Before Saturday’s game with the Nationals, Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez defended his decision to place B.J. Upton back in the leadoff spot in the batting order.
“I’m just going back to the comfort, where he has done well,” Gonzalez told MLB.com. “You look at the numbers, and he has been productive there.”
Upton promptly went out and went 0-5 with three strikeouts. His batting average for the season is now down to .209, the lowest mark since July 2. He’s now 2-for-25 in the month of August.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to make Upton’s numbers look better. Sure, he’s hitting better than he did a year ago, when he batted .184 for the 2014 season. So that’s a 25-point increase. But is that any way to put lipstick on a pig?
Gonzalez is right in that Upton has hit better as the leadoff spot compared to the other positions in the batting order. He’s hit .220 with an on base percentage of .282 at the top spot. At the other five positions Upton has hit in this season, he’s hit .204.
So that’s a 16-point difference, and granted before this latest slump he was hitting a bit better as the leadoff man. But for Gonzalez to continue to defend batting Upton at the top spot when he knows how much he’s struggled all year is silly. It would be different if there was no other option, but with Emilio Bonifacio now on the roster, there is a good candidate to be better than Upton.
The fans can’t seem to stand to watch Upton at the plate, yet because of his contract ($13.45 million this season, $83,024.69 per game) the Braves continue to play him.
Then on Saturday Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com reported the Braves almost traded Upton along with a pitcher in a deal that would have “shaken up the team.” Rosenthal said the Braves did not pull the trigger on the trade since they did not believe they were getting equal value in return. Even though if it had been Ervin Santana or Mike Minor (as Rosenthal speculated) in the deal, wouldn’t getting Upton’s contract off the books and out of the lineup have been worth it?
The Braves would have needed another pitcher, but there are pitchers slipping through waivers and being traded this month. David Hale could have been moved to the rotation to eat innings. Anything would have been worth getting Upton off this roster.
Perhaps the front office is worried if they trade (or even bench) B.J. Upton that his brother Justin is going to be upset. Well, if so, they should trade Justin, too. There is no room for that type of hesitation when you are trying to put the best eight position players on the field. And right now, B.J. Upton is not one of them.
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Fredi Gonzalez keeps running B.J. Upton out there. But why…