This offseason the Tigers invested $132 million in Justin Upton to solidify their offense and replace Yoenis Cespedes. Upton wasn’t necessarily the best player on the market, but his year to year consistency and age made him a good target for the Tigers. He was useful in a corner outfielder spot and was an above average hitter to slot in around Cabrera and the Martinezes.
As you know, his tenure in Detroit got off to a dreadful start. Through his first 193 PA (through May 30), he hit .215/.259/.309 (48 wRC+) with a 36.8 K%. The only thing that would have worried Tigers fans more would have been if he became a pitcher and immediately tore his UCL. It was a bad run, but it also wasn’t the first time Upton had done something like this. Here is Upton’s career through 2015 in 47-game rolling average fashion. He didn’t hit 48 wRC+ too often, but he was well below average plenty of times and always bounced back.
Upton has always been known as a streaky hitter, but of course Tigers fans were getting their first day to day look at him and panicked (I know, right?) that they had signed a damaged player. If a player slumps in April and May, it often looks much worse than if they do it in July because we’re used to looking at starts per season not stats per 162-game time period.
Over the last four weeks (since May 31), Upton has really turned it around. He’s not setting the world on fire, but he’s essentially found his 2012-2015 form.
His strikeout and walk rate, along with his power, have returned to Upton-y levels and his production has followed. His contact rate has rebounded and for all intents and purposes, you couldn’t distinguish last-four-weeks Upton from last four years Upton. To wit, his 40 game rolling average with 2016 included.
Upton is coming out of it and producing the way the Tigers expected when they decided to make him part of the team long term. The streakiness is a feature of who Upton is. The lows come with highs and the overall product is quite good. It’s unfortunate that Upton had one of his craters at the beginning of his Tigers career, but he looks to have settled in over the last month and is hitting much better.