated power (career .161).

Upton will be one of the more interesting players to watch during spring training, to see if the mechanical adjustments help. Having lost power-hitting catcher Brian McCann to free agency, the Braves would love to gain back some of that lost offense with an Upton rebound.

  1. Francisco (FC) - Feb 21, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    the Braves would love to gain back some of that lost offense with an Upton rebound.

    Yeah I used to dream a lot about an Upton rebound… we’re talking about Kate right?

  2. bostonboresme - Feb 22, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    Well I sure hope he did! Boy, got hard to watch after a while last year. It’d be nice to see him have a turnaround season though.

    Justin can hit 40 HR’s now too.

  3. louhudson23 - Feb 22, 2014 at 4:24 AM

    Wow,those are some dynamic career numbers there….The guy may turn it around,but the idea that he has been a good,or dynamic player over his career is laughable….Labeling a player with the “potential” label is not the players fault,but it is his burden…Upton is not very good,has not been very good.The flashes on the here and there are just that and seem to always be enough to keep the love affair some people have with him going….I wish him luck and applaud him for working and searching for the means to turn his play around….then perhaps we can see some true dynamism,and expose his past performance in the comparison….

    • buddaley - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:16 AM

      He has been both a good and a dynamic player. Not a great player, true, and based on expectations, often disappointing, but usually a solid contributor.

      In his six years with the Rays, despite low batting averages, he accumulated better than 4 WAR twice (Fangraphs version) and better than 3 WAR three more times. His defensive metrics, except for 2012, were always positive, and in a few seasons, exceptional. He twice had an ISO over .200 and from 2007-2011 walked in better than 11% of his plate appearances. Except for one season, his OPS+ ranged from 106-136. All of those mark features of a good player.

      As for dynamic, he has stolen better than 40 bases three times and better than 30 twice more, and overall has stolen bases at a 77% rate. His fielding and base running have generally been “dynamic” in that he was an exciting player to watch.

      (BB-Reference is less generous about his WAR, but even so rates him between 2.9-4.4 in 4 seasons. Their dWAR puts him at about average most times while FanGraphs has him much better defensively.)

      • timmmah10 - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        Here is where WAR is a tough stat.

        IE… In a close game, would you rather have BJ Upton at the dish, or someone with a better OBP? Obviously, you’ll take the OBP guy every time.

        BJ is a player that can’t take the heat of expectations. Saying he’s good or dynamic is a stretch. It’s hard to even consider him an average CF. He does a lot of things OK, however, is a liability at the plate. Considering K rates, defense, and OBP, I’d take about 15 CFs ahead of him. He doesn’t live up to his contract. He doesn’t live up to his hype. And he doesn’t live up to his billing here as a good or dynamic player.

        WAR is a very misleading stat, even though there are sabermetric slappies that live and die by it.

  4. apeville - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    I am hopeful. I also suspect I am delusional.

  5. realgone2 - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Did he tighten up some loose bolts on the bench?

  6. pisano - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    ” B.J. Upton made some mechanical changes” does that mean he’ll hit .240, instead of his .233 career average.?

  7. yahmule - Feb 22, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    His contact rate fell to 57% in the second half last year. This guy is fortunate to be in the majors at this point.

  8. sawxalicious - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:45 AM

    Would I be out of line if I suggested this might be the worst free-agent signing by the Braves ever?

    • timmmah10 - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      To me, signing Ryan Doumit is a head scratcher. Considering they have Gattis already who doesn’t play any position well, bringing on a similar player in the NL doesn’t exactly follow a strategic plan. It’ll be interesting to see how they mix him in.

      I know they had a lot of young talent to sign, and McCann is a better fit in a league where he can DH so that he can rest without losing his bat considering his injury history. But I would have liked to see them sign an actual catcher. There are going to be a lot of SBs against the Braves this season.

      Still, this team has a lot of good young talent where it will mitigate the loss of McCann on offense. Assuming that will be made up by Freddie Freeman’s development, a full season of Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward statistical bounce back. Not the resurrection of BJ Upton, who has never lived up to potential.

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