image is the fine work of @Josh_Frank
How does it go? Haters gonna hate? They can hate all they want but there is no doubting who the hottest player on the Rays roster has been since the all-star break. B.J. Upton has a .284/.357/.534 slash line since the break and has thrown in 10 steals which computes out to a .405 wOBA. That wOBA is 46 points higher than anyone else on the roster over the past 30 days, 70 points higher than Evan Longoria, and 108 points higher than Carl Crawford. Upton has 14 extra base hits in his last 98 plate appearances which is only one behind Longoria which says that either his shoulder is finally feeling 100% or hitting coach Derek Shelton’s instruction has fully sunk in. Whatever the cause of this resurgence, Rays fans have to love the results.
A look at his spray chart in August shows that Upton is using the entire field of late compared to earlier this season. Compare the two graphs below from the awesome site TexasLeaguers.com that show Upton’s first half and second half spray charts:
The differences are quite noticeable. Notice all of the ground ball outs to shortstop in the first half as Upton rolled over on a lot of pitches or got jammed with good fastballs and he had a lot more outs to the outfield than he did hits. In the second half, he has done equal damage to all parts of the field and his home runs have not been like the ones he hit most of the time in 2008 and 2009 when they barely cleared the fence.
If you are thinking that it is easy to stand out from a bunch of offensively-challenged teammates, think again. Upton has the tenth best wOBA of all American League hitters since the break and is tied with the red hot Mark Teixeira and Adrian Beltre in that time frame. Names that trail Upton in wOBA since the break include: Robinson Cano, Delmon Young, David Ortiz, Bobby Abreu, and Nick Swisher to name a few. Yes, he is still striking out a lot – second most often in the league behind only Jack Cust since the break but with production like this, it is very tough to argue with the results.
As a B.J. Upton apologist, I am thrilled to see the results as they back up my feeling that we have not yet seen the best of Upton’s career and I want those prime years to be playing for the Rays rather than against the Rays. The last thing the playoff competition wanted to see was the Rays find another bat and it appears they found one without giving up anything and a fully healthy Upton hitting like this could mean the difference between a wildcard spot and winning the American League East for the second time in three seasons.