When BJ Upton injured his shoulder in May, 2008, it marked the sixth straight season in which Upton had injured his shoulder swinging a bat. This particular occurrence was the worst of the group, leading to a torn labrum and requiring off-season shoulder surgery following the 2008 World Series.
Prior to the 2009 season we wondered if Upton would change his swing or if he was willing to risk additional injuries. In 2009, Upton hit .241 with 11 home runs, a .313 OBP and .686 OPS. However, 2009 proved to be a bit of a lost season for Upton, admitting that his post-surgery shoulder was never 100%, bothering him all year.
The 2010 season came and Upton was 100% for the first time since his monster 2007 season (.300, 24HR, .386OBP, .894OPS). But we also saw that Derek Shelton had Upton start working the opposite field more, possibly to avoid the shoulder problems he was experiencing in the past. We saw it right away in spring Training with Upton launching opposite field home runs and it continued into the season. But the new approach didn’t take. Upton continued to struggle as he posted a first-half batting average of .230 (.715 OPS).
What we saw was that his mechanics were a mess and he was being eaten alive by
fastballs, especially from right-handed pitchers. These were the same pitches that Upton used to destroy with his lightning quick wrists and what used to be one of the fastest bats in baseball.
But then something changed. Upton started raking again. In August, Upton is hitting .333 with 3 home runs and a .408 OBP. His OPS is 1.012 after posting a .634 OPS in July.
Is it a fluke? We have seen hot months from Bossman before (e.g. June ’09, Oct ’08). But none of those months stuck. And at some point, Upton was back to his craptastic ways at the plate proving those months to be the exceptions, not the rule.
But this time, much like his run in the 2008 playoffs, Upton appears to have put his fear of the injury behind him. Once again he is jumping on fastballs and pulling them with authority. He is no longer exclusively using the opposite field (as can be seen here).
So maybe Upton has turned the corner mentally. Maybe he will continue to crush the ball and we will finally see a return to his pre-injury days. But there is also the risk that Upton will once again injure his shoulder. At this point, having seen the alternative, we are happy Bossman is willing to take that risk. Let’s just hope any injuries don’t happen soon and that BJ will continue to put the fear aside.