Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 6/7/12

Things have not gone well for Justin Upton this season. After posting an MVP-caliber season in 2011, Upton has struggled to reach the same level this year. The situation worsened on Tuesday, when Arizona Diamondbacks’ Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick criticized Upton’s performance so far this season. Later that night, Upton left out of the Diamondbacks’ starting lineup. Upton told reporters he was not pleased about the situation. And while that should have been the end of it, Upton found himself on the bench again last night. At this point, it seems like the only thing Upton can do to repair the situation is to start producing like his old self.

One thing that both sides agree on is that Upton’s performance has not been up to his usual standards. After hitting .289/.369/.529 last season, Upton’s slash line has dropped to just .243/.340/.365. Some of Upton’s struggles can be attributed to a thumb injury suffered earlier in the year. While Upton managed to avoid the disabled list, the 24-year-old outfielder missed a few games and had fluid drained from his thumb. Thumb injuries can often linger — and make it difficult to swing a bat — so it wouldn’t be surprising if Upton’s early struggles were a result of the injury.

Upton was so successful last season because he employed a slightly more aggressive approach at the plate. All of Upton’s swing rates (O-Swing, Z-Swing and Swing) jumped by at least 5% in 2011. This approach caused Upton to trade some patience for fewer strikeouts. And since high strikeout rates have always plagued Upton, it was encouraging to see him drop his K% to 18.7%.

But this season, he seems to have lost those gains. Upton has gone back to being incredibly patient. All of his swing rates have reverted back to pre-2011 levels. As a result, his strikeout rate has jumped to 22.6 — a number in line with his 23.8 career mark. Upton has made slightly less contact on balls thrown in the strike zone this season, but he’s making more contact on balls out of the zone. Upton could be swinging at worse offerings this year, and that could explain why he thinks he isn’t “squaring-up” the ball as much.

But that might not necessarily the case, either. Upton’s line-drive rate sits at 26.1, one of the highest performances in the league this year. He’s hit the ball fairly hard, but his batting average still sits at just .242. When things like this happen, it’s pretty easy to blame the luck dragons. Upton’s .298 BABIP would be solid for most players, but Upton’s career BABIP is .334. So, he should see some improvement as the season progresses. He’s also managed to cut his infield popups down to just 6.8% this year, and that should also help him raise his average.

There’s still the issue of Upton’s poor slugging percentage. His flyball rate is down this season — from 44.8 to 32.8 — and his HR/FB has also fallen to just 11.8%. That’s the worst Upton has performed in either category since his rookie season.

The easy explanation here is that the thumb injury either lingered for quite some time, or it continues to linger. Perhaps Kirk Gibson is trying to give Upton time to heal, and this isn’t a benching. But if that’s the case, Upton doesn’t seem to be aware of the plan. But if Upton’s thumb is still bothering him, it might be the reason why he’s been so reluctant to swing at pitches this year. And though he’s made good contact, he hasn’t been able to display his power much. Upton seems to have compensated for the injury by reverting back to his pre-2011 plate approach. As long as his thumb can handle it, Upton needs to start being more aggressive at the plate if he wants to return to form.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Braxton Miller triple-jukes Maryland defender

UCLA punter suspended indefinitely arrest in rape case

Oregon walk-on QB Taylor Alie reportedly to start vs. WSU

FSU fan posts 'missing' signs for Miami's football program

Greg Hardy stars in rap video, fires back at critics

Report: Chip Kelly in danger of losing Eagles locker room


Ronda Rousey issues warning: Call me fat and I'll kill you

What does Tevin Coleman’s return mean for Devonta Freeman?

Antonio Cromartie: Odell Beckham Jr. a ‘one hit wonder’

Thompson fires shots at Clippers: ‘Didn’t they lose to the Rockets?’

'Sell high' and 'buy low' fantasy candidates

Marshawn Lynch ruled out by Seahawks for Week 5

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dwight Howard, image & Houston's title chances

10 unheralded NFL players who will impact Week 5

Five potential upsets in NFL Week 5

Why the Carolina Panthers are the NFL's next super power

NHL Department of Player Safety inconsistent in disciplining players?

Explaining the silence on Thabo Sefolosha’s police brutality trial

Six biggest matchups in Week 6 of CFB

Joe Maddon's defensive calculus

Sepp Blatter appeals FIFA suspension

Looking at four NHL goaltenders who debuted for new teams

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker