Before the season started, the general consensus was that the Rays would need to rely heavily on Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, and Manny Ramirez to make up for the massive amount of RBIs, SBs, and XBH lost when Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena departed.
Nine games into the early season and Longoria is 0 for 5 with a bad oblique. Manny Ramirez has decided to put himself out of commission by retiring. And while there are little jewels in the muck that is a 1-8 record (like Sam Fuld hitting well, making great catches, and stealing bases or the bullpen's strong ability to keep the status quo), the season, at this young age, looks disastrous.
But of the three stars the Rays possessed that were required to perform, Upton has lived up to his end of the bargain. For a change, his team is taking the lumps while Upton is quietly having a career season (yes, it is early, but still. . .).
Better yet, with a team struggling in consistency, one half of the Upton Enigma (all-star capability, enraging negative intangibles) is leading the way towards consistency. But he can't do it himself.
'Lazy' was a word that came up often with players like BJ Upton and, well, Justin Upton. 'Inconsistent' was a word that has recently come up. Either way, BJ was the ultimate 'he's this BUT' player. A steady rise in strikeouts, a drop in both walks and batting average (since an impressive .300 year in '07), an inconsistent arm, and a fluctuating power swing (going as high as 24 homers in '07 and as low as 9 in '08) have plagued BJ for the last three years.
And it is understood that a 1-8 record is not the end, or even the middle, of a season, a strong start for a player who seems to have decreased in value (in critic's, writer's, and fantasy expert's eyes) can not only be a confidence booster, but a sign of things to come.
Right now, Upton is the leader of the Rays. Johnny Damon may have the most experience, but Upton is by far the most talented. And a 1-8 record has nothing to do with Upton's leadership and, so far, commitment to maximum effort and efficiency.
Here is BJ's statline after the first nine games:
9 GP, 9/31 (.290), 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB, 8 SO, 1 SB, 2 CS, 18 Total Bases; also owned a seven game hit streak to open the season.
The first thing that impressed me in this young season was BJ's ability to get on base in every game. He's averaging close to a strikeout a game, sure, but he has a bit more patience, getting a 4-ball count four times. This has helped raise his batting average and help his team get someone on base. In nine games, he's at least got to first. . .and when the Rays have been struggling to reach base often, this is a necessity.
I also liked BJ's power. Two doubles and two homers in the first nine games is a good sign. His four RBIs easily makes him the leader on the squad (which is either really sad or depressingly good). In fact, he leads the Rays (or is co-leader) in runs, hits, doubles, homers, walks, and batting average. NOT strikeouts!
So, we can say a lot about 1-8 and we can say a lot about BJ's early numbers and it can all mean nothing in the end. BJ might go back to his old ways and the Rays might clinch the wild card. Either way, we can only see what we got so far. . .and so far BJ Upton has delivered for the Rays. Time to start thanking him with some Ws.
Have you been impressed with BJ Upton so far?
Yes (48 votes)
No (4 votes)
Too early to tell (13 votes)
65 total votes