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.
- 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. 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?