Braves center fielder B.J. Upton was activated from the disabled list today. How will he perform in the second half? Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Is B.J Upton A Second Half Player?


The Braves are hot and the new lineup clicking like no other Fredi has tried. Meanwhile B.J. Upton works to get game ready at Gwinnett and the debate among fans about his role when he returns grows.  I believe there’s little doubt that he will be inserted directly into the lineup when he returns, likely in the seven spot, and that barring injury and aside from rest days he will remain a fixture in the lineup regardless of his performance at the plate. Supporters of B.J. say he’s a second half player; someone who consistently raises his game after the All Star break. I decided to see if that claim can be objectively supported.  To that end I’ve gathered the data and present it with minimal analysis for your perusal.

Just The Facts

While B.J. first appeared for the then Devil Rays in 2004, Baseball Reference records show that  he didn’t play in any first half games prior to the 2007. That being the case there is no comparative data for those seasons so I’ve isolated the statistics to the 2007-2012 seasons.

The first half of the season long ago ceased to be half the season. Batting average, OBP, slugging, ISO and BAbip address that in their calculations, but I wanted to see specifically how extra base hits and home runs changed. In order to do that I calculated home runs per at bat and doubles per at bat as well. The last row is career net differential; simply second half numbers minus first half numbers. Here are the results.

2007 .320 .396 .545 .941 .447 12.50 22.22 .225
2007 .285 .379 .482 .861 .356 30.44 18.27 .197
2008 .276 .384 .403 .787 .343 16.50 55.00 .127
2008 .269 .382 .398 .780 .347 11.82 67.00 .129
2009 .239 .326 .375 .701 .317 16.55 47.29 .136
2009 .245 .293 .371 .664 .301 17.62 57.25 .127
2010 .230 .320 .395 .715 .290 13.86 41.57 .165
2010 .245 .324 .457 .781 .325 14.41 22.27 .212
2011 .239 .325 .427 .752 .282 23.77 20.60 .188
2011 .247 .338 .430 .768 .318 17.93 31.38 .183
2012 .248 .303 .376 .679 .321 22.83 39.14 .128
2012 .244 .294 .525 .819 .268 17.59 14.24 .281
Career .245 .330 .397 .728 .315 17.96 34.10 .153
Career .255 .331 .431 .762 .318 18.33 27.36 .176
Net Dif .010 .001 .034 .034 .003 .366 -6.743 .024

All stats courtesy Baseball
Second half numbers are in yellow

As you can see the numbers show that early in his career he was a first half guy but that changed in 2010. The most significant difference now is his slugging percentage. His career numbers are pushed up a bit by his 2012 home run surge.

Year 2B 3B HR
2007 16 1 9
2007 9 0 15
2008 20 2 6
2008 17 0 3
2009 20 2 7
2009 13 2 4
2010 21 3 7
2010 17 1 11
2011 13 0 15
2011 14 4 8
2012 12 1 7
2012 17 2 21

While he hit 24 homers total in 2007 it wasn’t until 2011 that he hit more than 20 again. In the second half of 2012 alone however, he hit 21; I’d call that an outlier not a trend.  The rest of his extra base hit numbers have been relatively steady.

That’s A Wrap

My personal view is that the numbers do not indicate he’s significantly a second half player nor do I see a huge second half surge on the horizon. I do believe he will improve but mostly because he’s now been in the National League for half a season and feels more comfortable there. On top of that the Braves are rolling along and there’s less pressure on him to do anything special when everyone else in the lineup is hitting so well.  I expect a second half slash somewhere near .245/.320/.400 with a ten homers and a similar number of doubles. if you see it differently let’s hear your take.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves B.J. Upton FanSided

  • Joseph Fain

    Once again, the main impression that I walk away if after looking over BJ’s career numbers is “Why are we paying this guy $15M / year again?”. While Wren seems to be excellent at making trades, his history with free agent signings and big extensions is pretty freaking bad. As far as BJ goes, I’d be happy if your estimate was correct.

    • fireboss

      I’ve said – and been called drunk – that Wren gets stars in his eyes and an idea in his head and won’t change direction. After losing – thankfully – AJ Burnett, a fight he was never going to win anyway, he decided he would not be out bid when he wanted a player again. Overpaid Lowe, KK was never going to make it here, etc. So when he decided a “star” like BJ was his man he didn’t check stats, he didn’t ask what his real value was, he had an open checkbook and write a check he knew wouldn’t be beaten.

      BJ is what BJ is, 150+ Ks 22HR 240/320/410 in an average year and an average to above average center fielder.

      • Joseph Fain

        I understood the Lowe signing at the time due to Atlanta’s need to prove it was a contender again after some very poor seasons and being rebuffed by several free agents.

        My big concern is that BJ and Uggla’s contracts (mostly BJ’s) prevent us from signing one of Freeman / Heyward / Simmons / J Up to extensions. I think it will already impact the negotiations with McCann (although I have questioned the wisdom of the Braves investing the required money in a catcher who is likely to start declining).

        • fireboss

          I understood the Lowe signing but I’d rather have paid him more and not had the extra year. I’m not sure that Dan affects anyone as the new national TV money next year offsets that a bit. McCann’s increase would be an increase of only 3 – 4 million or less than half of Huddy’s salary or about half of Maholm’s. It is as you suggest the the years. After the Pedroia signing and with BMac’s known desire to stay home I’m beginning to believe you might see a front loaded deal for five years at an AAV of 17.5 or so say 19, 19, 18, 17,15 or maybe just 4 with options. But my pragmatic side says the Yankees will say Hmmm 5 years at 20, short right field porch, big power, solid catcher, great guy. Okay sign here.

          • Joseph Fain

            Do you think the Braves should invest that kind of money in McCann given his age / position?
            I have my concerns about that given the Braves payroll. They really can’t take big risks to me with the few players that they pay big dollars to particularly given that several of the ones they already have signed don’t look like big producers (BJ and Uggla). I think I would rather see them invest that money in extending some of the younger guys (Freemen / Heyward / J Up / Minor).
            To your point about the Yankees, McCann has a higher value to an American League team where his bat can stay in the lineup on his days off from catching as the DH and potentially move to the DH permanently in the out years of the contract to preserve his health. I think this basically comes down to how flexibly McCann wants to be with his contract to stay in Atlanta. I think ATL would need to have the out years be club options / vesting options based on performance / games played to ensure that the contract doesn’t become an albatross in the later years.

          • fireboss

            While my emotional side would like Brian in Atlanta forever my practical side tells me that he can’t play outfield or first base and that a catcher ages faster physically than any other position so a long term deal isn’t the way to go. The idea of a staggered front loaded contract isn’t a bad one as it allows a trade in the out years if needed. When you consider that Mac costs 12M this year the real price increase is only 4 or 5 million. considering salary inflation and positional scarcity the out year money doesn’t look as big. Using Pedroia as a guide ( his contract is 12.5, 12.5, 13,15,16,15,13,12) and consider that 2B are a lot more replaceable than catchers the shorter front loaded suggestion is more in line with value the Pedroias but he makes up for that in length. Mac is 30 next year and isn’t likely to begin a serious decline until he’s 33 or the third year of his contract. While it can be argued that years 4 and 5 are an overpay there is a history in baseball of teams paying for what has been done rather than what’s being done and Mac was significantly underpaid until 2012 based on performance. It wouldn’t be unprecedented as the Braves gave Chipper an extension at a value that many would argue exceeded his production.
            All of this is being chewed over in the front office as we head towards decision day. He will get a qualifying offer so at worst we’ll get a sandwich pick really close to our 29th or 30th pick in next year’s draft. McCann ranks 3 on MLBTR’s latest power rankings because he’s the best power bat that won’t cost 100M+ to sign. I’d suggest the Yankees and perhaps the Red Sox would pay the 100M. Unless he does a “I want to stay a Brave” contract expect him in the AL East next year.

          • Joseph Fain

            Couple of thoughts:
            > The $10M difference over 5 years between your contract suggestion and the $100M offer seems pretty marginal to keep a player like McCann.
            > I think Wren will take a PR beating if McCann leaves for a deal that is not significantly higher than what we gave BJ (meaning +$20M). Most people, including me, would have a hard time understanding why the organization gave so much money to a player with BJ’s track record as opposed to giving it to McCann.

          • fireboss

            The difference (12M total) is 1,1,2,3,5 and mostly in the out years when he would theoretically be declining and the over pay would look so bad. In the early years it’s close enough to the 20 so that Wren doesn’t look like a cheapskate. It also allow more to pay the younger players we want to keep.
            Fan ire isn’t likely to bother him. Fans are notoriously ADD when it comes to their GM unless he’s a complete disaster. They forgive signings than were bad on the whole if the player did something good they remember- Troy Glaus put up a 0.2 WAR in 128 games and everyone loves him because of one 5 week period. D Lee put up a 0.5 War in 32 games had a higher slash and improved the infield defense and fans think that was a flop. Wren let Glavine go and most fans already expect – even if they don;t want – McCann to go. If he signs him to a home time discount or a contract like I suggested he’s a hero. If he lets Mac walk he did all he can do even if no one knows what that was.

  • cheadrick

    The issue I have with believing that he will have a .240 in his slash on BA in the 2nd half, is simply that he has never hit as badly before in his 1st half. We’ve debated all year what is wrong with B.J., and the debate continues, but whatever it is, I don’t think the mere presence of a 2nd half will fix it. He did show some signs of life before his injury of coming around a touch, and did “ok” in the MINORS, but I see no real evidence outside of predictive statistics to believe he will contribute in the 2nd half much in keeping with any numbers, and certainly not with what he’s being paid. That said, we all know the lineup for tonight’s game – and we already see BJ back in the lineup, and Simba moved right back to leadoff (Jhey sitting). SMH