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Entries in B.J. Upton (10)

Thursday
Apr182013

A Tale of Two Uptons

The Atlanta Braves brought both Upton brothers to town over the winter, signing B.J. to a five-year, $75 million free agent contract and acquiring Justin from the Diamondbacks as part of a seven-player megadeal. The younger Upton has been the game's best player in April, pacing the majors with eight home runs while batting .333, getting on base at a .393 clip, and slugging .852. But big bro? B.J. has gone deep just once, and he's hitting .140/.232/.240. Why is Justin killing the ball for the 12-2 Braves, while B.J. is killing rallies? Here's a tale of two Uptons.

Justin Upton

  • Unlike last year, the younger Upton is crushing pitches thrown at the knees. Justin has hit 3 home runs and is slugging nearly .800 versus pitches in the lower third of the strike zone. He hit just 6 homers against low stuff and slugged .394 during the 2012 season.
  • One reason why he's performing so much better against low pitches is that he's not rolling over on the ball. Justin has hit a ground ball a mere 28% of the time in 2013, down from a 44% last year (the MLB average is about 44%).
  • Justin has been deadly with two strikes, swatting six of his eight home runs with his back against the wall. That already matches his two-strike home run total for all of 2012.

B.J. Upton

  • B.J. is making more contact against fastballs, with his miss rate against the heat being cut in half from 28% in 2012 to 14% in 2013. But that extra contact has been weak: His slugging percentage versus fastballs is just .370, compared to .533 last year.
  • While Justin is lofting pitches into the air more than ever, B.J. is struggling to get the ball out of the infield. His ground ball rate has jumped from 41% last year to 50% in 2012.
  • B.J. has been totally helpless with two strikes, going 0-for-23 in such situations. The elder Upton has never been a particularly good two-strike hitter, as his .127 average in two-strike counts since the start of the 2011 season ranks in the bottom ten among qualified batters. But 0-for-23? Brother, can you spare a bat?
Tuesday
Feb122013

Three Holes in B.J. Upton's Swing

There are many reasons for Atlanta Braves fans to be very excited about the future outfield of the B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward. But before they get too carried away, when we take a look under the hood at B.J., there certainly seems to be some missing parts.

Over the course of his career, B.J. is a .255 hitter and it's not like he's getting better. Over the last four seasons, he's only hit .242. In fact, he and Humberto Quintero are the only players to hit between .230 and .250 each of the last four seasons.

Here are the holes in B.J. Upton's swing

On pitches up in the zone, Upton has hit .187.

On pitches away, Upton has .190.

On sliders, Upton has hit .191 since 2009.

The point here is that of course when you get a pitch in Upton's wheelhouse he will punish you, but there are numerous opportunities to fool Upton and I'm certain the knowledge from American League pitchers will very quickly spread among NL pitchers.

Friday
Jan252013

Atlanta's New Outfield: Young, Fast and Powerful

New Brave Justin Upton joins brother B.J. and Jason Heyward in an outfield that could make power/speed history.The Atlanta Braves ended baseball's longest-running soap opera, "As The Upton Turns," by acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal. Justin now joins brother B.J., who inked a five-year, $75 million contract earlier this winter, and Jason Heyward in Atlanta's new-look outfield. The Brothers Upton and Heyward all have youth on their side, and they can crack a game wide open with power or speed. How rare is it for a club to have three power-speed threats covering the outfield, let alone three young ones? Turns out, it's unprecedented.

All three of Atlanta's fly-catchers have turned in 20 home run, 20 stolen base seasons in the major leagues. B.J. hit the 20/20 mark in 2007 (24 HR, 22 SB), 2011 (23 HR, 36 SB) and 2012 (28 HR, 31 SB). Justin did it in 2009 (26 HR, 20 SB) and 2011 (31 HR, 21 SB), and Heyward cleared the bar this past year (27 HR, 21 SB in 2012). With the Uptons and Heyward in the prime years of their careers, manager Fredi Gonzalez might just get three 20/20 seasons from his outfielders in 2013:

    2013 Bill James Projections

While Heyward has more than 1,700 plate appearances in the majors and he can grow a beard between innings, he'll be just 23 years old next season. Justin is entering his age-25 campaign, and B.J. is the old man at all of 28. All young dudes, all 20/20 threats in 2013 and for years to come. So, when was the last time that a team boasted three 20/20 outfielders?

The answer, according to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, is "never." In all the years since we began this stick-and-ball business, no team has ever had its left, center and right fielders all go 20/20 in the same season. The Uptons and Heyward could very well make history next season. And the season after that. And the season after that. If Justin re-signs with the Braves following the 2015 season, B.J. keeps his wheels and Heyward stays healthy, they could be at this for a half-decade.

It's incredibly cool -- and rare -- for two brothers to man the same outfield. But if B.J., Justin and Heyward all hit 20 bombs and steal 20 bases next year, the story of the Uptons' shared bloodlines will be downright blasé by comparison.

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference, here's a list of teammates who have gone 20/20 in the same season while in their twenties. Only nine pairs have pulled off the trick, with Justin Upton and Chris Young being the most recent in 2011:

              20/20 seasons by teammates under 30 years old

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