On Justin Upton's terrific start and avoiding another slump

Scott Cunningham

The Braves' offensive production has stunk so far. It's scary to think what would happen if Justin has another prolonged slump after a great start to the season.

Once again, Justin Upton has been one of the best players in baseball through the first eight weeks of the season.

On May 20, 2013, J-Up was killing the baseball. Playing for a team at the top of the NL East standings, many thought the guy the Braves had acquired five months earlier was well on his way to at least contending for NL MVP honors, if not winning the award outright.

Sound kinda familiar to right now?

While Upton hasn't quite put up the numbers he did in 2013, he's still on pace to post a 6+ win season and set career highs in just about every meaningful statistical category. Here's a side-by-side comparison of Upton's numbers now and from last season through the 19th.

2013 2014
BA .275 .282
OBP .389 .368
OPS .997 .932
HR 14 11
RBI 28 22
WAR 2.1 1.8

*Upton had played in 43 games as of May 19 last year. He's appeared in 41 this time around.

Once the final week of May arrived, Upton's production took a turn for the worse. It was pretty obvious he wasn't going to keep hitting like he was, but there was no reason to think he would go on to post a .616 OPS in June and .757 OPS in July. It all started with a 4-for-36 skid that began on May 21, and it kept coming apart from there.

What does all this mean? Nothing right now, really. It's just important to note while Justin has been terrific during the first two months of the season, he was even better in 2013. And this is the point where he fell off last year.

Given how the Braves are getting equal or lesser offensive production at just about every position this year compared to last, it's tough to envision them being able to withstand yet another two-month slump from the second-best hitter on the team. The club needs J-Up to keep punishing the baseball, or at least stay right in line with his career averages.

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