DETROIT -- For the most part, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has let his hitting coaches handle Justin Upton's slow start to the season, sticking with their expertise. On Tuesday, much like he has done with other players, Ausmus took a hands-on role.Ausmus and Upton got together and watched video from
DETROIT -- For the most part, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has let his hitting coaches handle Justin Upton's slow start to the season, sticking with their expertise. On Tuesday, much like he has done with other players, Ausmus took a hands-on role.
Ausmus and Upton got together and watched video from his various Major League stops, from his early years in Arizona to his brief stops in Atlanta and San Diego, trying to do pattern recognition from then to now. He didn't get into what they saw, not that one would expect a major revelation to undo the past two months, but they at least furthered the discussion into the mystery of Upton's 2016 season.
"We looked at video from Arizona, from Atlanta, from San Diego, and this year," Ausmus said. "He and I actually had a good conversation. A lot of times, I let the hitting coaches deal with their area, but every once in a while, I get involved. So this is just one of those times. I felt like it was time for me to talk to Up."
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Early evidence showed they might have made some progress, as Upton hit his third home run of the season in his first at-bat of Tuesday night's matchup against the Angels, a second-inning solo shot that made it a 2-2 game.
Upton entered the day with a .215 average that sits 54 points under his career average, and a .568 OPS that ranks sixth-lowest among qualified Major League batters. He entered the day tied for the American League lead in strikeouts with 71, though his strikeout rate has improved over the past couple of weeks.
"He's a much better hitter than he's shown, clearly," Ausmus said. "I mean, we're talking about nine years this guy was in the big leagues with good numbers. He's never struggled like this.
"There's no question in my mind that it's mechanical, or it started out mechanical and I think it can become a little bit mental. And then at some point you really just have to almost wipe the slate clean mentally and just say we're going to fix this. It might take time, but we're going to fix this."
Statistically, his offensive struggles are pretty much across the board, including a 22.3 swing-and-miss percentage on fastballs entering Tuesday, according to STATS. Mechanically, Ausmus said, it could be a trickle-down effect.
"He's got plenty of bat speed," Ausmus said. "You have to remember, everything's connected in hitting, so a lot of times, if one thing goes wrong, the chain reaction goes all the way down the line. If something's wrong with your hands, if your hands are loading improperly, that affects everything that comes after it. It's like a chain reaction."
On Upton's psyche about the entire situation, Ausmus said, "I think he's a little disappointed in himself, but he's certainly putting the work in. He certainly cares, and he's trying to do what he should do and keep a positive attitude. But this game can drive you nuts sometimes."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.