Breaking down B.J. Upton

3 Comments

B.J Upton as the final piece to add to a contending team is a rather odd notion.  Obviously, Carlos Beltran has run circles around Upton offensively this year, and lesser lights like Josh Willingham, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera have also been superior hitters.  Just look at Upton’s batting averages the last few years:

2007: .300
2008: .273
2009: .241
2010: .237
2011: .229

How is a .230-.240 hitter a difference maker?

Upton, though, is such a tough player to judge.  He’s terribly inconsistent, but his batting average doesn’t come close to approximating his value.  Upton is an above average defensive center fielder and a quality basestealer with 20- or 25-homer power and a strong walk rate.

Even though his averages and power numbers have been all over the map, WAR actually rates him as being fairly consistent in his five years as the Rays’ primary center fielder.

2007: 4.7 WAR
2008: 4.0
2009: 1.3
2010: 4.3
2011: 2.2 — on pace for 3.6

There’s a couple of important things to remember here.  One is that Tropicana Field plays as a strong pitchers’ park.  The other is that offense has collapsed throughout the league.   Upton’s .706 OPS is barely below the AL average of .718, and it’s actually slightly above average after adjusting for The Trop.

Since 2007, Upton rates fifth among major league center fielders (>50 percent of games) in WAR.

1. Carlos Beltran: 22.0
2. Curtis Granderson: 20.5
3. Matt Kemp: 18.3
4. Josh Hamilton: 17.9
5. B.J. Upton: 16.7
6. Shane Victorino: 14.8
7. Grady Sizemore: 14.6
8. Marlon Byrd: 13.4
9. Torii Hunter: 13.4
10. Andrew McCutchen: 12.0 (since 2009)

Upton is still just 26.  He’s under control for next year and he shouldn’t cost more than $7 million, so he has considerable trade value.

And after saying all that, I still don’t think he’s the final piece for a contender.  I’m not dismissing him.  He almost singlehandedly took down the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS, hitting .321 with four homers and 11 RBI as the Rays won the series in seven games.  He has seven homers and 18 RBI in 21 postseason games, so everyone knows what he can do when he’s hot.

But I’m not sure he’s really going to be any better than Domonic Brown for the Phillies.  I’d like him in Atlanta, but Coco Crisp would come cheaper and might help the team even more.

Upton is more like a lottery ticket.  A team needing to gamble should pick him up and hope he goes off.  For that reason, I think he makes more sense in Cleveland and Pittsburgh than anywhere else.

Must-Click Link: The Best “Irony Jerseys”

Getty Images
7 Comments

Our old friend Joe Posnanski tackles a venerable topic over at MLB.com: guys you totally forgot played for a given team. Mostly superstars who had brief stops at non-signature stations at the end of their careers. Or guys, like Mike Piazza and Reggie Jackson, who were with a team for a blink of an eye in between more famous way stations.

We’ve all had this conversation before: remember Willie Mays with the Mets? Doc Gooden with the Astros? John Smoltz with the Cardinals? Heck, I had forgotten about Smoltz with the Cardinals and he was a star on my favorite team once upon a time.

Posnanski calls them “Irony Jerseys.” That’s pretty appropriate, as one can totally imagine someone buying, say, that Dale Murphy Rockies jersey in the name of obscurity. Whatever you call it, it’s a good read.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get my Ted Simmons Braves jersey for a party at some place uptown that you’ve probably never heard of.

The Mariners and Cardinals make a minor trade

Getty Images
5 Comments

The Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals have made a minor trade. Seattle has acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first round pick out of Gonzaga back in 2013, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s been a good season, in which he has posted a 2.78 ERA and 64/17 K/BB ratio over 74.1 innings across two minor league levels. He’s pitched one game for St. Louis this year and got shelled, but we’ll leave that go.

O’Neill is a third rounder from 2013. He has hit .269/.344/.505 in five minor league seasons. He’s holding his own in Triple-A this year, smacking 19 homers in 93 games.