The Detroit Tigers Justin Upton is quietly making noise at the plate with numbers similar to previous All-Star seasons.
His grand slam helped give the Detroit Tigers a much-needed lead against the Boston Red Sox in front of a national audience on Sunday night.
On a team loaded with All-Stars, Upton does not get the kudos he has deserved this season. And, he certainly deserves applause.
The muscular left-fielder has had a few notable moments so far in June (and we’re not even two full weeks into the month). On June 4, against the Chicago White Sox, he hit a walk-off home run. Then, against the Red Sox, he hit a grand slam off of none other than Pesky’s Pole at Fenway. The likelihood of anyone hitting Pesky’s Pole is quite small and even smaller for Upton, who usually hits his home runs to left field.
More home runs early in the season
Upton’s grand slam was his 14th home run of the season. And, if he keeps his pace and remains injury-free, he could potentially end up with 38 home runs. In 2016, he hit 31 of them – with 18 of them coming in the last 37 games of the season. If Upton gets really hot – like he was at the end of 2016 – he could top 40 home runs by the time the season is done.
One thing that seems crystal clear in 2017 is that Upton appears to be rather comfortable playing with the Tigers. And with comfort, comes better numbers. He already has better batting stats than he did in 2016. At this point in 2016, Upton was hitting .224/.272/.336 and had four home runs. He currently is batting .261/.349/.498.
Showing better plate discipline
Along with added home runs and better batting stats, Upton is showing plate discipline that he did not have last year. At this point in 2016, Upton had 81 strikeouts and 15 walks. Now, he has 68 K’s and 26 walks. This plate discipline has led to Upton scoring 37 runs for the Tigers. In 2016 in the same span of games, he crossed home plate 27 times. His RBI numbers are also up in 2017, with 35 compared to 17 a year ago.
Upton is actually performing better than he did the last time he was considered worthy enough for an All-Star Game invitation. He was an All-Star in 2009 and 2011 when he played with the Arizona Diamondbacks and in 2015 when he was with the San Diego Padres. In 2015, he finished the season batting .251/.336/.454. He could easily be named to the All-Star Team this year, especially if Tigers’ fans could cast a few votes his way.
Passing the outfield eyeball test
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While Upton’s plate performance has markedly improved, his numbers are about the same in the outfield. But, outfielding numbers can be misleading. His current fielding percentage is .978, which is close to his career average of .980. What Upton is showing this year more than last year is a better hustle to the ball. He is playing shallower than he did in 2016. Unfortunately, he does have three errors in the left field, so far. He only had four in 2016. In the outfield, errors are more likely to occur when players hustle and make solid attempts rather than not getting to the ball at all.
Unfortunately, he does have three errors in the left field, so far. He only had four in 2016. In the outfield, errors are more likely to occur when players hustle and make solid attempts rather than not getting to the ball at all.
Upton has become one of the true assets to the Tigers. Instead of being a momentum-killer like he was with his career-high 179 strikeouts in 2016, he has become a momentum-builder. Keep a close eye on J-Up, because if you blink, you might miss more good stuff!