It was a rough year for Justin Upton, to say the least. As if his injury-riddled season in 2019, things got worse for the 14-year veteran in 2020. He had career-lows essentially all across the board, and it was his worst year since his rookie season back in 2007.
Upton barely was able to hit above the mendoza line, as he hit .204 on the season, the lowest ever in his career. His walk rate of 6.6 percent was the lowest of his career, but his strikeout percent of 25.9 was ironically his second best since 2013.
His campaign got off to a historically bad start, as he was hitting only .099 (!!!) through the first 20 games of the season. He had only seven hits and was striking out nearly 40 percent of the time. Not that there’s such a thing as an automatic out... but he was essentially an automatic out every time he stepped into the box.
Then, on August 28, his season turned around. Upton had a three-hit game against the Mariners. In his 20 games prior to that night he had only seven hits. In just four at bats, he recorded three. Upton looked like his former All-Star self the rest of the way, as he hit .315/.412/.630/1.042 from August 28 through September 25.
During that month, Upton hit six home runs, drove in 15 and was striking out only 20.5 percent of the time.
“You stay in the middle of the field,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said when asked in September about Upton turning things around. “That’s where he’s doing his damage. Early on it was obvious that he was pulling off the ball. When do that you get long with your swing and you get more body than hands.
“If you could put on GoPro camera and just watch what he does when he gets here, he’s really committed to getting his swing back. The guy’s got a lot of pride and class. You’re not going to find a nicer young man.”
It truly was a tale of two seasons for Upton. He was historically bad in the first half, but played like an All-Star in the second half. The end of the season came at the worst possible time for him, as he was swinging his hottest bat in years. Hopefully he can take everything he was doing over that final month and translate in into the 2021 season.
Stats: .204/.289/.422/.711, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 20 R, 5 2B, 93 OPS+
Game of the year
Upton’s best game of 2020 came on September 5 against the Astros. He went 3-for-4, hitting two doubles and one home run while driving in three runs. It was one of only two games all season in which he finished with three hits, and the only game in 2020 in which he hit two doubles.
Upton will be back in an Angels uniform in 2021. He’s signed through 2022 and is projected to make $23 million next season.