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.

 
 

17 Comments

  1. Gatorbuc15 says:

    I really hope that your right Cork. And that B.J. is back to hitting ways for good, now that his shoulder is feeling better. He has hit the ball a lot better of late, with more consistency, and is showing a lot of power. But for right now, I’m going to take the cautiously optomistic rought. There is still more baseball to be played, and unfortunately he’s shown a bad tendency to have hitting lolls. And when he gets in them, it takes him a while to get himself out.
    So, I hope that the offense he is displaying right now, is here to stay. But I won’t be surprised if his offense suddenly disappears again.

  2. Joe D. says:

    The thing that I noted when the dugout incident with Longo happened, was “I just want to see BJ having fun again.” I think the picture that was in “The Hangover” today is very indicative of where BJ is right now and for all of the questioning that goes on of Joe Maddon’s baseball decisions, and being unconventional, getting a guy like BJ to embrace and play up the Brayser its something Maddon and not too many others could pull off.

    • Gatorbuc15 says:

      You have a very good point there, Joe D.

    • Jim says:

      BJ playing up the Brayser could have something to do with what is in that Gatorade cup. Not that it’s a big deal, but my guess is when that picture is taken, he is not in the process of getting re-hydrated.

      • Joe D. says:

        Just like the threads this week about Longo “being cool, crossing his legs” and CC’s Tatt’s, I really don’t care what’s in the cup. For the record though, given the picture appears to be @ Tropicana, I’d venture to guess that is a soft drink.

        • Jim says:

          Joe, I hope it didn’t come across like I was chastizing BJ, because I am in the camp that I don’t give a shit if these guys have a little fun after the games. As long as they show up ready to play the next day, have at it.

  3. Gus says:

    I tend to think it might have to do with recent commentary on his love of the nightlife, etc., or it could be one of those months where he inexplicably hits. But whatever the reason, I’d suggest we (and he) “respect the streak” and not ask too many questions.

    I would note that he still has been striking out a lot during this streak; when he leads off the game, he must strike out 50% of the time. And despite 3 weeks of hot hitting, dude is still hitting .242. So I’m not buying BJ stock anytime soon; but I’d hold on the sell for a while.

    • GOB says:

      Batting Average is a really really really bad measure of offensive value. OBP, OPS, hell even RBIs are all better measures than BA.

      • Gus says:

        Pick whatever offensive stat for BJ you want, and they all are below average. He’s not a good offensive player, and hasn’t been since 2007.

        • Scot says:

          By True Average (EQA1), he is at .274 where the league average is .260 Include his defense and essentially, BJ has been as productive is Zorilla (behind Longo and CC.)

          If you want to sell someone, make it JB.

          • Gus says:

            BJ’s not the only one having a down offensive year. Bartlett and Zobrist are too, for sure. The whole league is down for that matter. But the difference is Upton has been on this path for the better part of 3 years. Zobrist and Barlett were huge in 2009 and solid in 2008 while BJ was BJ. It is fair to say, this is who he is (unless, of course, Cork’s apprehensive shoulder theory is correct).

            I know there is a whole cottage industry of people who find ways to defend Upton. But for Rays fans who watch all the games, I find a vast consenus among us that his bat (not his glove (awesome), not his hustle (generally very good, subject to periods of brain dead lapses) is just not major league quality any more. It may be that his glove and range are so exceptional that it keeps him in the league for a long time, but I kind of doubt it, the way he has performed offensively the last 3 seasons. You can debate that a guy can be second in the league in strikeouts, bat .242, have a .330 OBP and a .752 ops (all of these stats at the absolute peak of his season after his best series of 2010, mind you) and be a worthwhile outfielder in the American League, but I’m not seeing it (I’m not a Baseball Prospectus guy, so I don’t have the true average data).

            Somebody will give Upton another shot if the Rays give up on him (something Topkin has been hinting at in the past few weeks that is on management’s radar screen). But if Upton puts up another 2 years like his last three, he won’t be a starter in Tampa Bay or anywhere else in MLB in 2013.

            I hope this month is a turning point, but we’ve all seen good months by BJ in the past followed up with extended periods of hopelessness at the plate. As Huniscker said, he’s the most enigmatic player he’s ever been around. But it is hard to see a franchise as tight with the $ as this one committing real money that he will command as he accrues service time to a guy with this much mystery at the plate.

    • Sublime says:

      Gus:

      His batting average was in the .220′s, so I’ll take .243 and rising. If this dude gets hot, we don’t need a Manny Ramirez or any other bat! Plus, BJ and Evan tearing up the playoffs seems like a distant memory, but it was a helluva show watching these two single-handedly carry this team!

  4. Scot says:

    I’m a BJ supporter. I don’t care if he smokes doobies in the dugout if he performs on the field and I recognize he is one of the top 3 or 4 more productive players (non-pitcher) on the team. However, a sample size of 100 PA’s is pretty small. If he continues through the playoffs, remind us of your theory and I’ll salute you.

  5. Sublime says:

    Gus:

    The 6 shoulder injuries are real and documented. I feel it’s somewhat of a testament to him that he doesn’t really complain about it. Jameer Nelson had a torn labrium and he was out 4 months! Probably to the detriment of his career and reputation, he continued to play.

  6. Scot says:

    To Gus:

    You make some good points. The one I particularly think is strong is BJ’s trend, which I agree is negative. Adding to the limits of the $, my guess is that BJ will be going to arbitration, but he will at least be offered a contract, unlike JB who is more replaceable.

  7. Dbabii says:

    I feel bad for him because I tore my labrum in my shoulder as well in 08.. when I pitched for my high school.. I got the surgery ( my surgeon is the tampa bay rays orthopedic doctor) and After 7 months, I tore it again. It’s a hard injury to recover from and I hope he ends up beating it. (:

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