Is Justin Upton The Next Orlando Cepeda?

Players who draw comparisons to Hall of Famers generally do not live up to the billing. Justin Upton is currently having a season that no 21-year old besides Orlando Cepeda has produced. Cepeda produced 379 home runs, 1,365 RBI, and a .297 batting average over his 17-year career. Can we expect Upton to produce similar numbers?

It may be fitting that Justin Upton homered Tuesday in the city where Orlando Cepeda began his Hall of Fame career.

If Upton keeps his batting average above .300 for the final four games of the season, he will join former Giant Cepeda as the only players in major league history to hit over .300 with 25 home runs, 80 RBI, and 20 stolen bases in the season in which they played primarily at the age of 21.

Upton turned 22 on August 25. Hall of Famer Cepeda turned 22 on September 17, 1959, during the season in which he hit .317 with 27 home runs, 105 RBI, and 23 stolen bases. Upton is hitting .304 with 26 homers, 84 RBI, and 20 stolen bases.

"I feel like at this point I've done a pretty good job of making a big step this year," Upton said of his offensive achievements. "I'm happy with it. Next year my goal is to get better. I hope to carry these guys, helping Mark (Reynolds) and some of the other guys so we can be competitive. You can't get too complacent."

At the same time, Upton is still learning the other side of the ball. He leads major league outfielders with 12 errors, although it is only his fourth season as an outfielder after being selected as the #1 overall draft pick in 2005 as a shortstop.

"That's no excuse, man. That's my position now. I take pride in it, and it gets to me that I don't make the plays I should be," Upton said.

Despite the high error total, Upton's defense has greatly improved from a year ago.  His fielding percentage has climbed from .943 to .960.  More importantly, his Ultimate Zone Rating, which calculates a player's defensive value in runs above or below league average based on play-by-play data, went from -6.2 in 2008 to 8.3 this season.  He essentially went from costing the D-backs as many runs as he produced on offense to being one of the more valuable defensive right fielders in the game.

"When you look back on it, a lot of them are mental errors,: continued Upton. "It's me being a little more focused in the game situations. Next year, I'm going to make sure I am more professional out there and know that I will do whatever is needed."

Others have been close to Upton and Cepeda in those four categories as 21-year-olds. Houston's Cesar Cedeno hit .320 with 22 homers, 82 RBI, and 55 stolen bases in 1977. He turned 21 in spring training. Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. hit .327 with 22 homers, 100 RBI, and 18 stolen bases in 1991. He turned 22 on Nov. 21. Seattle's Alex Rodriguez hit .300 with 23 homers, 84 RBI, and 29 stolen bases in 1997, when he turned 22 on July 27. Of course, A-Rod also went .358-36-123 with 15 stolen bases in 1996.

GIANTS 4, DIAMONDBACKS 1: The D-backs mustered only six hits, all singles, off RHP Brad Penny, and scored only an unearned run on Penny's throwing error while losing the second game of the series. Penny retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced in throwing a complete game, with OF Eric Byrnes' seventh-inning single Arizona's only hit after the fourth inning. The D-backs' run came on Byrnes' previous at-bat, when with a runner on first base, Penny hit Byrnes in the back with a throw that rolled down the right field line, enabling OF Gerardo Parra to score from first.

SNAKE BYTES

--SS Stephen Drew, who had two hits Wednesday, has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, and 17 of his last 19. It has been somewhat of a hollow stretch, however. Drew, who hit leadoff when OF Chris Young was given the day off Wednesday, is hitting .263 with no homers and four RBI over those 19 games. It was reported over the weekend that the D-backs would listen to trade offers for Drew, but they have a "listen to anything" policy about any player. They do not have a big-league-ready shortstop in their minor league system, with Pedro Ciriaco being the closest.   Ciriaco hit .296 and stole 38 bases in Double-A Mobile this season and turned 24 this week.  He is a defensive superstar in the making.

--LHP Doug Davis became the first major league pitcher to walk 100 batters this season when he walked San Francisco OF Andres Torres in the second inning of the D-backs' loss Tuesday. Davis, 8-14 with a 4.19 ERA, walked five in four innings and has issued 101 free passes this season. He had a career-high 111 walks with Milwaukee in 2006, the year before he signed a three-year, $22 million contract extension with D-backs after being acquired from the Brewers. Davis' ERA is the highest it has been since April 8. In his last eight starts, he has given up 31 earned runs in 45 innings (6.20 ERA).

--RHP Daniel Cabrera will start Saturday, manager A.J. Hinch announced, in the spot vacated when the D-backs opted to shut down RHP Max Scherzer for the rest of the season.  Cabrera has made five relief appearances since joining the D-backs on September 4. He did retire any of the five batters he faced in his first outing September 6, but has not allowed a run in his last four appearances. It will be his first start since pitching the second game of a May 16 doubleheader for Washington. RHP Billy Buckner will start Friday on his regular four days of rest.

--RHP Kevin Mulvey tied a career long by pitching six innings Wednesday in his fourth September start, retiring 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. Mulvey, 24, gave up four runs and five hits while striking out four, his only trouble coming when the Giants scored three runs on four hits and a hit batsman in the second. Most encouraging to the D-backs was that Mulvey walked only one after walking four batters in each of his last two starts. Mulvey is 0-3 with a 7.04 ERA, but the D-backs will not hold that against him when competition begins in earnest for a spot at the back end of the rotation next spring.

--C Miguel Montero's two homers off San Francisco LHP Jonathan Sanchez on Tuesday doubled his career total against left-handers. Montero, who has been the regular only since late June, has 16 homers this season and 31 in his career, but only four against lefties. He also homered off Florida LHP Renyel Pinto in 2008 and then-Seattle LHP Jarrod Washburn this June. Montero became the third D-back to homer into McCovey Cove since AT&T Park opened in 2000 when his sixth-inning homer splashed down. OF Luis Gonzalez (twice) and 1B Mark Grace also accomplished that feat.

DIAMOND STAT: 90 -- The number of double plays Diamondbacks hitters have grounded into through 158 games, which ties Philadelphia for the lowest figure in the majors..

QUOTABLE: "Here I am, standing in the same locker room as Doug Davis and Dan Haren. Across the field, there's Randy Winn. I've watched these guys play all these years. It's still nerve-wracking." -- Rookie 1B Brandon Allen, on being a little star-struck.


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