Justin Upton needs help from top of Braves’ lineup
Written by Jim Mancari
Published: 02 May 2013
With a league-best 12 home runs in the first month of the season, it’s almost inevitable that Justin Upton would be among the league leaders in RBI, too. But that’s far from the case, and Upton can only look to his teammates for his limited run production based on his home run total.
So far, 11 of Upton’s 12 home runs have been solo blasts. He’s currently tied for 17th in the majors with 19 RBIs.
The guys hitting behind Upton in the Braves lineup have actually produced offensively. With Brian McCann out, Freddie Freeman and feel-good story Evan Gattis have the swung the bats well.
But it’s been the lack of offensive production from the Braves’ No. 1 and 2 hitters that has resulted in Upton’s low RBI total.
Atlanta’s leadoff men have combined to hit .226 on the year with a .303 on-base percentage. Even worse than that, though, Braves No. 2 hitters are batting just .140 with a .248 on-base percentage.
And there is the reason why Upton’s not driving in more runs.
B.J. Upton, Ramiro Pena and Andrelton Simmons have led off for the Braves this season. B.J. is having a much colder start to his Braves’ career than his younger brother, as he’s batting only .143.
The Braves have already had six No. 2 hitters including, B.J., Simmons, Tyler Pastornicky, Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward and Chris Johnson.
Heyward was ice cold before recently being placed on the disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy. Uggla isn’t exactly a prototypical No. 2 hitter based on his strikeouts, but he did record 94 walks last season, which was tied for the league lead.
Of this group, Johnson makes the most sense as of now. He’s leading the team in batting average at .369. He may not have much speed, but at least he’s getting on base.
He was 3-for-5 in a game earlier this week, so maybe he’s the guy moving forward.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez has to ride Upton’s hot hand for as long as possible, especially since he’s still without McCann and now Heyward. If the top of the order continues to struggle, opposing teams may decide to pitch around Upton and face Freeman or Uggla.
Upton right now is in the zone, but he definitely would benefit from a little support from his teammates.