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.

 
 

21 Comments

  1. Jordi says:

    If it wasn’t for BJ, what would we talk about? The stadium issue? Gah.

  2. Stephanie says:

    At least BJ was with the team on Friday night…

  3. Nick says:

    He has always led off this way….Always

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Not always. For a while? Yes. But that doesn’t answer the question. Why? Why does he do it? He doesn’t need the advantage and all I see is that it makes life difficult getting back to the bag.

  4. td says:

    He was stealing, and the pitcher balked. It was a blatant balk, which makes it worse.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      I have umpired, and I didn’t see a balk. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t one, but I have yet to see anybody explain what Rivera did wrong. As I stated above he does balk earlier, but I’m not seeing it on that throw.

      • Cory says:

        It was an egregious balk. He lifted his front foot before his back foot. Maddon defended Upton in this as well. He got picked off on a balk, not because of a lapse in concentration, laziness, or due to his lead off stance. He’s led off that way for quite sometime.

        • Cork Gaines says:

          Maybe if you slow it down frame-by-frame, but that I disagree that it was obvious. Pitchers do that ALL the time. Again, go back to the previous throw over and watch his knee. THAT is a balk.

  5. Gus says:

    Last 2.5 years, he’s averaged about 14 outs from either being picked off or caught stealing after being picked off. Carl runs more and is “less worse” at that — 10 outs last year, 5 so far this year. So it is not your imagination — he gives up lots of outs on the basepaths in addition to his terrible hitting.

    And Upton’s production with runners in scoring position and no outs or 1 out has to be some kind of record for ineptitude. His sacrifice fly over the weekend was a miracle.

    Anybody else think Sunday’s game is totally different if Crawford is in LF and he catches the ball Cano hit to make it 3-2? Not Price’s good stuff, but maybe he gets through it.

    • Beth says:

      Yes, I did think about that. We’ll never know, of course, whether the momentum shift of having that ball caught would have prevented additional runs in later innings, but it did bug me that they played this key game with their potential gold glove outfielder DHing. Maybe give him a day’s rest against Baltimore instead?

  6. Joe D. says:

    Lost in all of this is that BJ Upton has a killer mustache these days, it rivals Pavano’s, and ‘Nando’s of ’08…

  7. ChuckInJax says:

    I was out of town this weekend and didn’t get to watch much Rayball…When I did see it, I noticed that CC was not in left. WTF happened?!

  8. DCat says:

    His move certainly makes it look like he is running on every pitch. It is very difficult for a pitcher to read him. There is a lot of good that comes from that as well as the bad. Clearly, not good for him to get caught but he is an aggressive baserunner. I am not an apologist for BJ but not going to bash him for this.

  9. John S says:

    Thats fine.. I will bash him for being a flat out bad baseball player..

    Blessed with genetics that allows him to be a great athlete and he uses maybe 25% of it.

    Worst off he is a head case. Those Dick’s Sporting Good commercials with Adidas have really set him back and will be his last.

    He will be gone in the offseason (if not sooner providing the package) regardless what he does.. He does more harm than good and the team nor franchise needs that. Is he the only one of the team that is bringing the team down, absolutely not but he would probably fetch the most in return and he had the most physical abilities to be great.

    • Cory says:

      I don’t understand the hate for Upton. He’s 5th on the team in wOBA, he’s hardly the problem. He’s a +5 defender in CF, he gets walks, and he steals bases. He’s had almost an identical season with Curtis Granderson. Upton is having a down season and is still rating as an average CF compared to the MLB.

      I think high expectations is what kills everyone about Upton. After his 07′ season, everyone had sky high expectations for him to match or surpass those numbers. Whether his shoulder never has been the same or he’s not trying his hardest, who knows. He’s hardly the biggest problem on the Rays. He’s playing cheaper then his salary pays him, and he’s our best option for CF right now.

      • Ryan Glass says:

        The problem is the criticism doesn’t come from people who understand wOBA, positional adjustments, or defensive value. They understand that he makes mistakes and looks like he doesn’t hustle. His wOBA+ is exactly League Average at 100 yet he’s a terrible hitter.

  10. Don says:

    Upton has already REINVENTED base running….because I or any of my friends have ever seen anything like it!

  11. John says:

    I have been defending BJ all year, after Friday night I have given up trying to defend him. I actually think his problems have has much to do with his terrible mechanics ( batting,bunting and base running) as much as his mental lapses. I was at the game Friday and felt that he was very non challant (sic) getting back to first base the first couple of pick off attempts. I dont blame the loss on him, but getting picked off in that situation his unacceptable at any level

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