B.J. Upton’s Newest New Approach | The Process Report

B.J. Upton’s Newest New Approach

After B.J. Upton’s homer on Tuesday night, Jason Churchill (of Prospect Insider and ESPN’s draft coverage) tweeted that Upton had began taking a more aggressive approach in May.

Through Wednesday’s game, Upton is hitting .281/.317/.544 in May with three home runs and six doubles. Upton hit .237/.333/.376 in April with seven extra-base hits total, but a better walk-to-strikeout ratio (.50 in April, .17 in May). Often, you would expect Upton’s batting average on balls in play to be inflated, but instead his BABIP is a measly eight points higher in May than it was in April (and neither month is out of this world high).

Sure enough, Upton is seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance (3.77 instead of the 4 he saw in April). Is he swinging more on the first-pitches, let’s see:

April – 108 first-pitches, 40.7 percent swing rate, 18 percent whiff rate, 45.5 foul rate (of total swings)
May – 56 first-pitches, 41 percent swing rate, 26 percent whiff rate, 35 percent foul rate (of total swings)

A little more swinging, sure, but a considerable increase in whiffs too. The next question to look at is whether Upton is simply being more selective with the pitches he is offering at. In other words, is he swinging more in-zone and reducing the amount of hacks taken on pitches outside of the zone? To answer, here is a graphical look using PITCHf/x data:

Doesn’t look like anything necessarily damming or inspiring. What about a pitch type breakdown?

Fastball – 75 percent
Offspeed – 11 percent
Breaking – 14 percent

Fastball – 65 percent
Breaking – 35 percent

Hitters generally do not like to swing at first-pitch breaking stuff, but Upton has upped his rate in May. Maybe the key is that Upton is simply becoming more aggressive earlier in the count, but not necessarily on the first pitch of the at-bat. Hence why his strikeout and walk rates have dipped, but his first-pitch swinging total remain the same. In order to test this theory, I took the total number of swings and found the ratio of swings for each total of strikes. Obviously this extends beyond the first pitch of the at-bat, but those are included (many of the zero-strike swings are first-pitch offerings):

35.6 percent of total swings came with zero strikes.
31.5 percent of total swings came with one strike.
32.9 percent of total swings came with two strikes.

32 percent of total swings came with zero strikes.
35.9 percent of total swings came with one strike.
32 percent of total swings came with two strikes.

In laymen’s terms: Upton is swinging more on pitches with one strike on the board. Perhaps pitchers are attempting to capitalize on his patient reputation and cheat for another strike. Rather than taking the pitch, Upton is feasting on these offerings. Or maybe it’s just a fluctuation over a small sample size. It’s difficult to tell.

Either way, Upton’s approach and supposed adjustments are always a discussion point and this won’t change going forward.

Leave a Reply

#layout { padding-left:20px; }