Since tonight was another offense abomination when we need to score, lets take a look at ways to fix & help improve the Rays line up. Upton is obviously a target for needing to help step up when the usual players are not tearing the cover off the ball. From a 2007 masher to a 2008 OBP to the 2009-2010 mass of confusion. Where did all of BJ's talent go & how can he go back to being productive. Obviously altering his mechanics & approach would solve a lot, but where specifically could he improve.From our friends @ fangraphs, lets look at some of the numbers from 2007-2010, even though 2007 should be taken with a grain of salt.
Obviously the 2007 season is a outside the norm we're going to expect from BJ going forward. The first thing that obvious sticks out is the large decrease in Batting Average. It's 30 points each year for three years. But this falls in line with the fall in BABIP for Upton. His OBP is down largely from a decrease in walks. The ISO Power is there and is slightly up this year, meaning that he can drive the ball when he's hitting well. His LD% is up from last year only 1% less than 2008 while his GB & FB rates are largely the same from last year. A stark difference from 2008 to 2010 is a large decrease in GB%. It was over 50% probably from the labrum injury that drove him to hit more GBs to reach base. BJ might be best to return to hitting more GBs & using his speed to get more hits rather than hit FBs that are less likely to leave the yard or fall in. The increase from 2008 to 2010 in FB% is 9.6, not a good trend for someone who's shown a lack of power.
The next the issue is the breakdown per pitch. While hitting FBs at a great rate in 2007, he's been relatively flat the last 3 years in them. Even slightly better so far over the course of 2010 so far. The noticeable difference though comes from everything BUT fastballs. He's struggling to hit anything off-speed already this year while excelling at it the last 1-2yrs. Sliders went from a +pitch to a -pitch to a pitch that's sent hitting back 50yrs from 2008 to 2010. Same with CBs, very good in 2008 & 2009, very bad in 2010. In fact outside of the slight increase in FBs, everything has declines by a large margin from 2008. Even the CH which he's improved on is 2+ Worse than it was in 2008. So why all these struggles for BJ? Onto the next set of data.
It's obvious the most frustrating thing watching Upton now is a complete decline of his once great plate discipline. From 2007-2009, 19.1, 15.0, 19.5-all very solid numbers, but now it's 28.7%. He's expanded his zone and his helping get himself out rather than making the other team get him out. This is probably tied into his poor performance against off-speed pitches. He is swinging also at more pitches IN the zone, but this is more of a factor of being aggressive when he was more passive about swinging, probably from the shoulder injury. Overall he's swinging at over half the pitches he sees compared to 44.0, 40.4, 43.0 the previous 3 years. The most disturbing trend is the contact rates over the last 3 years. 65.6 in 2008, 56.4 in 2009, 52.3 in 2010 so far. This is partly due to the increased abouts of swings at bad pitches, but also the inability now to recognize what's being thrown or he can't foul them off and continue the AB. The most important number overall is probably his zone contact numbers, as they are down heavily. 83.9 in 2008, 82.2 in 2009 77.8 in 2010. The problem, he's either not recognizing the pitches & missing, he's whiffing on fastballs, or his swing is poor mechanicly and needs to change. The answer is probably all 3, but as it stands now, his contact rates are the worst on the team, especially for the starting 9. His overall contact numbers are down almost 10% the last 2+yrs. Because of this pitchers are now going be more aggressive with him, as more pitches are in the zone over the last 3years. Also, he's getting more 1st pitch strikes, making him either have to be aggressive early or starting him in an 0-1 hole. 55.2% in 2008 mean he had 1-0 or an 0-1 about about the same amount of times, but now at 68%, he'd be at 0-1 more than 2 of 3PAs. His SwStr% is also up, but that is obvious given his contact rates are down. But missing the ball almost 2x as much, from 7.7 to 14.4 since 2008, and an increase of 4.6%! from 2009!
Obviously BJ has super athletic talent and the team is going to need him to play well for the Rays to win. He's the biggest indicator of team success IMO. What we need to hope for is that he goes onto make more contact by fizing his mechanics of his swing & recognize pitches better, if he does, we'll see production and a lot more :) compared to :( for us.