My thoughts on Justin Upton

Hey 'Pitters, you may recognize my name, as I am an infrequent commenter. I tend to follow and only get involved when I feel strongly about something.

I wrote a piece on Justin Upton's slow start for my own blog about a week ago and I would love to hear people's feedback, especially the diehards like you guys. Please don't feel as if I am spamming, I just wanted you guys to see what my thoughts were regarding our superstar. Feel free to disregard this post.

"Justin Upton has been considered a phenom since his professional debut at age 19. He has been hailed as a can’t-miss five-tool prospect. At age 24, he is already a two-time all-star, yet some people feel his career up to this point has left more to be desired. While some may feel that way, it’s important to remember that this man is essentially still a kid. His career up to this point has involved several injuries and lots of ups and downs. The name of the game with Upton is consistency.

Upton is off to a slow start, with his average sitting in the .240′s and nearly nonexistent power numbers. He has missed several games this year with a bruised right thumb that severely hampers his ability to swing the bat powerfully. We all know Upton is famous for his prodigiously long home runs. He is quite possibly the strongest athlete in the game, and on top of all that, has just stupid bat speed. So why is he struggling?

A couple things. The thumb injury cannot be understated. If you are not committed to a swing, it cannot be successful. J-Up couldn’t swing the bat because it hurt too much to warrant taking a swing. He is only now starting to trust it, and subsequently, his numbers are on the rise. Second, something that should never happen is something I refer to as “the sulk.” The sulk can be attributed to frustration and general disinterest in playing the game hard. Last week Upton pounded a ball to centerfield and got stuck admiring his work. Unfortunately, that CF was Rick Ankiel, a man who defies human anatomical form and was actually born with a cannon for a left arm. No one knows how. Upton was a dead duck. You need to hustle. Hustling increases the speed at which a defense needs to work, greatly increasing the chance of reaching on error or infield single.

Upton has a history of this. He has been pulled from games due to lack of hustle, and I wouldn’t mind seeing manager Kirk Gibson light a fire under him. But let’s take a look at the numbers.

The most worrying thing about Upton thus far is his skyrocketing K rate. Right now it is sitting at 24%, up over 5% from last year. What is odd about this is his BB rate is also on the rise, up almost 2%. We’ll see if this is just a result of the small sample size up to this point, or if J-Up is actually being too selective at the plate, letting called third strikes go by unencumbered. His refusal to swing can also go back to his thumb simply making it too painful to swing. His BABIP is at .297, which is pretty reasonable but could uptick a little bit, but his ISO is alarmingly low, which can be traced back to his inability to collect extra-base hits. Upton is famous for stroking doubles down the line and in the gaps, and that hasn’t appeared this year.

At this point, it’s still too early with Upton because of the thumb injury. His start to the year was thrown completely off course, and his recent numbers look like he is going to get back to terrorizing NL pitching. It all hinges on the thumb and his comfort in letting it go."

I would love to hear your thoughts. The more eviscerating, the better! Thanks 'Pit.

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