Five Things About Last Night’s Yankees-Rays Game
(Three of them about B.J. Upton)
1) I was at the game, so didn’t have the benefit of announcers: Is Rafael Soriano hurt? He went those 4 outings in a row, then Maddon bent over backwards to give him…not just ample rest, but excessive rest before the All-Star break. Last night’s decision making made me wonder if he was nursing an injury that the Rays hadn’t discussed.
If he wasn’t injured, then Joe Maddon lost that game. Unacceptable not to bring in Soriano – if for nothing else than to face Nick Swisher with the game on the line.
2) Randy Choate’s FIP/other advanced stats vs. left-handed hitters still look good. But the Rays either need a true lefty hammer, one who can dominate hitters on both sides and doesn’t need extremely limited usage patterns, or Joe Maddon has to think about more aggressive usage of his three best relief arms, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Soriano. The Rays see enough low- and medium-leverage situations in the course of a season that Dan Wheeler, Randy Choate and Lance Cormier (or someone from the minors or outside the organization – Andy Sonnanstine is a wild card who’s exempt from the laws of nature) should be able to get plenty of work. Balfour, Benoit and Soriano have shown they can retire hitters of all stripes. If it’s a high-leverage situation, there’s no reason to ever be cute – unless the bullpen’s big three have been worked really hard in the previous few days. LaRussa managing isn’t helping. You’ve got three great weapons, use them properly.
3) B.J. Upton did NOT make a great catch on that slide. It looked pretty, sure. But he royally, royally misjudged that ball. I suspected as much watching it live, and happened to be walking next to a TV screen as they showed the replay. Woefully late break. Never should have had to dive in the first place.
4) Upton getting picked off by Rivera in the 9th is inexcusable. I don’t care if Rivera balked, or if Upton says he balked, or if Rivera shot laser beams out of his spleen. There is no excuse for that. They may well not have scored anyway (Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria were overmatched, certainly), but that was miserably bad.
5) It was one play, and an analyst is never supposed to react to one play, but…I’m done with Upton.
If you actually take the hard data approach that Steve Slowinski at DRaysBay cited, you can find some rational evidence to support that seemingly irrational judgment.
In 2007, Upton’s one huge offensive season, his BABIP nearly .400. He hit one home run for every five flyballs that year. Hence the near-.300 batting average and 24 homers. But his statistical profile — a career 27.6% K rate, career ISO of .146 — points to a guy who can draw walks and hit for moderate power…but also be a lousy bet to be much above a .260 hitter with ~15-home run power. Upton is a good fielder, but by objective measures we cannot call him great. About +3 to +5 per season in CF. Upton’s basestealing (high volume at about a 75% career success rate) is the only part of his profile that’s truly extraordinary.
He’s a 3-win player until he (re-)proves otherwise, at least from where I’m sitting. Still an extraordinary bargain at his current salary, but going into ARB2 this off-season, I would give serious, serious thought to shopping him, if other teams still view him as a future superstar and not merely a good but not great player.
Could he still be a future superstar? Sure. He’s 25 years old, a former number-one draft pick, and has shown hints of stardom at various times. But on a resource-limited team, it would be foolish to count on it, or to pay him like one.