Fantasy baseball Stat Focus: Upton's split stats show source of slump

Thursday June 27th, 2013

After a blazing start, Justin Upton has only hit .208/.319/.273 with a single home run in June.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

When writers quote stats, most often they'll default to overall season numbers, because that's what matters at the end of the day. But in a 162-game season spanning six months, players are going to go through both hot and cold streaks. Some guys are going to start off scorching and gradually taper off. Other guys will take a while to get going, but get better and better as the season progresses. Some guys won't follow any discernible linear path, their slash lines resembling a troubling EKG more than anything else. And that's why split stats can be a very handy tool for the fantasy gamer.

You can break out splits in a shocking number of ways. Versus lefties. Versus righties. Every count imaginable. Home games. Away games. The possibilities seem endless. For our purposes, though, monthly splits are the most intriguing. Breaking down a player's season by month gives season stats better context. I'll use an example I discussed briefly in our roundtable from Wednesday.

Jean Segura has been a true breakout star this season. Through 74 games and 316 plate appearances, Segura is hitting .334/.367/.528 with 11 homers and 23 steals. That's an All-Star year by any measure, and he'll certainly be representing the National League at the position, along with Troy Tulowitzki. But if we take a look at his splits, however, we'll see a more complete story on how he has played day to day.

In April, Segura hit .367/.418/.567, and in May, those numbers fell across the board to .345/.373/.538, which is still pretty darn good. In June, though, he's slashing .289/.304/.478. What does this tell us about the 23-year-old, who's in his first full season in the majors?

I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that he'll continue to slow down and you should go out and trade him immediately. As a proud Segura owner myself, I can tell you I've turned down a number of offers this season. What I am saying is that consulting monthly splits can allow you to spot regression before it hits in full,and take advantage of gaudy season stats that don't reflect how a player is performing right now. And that brings us to the case of Justin Upton.

Upton set the league on fire in April, hitting .298/.402/.734 with 12 homers and 22 RBI. At that point, most of his owners wouldn't have even thought about trading him, though they could have commanded a king's ransom. Upton's numbers have fallen off a cliff since. In May, he hit .211/.327/.326 with two homers. It seemingly couldn't get worse, but it has in June -- he's hitting .208/.319/.273 with just one home run and five RBI. The month ends on Sunday, and chances are he'll fail to get to double-digit RBI.

There are reasons for his dramatic downfall, which we can also find in his monthly splits. His line-drive rate in April was 18.5 percent, but it fell to 15.6 percent in May and sits at 16.1 percent in June. In April, only one-third of his balls in play were grounders. While ground balls typically go for hits more often than fly balls, no power hitter wants to be beating the ball into the ground with any regularity, especially one who had a 38.7-percent HR/FB ratio in April. Well, nearly half of the balls Upton has put in play since the calendar turned to May have looked positively Eckstein-ian. His ground-ball rate in May was an even 50 percent, and it's 48.2 percent in June. Again, his split stats are telling us a story of a player who isn't just going through a slump, but one who has been a radically different hitter than he was for the season's first four weeks.

Of course, Upton's season stats still look pretty nice, especially the 15 homers (tied for 19th in the majors), .806 OPS and six steals to boot. But nearly all those numbers happened in a one-month span. Upton's splits tell us he has not been the same since that huge April. What's more, he has historically sputtered as the season drags through the summer into the fall. He's a career .276/.354/.505 hitter in July, .277/.338/.449 hitter in August, and .265/.331/.464 hitter in September. Get out in that marketplace and start shopping Upton now.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.