But from what Stan McNeal reported in September, it looks less like an overall fluke and more like a rediscovered program:
When Upton's first homer - on the first pitch he saw - was shot to the opposite field, Maddon smiled. "The right-central stroke was beautiful," Maddon said. "The ball came off the bat so hot. He still is a kid but when he was a kid-kid, that's what he used to do - drive the ball to that gap like that."
"Out of the three, that's the one that felt the best," Upton said. "If I can hit the ball the other way, I know I'm going good. I hit a ball pretty hard to the right side (Saturday) night and that kind of gave me a little something."
So why doesn't he do it all the time? "Him and (hitting coach Derek) Shelton have been talking about it a lot," Maddon said. "I actually believe this surge you see him on now began with him starting to accept the other side of the field. Once he started doing that, then all of a sudden he started to hit the ball well again."
The all-fields direction doesn't distinctly translate in the year-end homer spray chart, and Upton probably still prefers to pull. However, increased plate comfort shouldn't be ignored, especially with the detail of the poking and prodding his old organization performed over his bat abilities.
A decrease of infield cans of corn means you're squaring the ball. Going with pitches permitted Upton to do so, in theory. That means more potent connections, leading to Upton's brilliant season-ending stretch.
Hopefully Greg Walker starts taking notes soon.
There's coach speak, and then there's foundation for a statement via empirical evidence. Getting back to his right-center roots lines up Upton to continue displaying the latter in finally producing "that year" we've all speculated he'd have.
(Tangential meditation: Would you want him to risk diminishing the impact of his elite power-speed combo for what would most likely be modest gains in batting average? Improvement there wouldn't be much more beneficial than his current crippling wheelhouse in the grand scheme.
From what he's shown us so far, he'd have to change too much of his game to reach that fantasy pipe dream. Let B.J. be B.J. If he crashes through his lofty ceiling, cool. If not, he remains a money maker.)
Even so, he's still quasi-underrated. I doubt he'll come at a much higher cost than he did last year considering he yielded similar numbers to those from 2011, besides the notable tater increase. His move to Atlanta won't keep me from once again paying a 2012 price for him.
He's not a top-20 mixed commodity, but top-50 with a smidge of elite pay-off that becomes more alluring the more your fellow drafters scoff at his clip? Absolutely.
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About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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