Detroit Tigers: Justin Upton Slowly Turning Things Around
Detroit Tigers outfielder Justin Upton is seemingly turning things around after a slow start. The three-time All-Star is finally starting to show signs of improvement following the first half of 2016.
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila needed a left fielder last offseason. With a high profile, it wasn’t a lock that Detroit would sign one of the big-name free agents on the market. Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon, Chris Davis, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and old friend Yoenis Cespedes were all conceivable fits.
However, Avila and company opted to go with one of the younger options on the market—Justin Upton.
A career .271 hitter, Upton is the definition of streaky. Hid overall numbers tend to look good at the end of the season (he averaged 80 RBI, 30 doubles, 25 home runs and 16 stolen bases per season from 2009 to 2015), but the outfielder generally goes on prolonged hot and cold streaks.
It’s safe to say that the first part of the 2016 campaign has qualified as a cold streak for Upton. The hitter is still sitting on a paltry .236 batting average and a .289 batting average. Additionally, the 28-year-old has registered just a 0.2 WAR so far this season. That’s quite a drop off for a hitter who’s collective WAR from 2009 to 2015 was 24.5.
However, despite the struggles which have seen Upton’s batting average dip as low as .195, the former Diamondback seems to be turning things around.
Since the start of July, Upton is hitting .289 with a .313 on-base percentage. Additionally, he’s added five RBI, five runs scored, four doubles, a pair of home runs and two walks in the span. His play helped the Tigers to a 7-5 record since the beginning of the month. The team now sits 5.5 games behind Cleveland for the lead in the American League Central.
One reason for Upton’s much improved batting average in July has been his ability to rack up multi-hit games. The outfielder has collected multiple hits in a game five times in the month. Entering July, Upton had just 10 multi-hit contests all season.
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Justin Upton’s ability to rebound moving forward will be key for the Detroit Tigers. The team already possess a potent offense, but they need Upton performing at a high level.
The outfielder can potentially bring much-needed length to a lineup that has been missing it lately. With J.D. Martinez on the disabled list, Detroit’s top half of the batting order has generally consisted of Ian Kinsler, Cameron Maybin, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos.
Upton generally follows those five. However, after the former first-overall pick, things tend to fall off. Tyler Collins has shown well since returning from Toledo, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has provided some timely power. Other than that though, the likes of James McCann, Mike Aviles and Jose Iglesias have all posted sub-par offensive seasons.
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Upton playing well would do wonders for the bottom half of the Detroit lineup. McCann and Aviles both own on-base percentages below .265, while Iglesias’ batting average has dipped from .300 last season to .259 this year.