BJ Upton: broken or overrated?

If I told you that BJ Upton's 2009 peripherals were largely identical to his 2007 numbers, what would you think? In 2007, BJ Upton walked at a 12.1% clip and struck out 32.5% of the time (.42 BB/K). His speed score, according to the Bill James Handbook was 4.9 (speed score ranges from 0 to 10, with the super majority of players ranging from 3 to 7).

This year, in 2009, the elder Upton is drawing slighly more walks (12.4 BB%), striking out a little less (32.1 K%) and running faster (7.5 speed score). Yet, his wOBA is .110 points lower this season than it was in 2007. What gives?

In 2007, BJ Upton hit for a lot of power (.207 ISO) and drove the ball with authority (19.6 LD%). Since then, shoulder injuries have limited his effectiveness and power, as his ISO has fallen from .207 to .128 and now .091 in the past two seasons and his LD rate has decreased from 19.6 to 18.9 to an anemic 13.8% (13th worst amongst MLB starters). Luck also had much to do with BJ Upton's 2007 successes. In 2007, Upton sported an unsustainably high .399 BABIP (xBABIP was .328) and shot 19.8% of his flyballs for home runs (league average is 11%).

To be fair, a lot of Upton's home run success was made his own, as his home runs averaged 395 feet in distance. That's a lot of pop, but it still does not equivocate to 24 home runs with sub-40% flyball rate. BJ Upton, who supports a lifetime 1.50 GB/FB rate, hits the ball on the ground way too much to be a prodigious power hitter. BJ Upton is strong, to be sure -- just look at what his brother can do -- but he gets on top of the ball way too much to consistently drive pitches out of the yard.

Despite injury last season, Upton increased his moonshot average to 407 feet, but his increasing GB rate led to a correction in his home run numbers. His 8% HR/FB rate may have been a little low, but it certainly was more within the realm of reasonable expectations from a guy who hits half of his balls in play in the form of grounders.

Some people claim that BJ Upton has been getting unlucky this year. I tend to side with them, but I do not think that the elder Upton will improve much this season -- at least not if he is still being affected and limited by lingering shoulder issues (just look at Geovanny Soto). Right now, Upton has a ridiculously low 4.5 HR/FB%, but his two jacks have averaged an anemic 365 feet in length -- less than those of midget MVP Dustin Pedroia (370 foot average). His BABIP is .270, but his xBABIP is only .290, thanks to a sharp decrease in line drives this season. Really, the only thing that BJ Upton has improved upon is his plate discipline (marginally) and steals/speed (by a lot).

All of this says one thing to me: if I am a fantasy owner, I do not want BJ Upton on my team. If I, like The 'Bright' One, owned him, I would try shopping him to salvage whatever value I could get. I do not see Upton hitting even .260 going forward or eclipsing 10 HR this season (and if he does, it won't be by much). He'll get 40 SB this season, but probably kill your other categories (except runs) in the process.

Sell! Sell! Sell! (and no, not to me).


The 'Bright' One said...

he was autopicked for me cause you picked a place to draft with a shitty wireless connection

David "MVP" Eckstein said...


David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Use the player queue! we all told you to do that in case!

I got autopicked a closer :D

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