On Friday night BJ Upton was picked off first base in the 9th inning of a tie game against the Yankees. The Rays would lose the game a half-inning later. The move was so egregious, even some of the most staunch Upton-apologists decided they have had enough.
Some say BJ is lazy. Some say he has frequent lapses in concentration. And some say the critics are unnecessarily hard on Upton. Maybe they are all right. Maybe not. But we wonder if there is something else at play here. Poor mechanics.
On Friday night, Upton was picked off in large part because he had already made a move towards second base. But let’s take a look at Upton just before that move…
It appears that most of his weight is on the lead (right) foot. Not the worst thing in the world, but not really text-book either. But there is something else. Upton appears to have his body turned toward second-base. This is before Upton began his move to second base. Here is another angle
BJ Upton has been doing this for a while, and despite our perceptions, he is not picked off any more than other big-time base stealers. Still, our question is: Why? Why does a player with as much speed as BJ Upton need to cheat towards second base? And why would he need to cheat with Jorge Posada behind the plate who doesn’t have a good throwing arm?
And why must a player with as much natural athletic ability feel the need to reinvent the game of baseball? We are all very familiar with his unorthodox swing at the plate. And now this? We don’t recall any baserunner cheating this much while taking a lead at first base. And we certainly have never seen any of the great basestealers do this. So why?
Yes, on this particular play, Upton was caught leaning. But with this type of leadoff, that just meant it was impossible for him to get back.
Is BJ Upton lazy or absent-minded or needlessly crucified? Maybe. But like his manager, sometimes his biggest fault is over-thinking and making the game more complicated than it needs to be.
*There was also the question of whether or not Rivera balked on the move as both Upton and Joe Maddon have claimed. We watched the replay several times and we didn’t see a balk. In fact, if you go back earlier in the at bat, it does look like Rivera balked the first time he threw over by breaking his knee a split-second before his move. But that is not seen when Upton is picked off.