March 5, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Dan Ugga is taken out of a game after being hit in the head by a pitch in his pervious at-bat. . Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Uggla: True Value

Removing my hands from the keyboard, I had no idea how Dan Uggla was still standing. It wasn’t really the sight that bothered me because he played it off well, but the sound was what worried me at first. Getting hit in the head didn’t seem to bother him; he just walked on to first base with no issue.

Seeing this Tuesday night, I started thinking to myself, “How important IS Dan Uggla to the team?”. I’m here to tell you he is way more important than the .220 average that he hit last year. I took to stats to try to prove my point.

Other than the fact that he hasn’t hit over .260 except for his first year and the year before he came to Atlanta, his numbers aren’t that bad. Sure he hasn’t struck out less than 149 times since his first year in the league, but he has walked 90+ times twice. Also, he has been in the double digits in the hit-by-pitch category twice (13 in 2007 and 10 last year). Other than last year, he had a habit of being a 30+ home run staple and assuring his team 85-90 RBI. Truth is, he finds his way to get on base, having a career OBP of .343, which is 24 points higher than the league average this past year.

Some of those numbers are quite misleading. From his time in Miami to the past two years with the Braves he averages 156 games per season. He rarely ever takes a day off, and I have yet to see him take a slow jog to first on any ball he puts in play. On defense, he gets in the way of every ball his way and is never afraid to lay out for an out. Those facts alone, in an era where a sore big toe gets players off the field for a week, are what make Uggla valuable beyond his numbers. Young guys and veterans alike need to see some a guy that hustles every single day.

Numbers don’t make every single player. Dan can hit 30 home runs and 90 RBI every year, but what I like to see is him busting his butt down the line on a ground ball when he is 0 for his last 20 or on a 10 game hitting streak. That fact alone makes him more valuable to the mindset of the team than any other guy can provide with their numbers.

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  • fireboss

    There’s no doubt Uggla is an old school, dirty uniform, hard nosed player who gives you everything in the tank every day. You have to love his hustle and his no-spin take on how well he’s hitting. During the streak he called it luck during the slump he’s said he knows he’s letting people down and he’s working hard to fix it. The Braves real problem was that they extended him like he was a superstar when in fact he was more of a supporting player. That isn’t Uggla’s fault, it was Frank Wren showing the Marlins he knew how of take care of a star even if it was likely to be a shooting star.

    I hope he turns things around and becomes his pre-career year/flop year self again. he’s a good guy and the team needs guys like him who work hard and don’t shirk. I wonder however if the best has gone from his bat and we’ll have to suffer with a $13M a year bench player.

    • Steven Whitaker

      I agree completely with the $13M a year bench player. I feel like, as tough as it is right now for him, he will come out of this extended slump. He has never really been a good Spring Training hitter, so maybe he will get his timing back when the regular season begins.

      • Jeff Schafer

        Man I hope so, I was optimistic about him coming back this year and turning it around but his spring training has just be horrendous. I know he usually doesn’t start well but starting well and how he’s started off is two different things.

        If he continues to struggle through the season, I don’t mind having his $13 million sit on the bench…..BUT I’m still pulling for him and think he can contribute to his potential in 2013

    • Bob Long

      Dan has no problem with his bat speed, it has more to do with his strike zone recognition. Although I am no expert, I think that a couple of things that happened last year were to blame.
      First, Dan bulked up more than he should have. This spring, he came in 20 pounds lighter and remarked that he had more flexibility.
      Second, Dan adopted Chipper’s routine of timing the fastball in spring training. This year, he has returned to tracking pitches to better recognize the strike zone. It’s not as if pitchers challenge Uggla with the fast ball. (Woe unto he that does!)
      With more flexibility and better strike zone recognition, I believe that Dan will return to averages consistant with his career.

      • fireboss

        He said in interviews he thought he bulked up too much last year. The numbers say his swing % in and out of zone and his contact rate out of zone remain about the same as does the variety of pitches he sees in general. There has been a slight change in the type of fastball n pitches seen since he came to Atlanta; 4 seamers down about 3%, sinkers up about 2%. What was significant last year was his contact rate both in and out of zone was down – -3% out of zone and -4% in zone; he simply didn’t put the bat on the ball as often thus the additional 3% in his K%. At the same time he hit the ball in the air more often; his GB rate dropped 7% while his LD rate rose 5%, FB rate 3% and most telling in my opinion his infield popup rate jumped 5% while his HR.FB rate dropped over 7%. All of that says this is a timing related issue, late swings cause popups and shorten home runs into warning track outs. Whether it was adopting Chippers timing tap (I didn’t see that but I’ll go look at some film) or not, watching him this spring shows no tap. He looks like he simply isn’t identifying the pitches early enough so his swing is late and late swings rarely mean solid hits. Some of that is his normal slow start and the fact that seeing the ball in daytime might be harder for him than at night or perhaps his vision dropped just a tick – not enough to be measured routinely but just enough to matter, I have no idea, I just hope he figures it out. With Uggla hitting 7 and a revitalized Francisco 8 those “soft spots” on the lineup could easily have 20+ homers each.