Jun. 17, 2016
Detroit Tigers: Justin Upton Heating Up
The month of June has been friendly to struggling Detroit Tigers left fielder Justin Upton. Entering the month of June Upton was batting a measly .217 with only three homeruns and 11 RBIs. However, since June first Upton has seemingly found his stroke and has carried a hot bat through the first 12 games of the month. The left fielder has hit safely in nine of the twelve games in June with a .277 batting average (13 for 47) while driving in 11 runs – four of which came on June 14th against the Chicago White Sox. Upton is currently enjoying a short four game hitting streak.
There are a few factors that I believe can be attributed to the recent uptick Upton has seen at the plate. First and foremost, Upton has significantly cut down his strikeout rate at the plate. Upton started the year with a strikeout rate of 40% (38 strikeouts in 95 at-bats) in March and April, followed by a 38% clip in May (34 strikeouts in 89 at-bats), and is now striking out only 21% of the time in the month of June (10 strikeouts in 47 at-bats). With near 50% drop in his strikeout rate Upton has been able to put the ball in play on a more regular basis, which naturally leads to more hits and a rise in batting average.
Between the months of May and June Justin Upton has also seen a slight increase in his line drive and hard hit ball rates. According to fansgraphs.com in the month of May Upton was hitting line drives at a 16.4% rate and is currently hitting at an 18.9% rate in the month of June. In regards to his hard hit ball rate, Upton has also seen a slight increase from 32.7% in May to 35.1% in June. With the uptick in these two advanced statistics, it seems clear that Upton is currently seeing the ball better and has been able to square up to pitches on a regular basis allowing him to carry a hot bat for the month of June.
To go along with his 16 point jump in batting average since the start of June – .213 on June 1st to .229 on June 14th – Justin Upton has also seen a 25 point trend north in his OBP (.259 to .284) and a 32 point jump in his slugging percentage (.319 to .351). Thus far the month of June has made Upton look like the hitter his track record makes him out to be. As a Tigers fan watching him struggle for the first 50 or so games of the season was rough knowing that we invested 6 years and nearly $133 million into him. However, if he can continue to hit the way he has in June I, and many other Tigers fans, will be much happier. The only thing that hasn’t seemed to come is the power stroke. If Upton can find that power stroke once again the middle of the Tigers offensive line-up could quite possibly become one of the best in the American League, allowing Detroit to contend within the Central Division once again.