Justin Upton Settling Into 2011

The first ten games of Justin Upton ‘s age 23 season have gone pretty well. Through his first 46 plate appearances, Arizona’s prodigy has a .300/.391/.575 triple-slash line and a .411 wOBA. This comes even without the ever-present sky-high BABIPs that tend to characterize early season success. Instead, Upton’s BABIP sits at .290, well below his career average of .343. Upton’s success is coming with walks, heavy doses of contact, and Power.

That’s Power with a capital P. Upton hit his third home run of the season last night off Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. It went far.

(Click to embiggen, click this for video)

According to HitTracker, Upton’s bomb traveled 478 feet, the best of the young season by 16 feet.

This kind of elite power was missing from Upton’s 2010 season, where he posted a rather human .349 wOBA and 3.1 WAR. As annoying as the small sample size caveat can be early in a season, I’m not invoking it for this year’s numbers. Instead, I prefer to give a reminder that power numbers barely even stabilize over the course of a full season. The numbers presented by Eric in that link say that SLG only stabilizes after 500 PAs and ISO after 550, a number that Upton barely passed in 2010 (571 total PAs).

Upton isn’t likely to continue to homer on one out of every four fly balls he hits, but mammoth shots like the one above tell us that his true talent probably isn’t too different from the 2009 season, when he posted a .232 ISO and 26 home runs in just under 600 PAs. And, of course, at only 23 years of age, there’s plenty of room for growth as well.

The other thing to watch for Upton as his year continues is his strikeout rate. So far, through 46 plate appearances, Upton has only struck out in 15% of his at-bats, nearly half his career rate. It only takes 150 plate appearances for strikeout rate to begin to stabilize, so we should be able to get a good beat on Upton’s progress in three weeks or so. The strikeout rate is the last thing keeping Upton from moving into the truly elite tier of hitters – just imagine what a player with that kind of power could do if he made contact on 80% of his at-bats instead of 70%. Upton didn’t get much experience in the high minors, but in the low minors, he had strikeout rates hovering around 20% instead of 30%, so it’s possible that his development in the majors could lead to a lower strikeout rate this year.

Hopefully one slightly down year as a 22-year-old Major Leaguer didn’t fool anybody. Justin Upton is here to stay, and he should be an MLB force for years to come. With what we’re already seeing from him at such a young age, we shouldn’t be surprised if Upton continues to impress with his power and with his other tools as well.

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28 Responses to “Justin Upton Settling Into 2011”

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  1. Heyward says:

    I’m better

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  2. Baron Samedi says:

    Screw you, Heyward. How can such an exciting player have such a boring Twitter feed?

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  3. shibboleth says:

    It’s real and it’s fantastic. I love this article as much as I love yestrday’s Votto article. As a relative newcomer to baseball, it is exciting to see a young crop of hitters come into their own for the first time. Strikeouts are a sore spot for the Upton brothers, so it’s nice to see real progress here, if only for the small sample size. I have strong hopes for Big Things if J-Up remains healthy.

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  4. Htpp says:

    While we’re keeping an eye on this, can we keep the other eye on Carlos Santana’s GB rate? It’s depressing me, and I haven’t seen anyone mention it. Glad to see Upton “bouncing back”, though.

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  5. Tollk says:

    Upton > Heyward,

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  6. Kemp says:

    What about meeeee?

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  7. harper says:

    all you sissies better hold onto your skirts when my the wind from my superhuman bat speed comes blowing thru your towns

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  8. Bossman says:

    This scrub will always just be my little brother.

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  9. Frenchy says:

    Who cares about ISO or strikeout rate? neither of those are on the scoreboard.

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  10. PJ says:

    I’m very surprised by Upton’s resurgence. I am also very happy. I almost traded him for Jose Tabata.

    Also of note: Upton was 0 for 11 against Carpenter before taking him yard. Maybe this is the year we’ve all been waiting for?

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  11. Ryan Braun says:


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  12. Ken Griffey Jr. says:

    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

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  13. Mickey Mantle says:

    You guys are a bunch of pussies. Until you binge drink during games and bang hookers in the bleachers during the 7th inning stretch, you’re not worth the dirt caking my cleats.

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  14. Bert Blyleven says:

    this is by far the WORST ‘circle me’ job I have EVER seen

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  15. Chad says:

    An impressive list of comments on this article.

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  16. Carlos Silva says:

    Yummy. Fatburger sounds good.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Nick says:

    Justin Upton: “Until at last I threw down my enemy [Chris Carpenter] and smote his ruin upon the mountain-side”

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    • NJ_Andy says:

      “Behold, I am not J-Up, whom you betrayed. I am THE Justin Upton, who has returned from death.”

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  18. Terry Forester says:

    Did someone say Fatburger?

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  19. Jose says:

    Now I need a similar article about “Tulo” to complite my tryfecta.

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