For much of the 2016 season, fans of the Detroit Tigers watched day in and day out as high-priced offseason acquisition Justin Upton struggled at the plate seemingly night in and night out. Through the first 85 games of the season, the unofficial first half, Upton was hitting a paltry .235 with 9 HR, 38 RBI, and an astounding 112 strikeouts. The fans were upset at the front office for signing another big contract player who was not producing, and they had every reason to be.
After a mediocre July, and a terrible start to August, something clicked with Upton after manager Brad Ausmus gave him a three day break following a stretch where Upton went 7-53, yes you read that right, at the plate from August 1st to August 16th. In that stretch, Upton did not hit any home runs and had no RBI. He hit a pathetic .132 and struck out 15 times. In his return to the regular lineup on August 20th, Upton went 2-4, and fans were wondering if Upton had turned the corner. Little did we know, he had just begun a hot streak.
Upton hit safely in 9 out of 11 games to close out August while hitting for power in that stretch as well. With a 14-46 stretch, .350 batting average, to go along with 5 HR and 13 RBI, people were beginning to see what the Tigers got when the team decided to sign Upton over Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason.
With the calendar turning to September, and games getting more meaningful, the Tigers needed Upton to continue his hot hitting while continuing to provide the sound defense he has produced all season long. Not only did Upton’s bat stay hot, it got even hotter. When September closed out last night with the Tigers 6-2 victory over Atlanta, Upton completed one of the finest September’s in Tigers history.
Justin Upton finished September with a .307 BA, 12 HR, 27 RBI, .773 slugging, and an insane 1.175 OPS! His 12 home runs in September were the most by a Tigers player since Hank Greenberg hit 16 home runs in September, 1946. Any time you are mentioned in the same sentence as Hammering Hank, that can only be a good thing.
With only 2 games, and possibly a third on Monday, remaining in the season, Upton now has 30 home runs. His career high is 31 back in 2011 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a season where he was an All-Star, Sliver Slugger winner, and finished fourth in the NL MVP race. Just imagine where he would be had he not struggled for the first three months of the season.
As the Tigers have come down the stretch, the only player more valuable to the Tigers lineup has been Miguel Cabrera. During Upton’s hot stretch, he has brought consistency to the lineup as well as clutch home runs to either tie a game or give the Tigers a late lead. Injuries and inconsistent production from other players put the Tigers with their backs to the wall on multiple occasions. Upton has been able to get past whatever plagued him for the majority of the season and turn into the hitter that the Tigers thought they were getting, and the one they desperately needed down the stretch as the race for the playoffs heated up.
Upton currently won the Co-AL Player of the Week award for his stretch of play. With the dust of September now settled, there is no reason as to why he shouldn’t win the AL Player of the Month. If you need any reminding as why, let’s review. .307 BA, 12 HR, 27 RBI, 1.175 OPS. You will struggle to find a player in the American League that can top those numbers.
For all of the heat that Upton has received this season for his trouble at the plate, he has definitely redeemed himself with a September to remember. If the Tigers are able to continue on to the playoffs, hopefully Upton will have an October to remember too.