It’s not all that often that a player comes along that can run like Mays and hit like Hayes, well, Charlie Hayes at least:
I’m an unabashed Upton-supporter, because I appreciate the little things that he does on the field. He takes his walks, can hit for power, plays a marvelous CF (playing more shallow than just about anyone else), and sure he gets frustrated on occasion. I like guys that get frustrated, to me, it shows they care about the game and are more mad at when they fail than they are happy at success. I can relate to that. There, I said it, on with the preview.
Here’s B.J.’s player card courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz
And here’s his spray chart
In lieu of using other projection systems I ran a quick Marcel projection. This is basically a fancy way of saying that I weighted his numbers from 2007 – 10 on a 1:2:3:4 scale. It’s quick and easy, and relatively effective for established players like Monsieur Upton:
*Note that wRAA is based on a league-average wOBA of .330
This looks like the guy that I’ve come to know, except I would probably expect a bit more power as Beej is a guy that is close to, if not already in, his prime. That wOBA would be good for 12th best in 2010 among Center Fielders with at least 450 plate appearances, but upon factoring in his plate appearances, defense, and positional/replacement adjustments he’d be pretty close to a 3.5 Wins Above Replacement. That figure would have put him around 14th using the qualifications mentioned above. That’s a pretty solid player, in my opinion, and as mentioned above, these estimates may be a bit on the conservative side.
Beej gets even more valuable when you think about the balance that he brings to this lineup. Longoria and Rodriguez are the only other guys that you would consider everyday players that mash lefties. Against southpaws B.J. has put up this wOBA over the last four years:
What this should tell you indirectly is that he hasn’t been very good against righties over that span and the data seems to bear that out:
Let’s take a look at some of his peripherals to see why this might be the case. The following data is from 2008 – 10 and breaks down the pitches he saw into whether or not it was a fastball (four-seam, two-seam, sinker, cutter) or an off-speed (change, curve, knuckle-curve, knuckle, slider) pitch. Beej gets a bad rap as unable to touch a good fastball, particularly from righties. We can see from the above wOBA numbers that he doesn’t hit righties very well, so maybe the data will glean something useful:
Focusing on righties, Beej appears to be able to drive the fastball pretty well against right-handers, though he does whiff quite a bit more. He also gets relatively fewer balls from right-handers and takes less pitches for strikes. It would seem that if he could cut his whiffs (make better contact) then his struggles against righties would dissipate a bit and if he can maintain what he’s doing against lefties then he could end up being a threat from both sides of the plate. Add in the better-than-average defense at a premium position and his ability to stay on the field, even in the face of injuries, and you’ve got a pretty solid ball-player that just might not have emptied the true talent tank yet. My question to you, the reader is, would you be happy with this level of production out of B.J. Upton in 2011? Do you think he will do better? Worse? If so, which aspects?
For me, I’d gladly take 50+ extra base hits with 40+ steals and solid defense. For that, I can live with the strikeouts.