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Braves’ Elliot Johnson Should Stay At 2B

Aug 25, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Elliot Johnson (30) celebrates with teammates after scoring on a sacrifice fly hit by catcher Gerald Laird (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Atlanta defeated St. Louis 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This is purely an opinion piece fans.  I realize how the politics and business of professional baseball works.  I know that when you have a player you are paying big $ to, regardless of whether they deserve it or not, most teams feel obligated to not only pay him, but play him as well.  I also know that some players are fan favorites, although often that boggles my mind as well.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, that little vague intro is about Dan Uggla.  Our own Jeff Schafer posted a piece this morning talking about how Dan Uggla claims to be 100% ready to go after a two game minor league stint at Gwinnett.  Okay, let’s think about the math for a second.  You take a small hiatus to have Lasik surgery, which originally was planned for the off-season but hurried up because you couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with a bazooka, then you have a 2 game stint in the minors where you go 2 for 7 with a homer (not bad, granted), and then suddenly you announce you’re fully ready to go!?

Will anyone excuse me for being a tad skeptical?  Look, please don’t sit down and start composing your hate mail just yet!  I support all Braves players, love them all, and want ALL of them to succeed.  If Dan is put right back in the lineup tonight, playing 2B, and starts a tear that pushes fully into October, there isn’t a person on the planet that will be any happier than I will be.  I just have absolutely no data, numbers, stats, or gut feeling to back up any hope of that happening!

This insistence all year long on playing B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla while they have struggled all season has baffled me, money aside!  Then reason and common sense take over finally, and both are benched in favor of some players off the bench who might contribute, and things are going well.  B.J. has still seen little playing time, and I think that has been the smart move.  So, you’re going to tell me that after a season long slump, Lasik, and two minor league games, that Dan will suddenly be a new player?  Ooooo K.  :)  I hope he is. I just have good reason to be skeptical.

Wait a sec, now.  I’ve not stepped down off my soapbox just yet.  Part of all this that upsets me as well, would be sitting the newly acquired Elliot Johnson in favor of playing Dan Uggla.  There was a collective groan all across Braves’ Country when the Braves claimed Elliot Johnson to provide depth to the ailing Atlanta infield.  Known for having a good glove, but a not-so-good bat, Elliot Johnson has played in five games for the Braves and has been a pleasant surprise.  In just those five games for Atlanta, Elliot has put together the following line…

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Last 7 days 5 18 18 1 5 0 1 0 3 1 0 0 1 .278 .278 .389 .667 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/28/2013.

As the line shows, he’s thrown up a respectable showing, including a triple and 3 RBIs.  His glove work has been absolutely stellar and without error, and while Elliot has not been particularly known for having a hot bat, if you go study his numbers career-long, you’ll see that when Elliot Johnson has been given ample opportunity to play enough games in a row, his bat does wake up some.  As I said, I understand the business and politics of baseball, but in my opinion, it’s just unfair, unjust, and mostly unwise if the Braves sit Elliot this early in favor of Uggla.

To be fair myself, the Braves may just hope to evaluate Dan with the big club through a series or so, and see if the Lasik has helped, and if there’s is finally a new fire in his gut to play better.  Personally, I content his issues are much more than just Lasik related, but I get that the Braves might want to see for themselves.  I’ll grant that much without complaint, but I would say that the second Dan doesn’t appear to be any better (and I hope I’m wrong), EJ should be in the wings and at the ready, despite himself missing some at-bats when he’s clearly producing!

Dan can hit the homers, and my hope will be that if the Braves do insist on playing him more than EJ through the remainder of the season, he’ll at least contribute some in that way.  Hopefully he’ll also not be so sloppy at 2nd.  Elliot plugged that hole, so I hope it stays plugged.  We’ll see folks!

Topics: Atlanta Braves, FanSided

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  • Joseph Fain

    I just don’t understand the rush particularly given how Johnson has been playing. Why not let Uggla play 5-6 games at least in the minors to “get his timing back”? That still leaves plenty of games to evaluate him against MLB pitching. Even McCann said it takes a while to get used to the new vision.

    • fireboss

      Fredi said “Dan’s your second baseman so obviously you play him” when he was asked before Dan’s first rehab game . I suspect Uggs – who had to agree to go on a rehab start to be sent in the first place – let them know he wasn’t going to be happy with staying long. Add to that the loss of Heyward’s bat and the potential for Uggs to homer and you have your answer

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    Just saw video of Uggla’s homer at Gwinnett last evening. Fastball – arms extended. Yeah.

  • Jesus

    because, my child, Uggla is better, this entire article seems to be based on the “hot hand” fallacy. No matter what you think of Uggla, he’s a better player, and you ALWAYS want the better player in the lineup even if they have struggled recently. You really think EJ would outperform Dan in WAR the rest of the year? I seriously doubt that.

    • cheadrick

      The argument oh lord is that you want the hot bat in the lineup going toward October, and thou shouldst know that Dan has been an abject failure all year, “Struggled recently”? hehe. You were blind, but now I’m trying to help you see. :)

      • Jesus

        but Uggla wasn’t below replacement level, he was around 1.9 fWAR before his slide in late july early august brought him down, like I said, the “hot hand” IS a fallacy. you play the better player EVERY TIME, because they give you a better chance to win. Elliot Johnson cannot be expected to perform better than replacement level for the course of the sept and the playoffs. Uggla CAN be expected to perform above replacement level. Using small sample sizes to rationalize an argument is bad. In fact it’s “be sent to purgatory for a month to re-think your argument methods” bad.

        the simple fact is,overall, Uggla is better. Just as, Overall, BJ is better than Schafer. (especially on defense where Schafer is below avg in CF).

        The “hot hand” thing is the reason that Constanza (the worst) keeps getting called up when it’s pretty clear he sucks. Elliot Johnson was dfa’d because he sucks, he didn’t magically become a great player because he now plays here and got a triple.

        I see no evidence to support the argument that EJ is going to be better than Uggla. None,zero,zilch. and without evidence, your argument is about “feelings” and feelings have no place in a rational debate, nor in analyzing baseball performance.

        • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

          Well, EJ was released because of an inexplicable 1-for-56 (plate appearances) stretch over his last 22 KC games. His career numbers are…. weird. Everything (incl. minors) from the Mendoza line to .320.

          The most striking thing I saw in his stats, though, was that hit DID hit decently away from Kauffman stadium… and epically bad at home. Currently, he’s 5-for-19 with Atlanta with 1 K. That’s better than Uggla… albeit with the Small Sample Size (SSS) disclaimer.

          But not to worry: Uggla’s – .140 2nd half average and all – is playing.

          • Jesus

            5-19 is not an acceptable sample size for which to basing an argument on, you can’t make excises for a 1-56 then rationalize a 5-19 in the same breath. He stinks, he’s basically Janish with a slightly better bat. If I tried to claim Uggla was back because he had a .500 OBP last night would that be acceptable? of course not. But, over the course of their careers, Uggla is the better option. That’s not even going in to the costs involved.

          • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

            Nowhere did I make an excuse for the 1-56 stretch: only that it was inexplicable. And I acknowledged the problem with 19 ABs being too small to judge.

            But by the same token, you can’t say that Uggla is a .247 hitter (his career #) right now. You can’t even say he’s a .185 guy (his 2013 #). He’s worse than even that since the ASBreak. He’s Bingo-number bad: O-70. To find Uggla’s last five hits, you have to go all the way back to July 29th.

            I personally don’t think this is a ‘go with the hot hand’ argument… it’s ‘go with demonstrably better defense and marginally better offense’. That’s clearly a better package.

            Now as a manager, I would be losing sleep over both Uggs and BJ: they hurt your team while on the field… but how can they possibly work through their yips without playing?

        • cheadrick

          No sir, feelings do have a place in baseball. Although I don’t call them feelings, I call them the good ole fashioned eye test. Sabermetrics is good to a point, and that point stops where EJ is hitting, or was until benched, and Dan was not. It’s really quite simple – if you have a 2B who is contributing well, you don’t think about what they’ll do long term, you play the player who is helping your team right then. You argue that Fredi should play Dan because yes, if you put EJ and Dan down on paper, Dan is the better player. No one will argue that. I would argue simply that we brought in EJ for depth, he’s contributing above and beyond what anyone expected, so Fredi should milk that for all it’s worth, instead of relying on sabermetric “numbers predictions” for help in September. The second EJ gets in the same funk Dan’s been in forever, you then have Dan to go to. Rational baseball analysis is not complete without some numbers, but is not complete without common sense either.

          As Alan said below though, Dan is in the lineup now, so we shall see whether he begins to help the team or not. As I said in my article, nobody hopes he does any more than I do.

          We love your comments, “Jesus”, even if we don’t put out the kind of material you enjoy..

          • Jesus

            the “eye” test as you put it, is loaded with problems (like confirmation bias) as we tend to see what we want to see. Stats aren’t biased, it’s just math. and the proven fact is that you should always play the better player regardless of slumps. Remember how Fredi screwed Heyward over giving all of those PA’s to Constanza? Yeah, that would be the same thing here. Constanza sucks, and so does EJ. They are depth players (who would probably not have a spot on a competitive team’s 25 man roster without injuries coming into play). Arguing in favor of a depth/bench bat over a proven starter is a silly argument. It’s literally like arguing the earth is flat even with mounds of evidence to the contrary.

            I reject your argument based on zero evidence because it has, well, ZERO EVIDENCE!! an argument with no evidence has no value. It’s just a belief system at that point, and we know how well those types of debates go…ahem

          • fireboss

            Lets look at the math when Heyward was “screwed over.” First recognize that he was hurt worse than anyone knew at the time and should have been on the DL but, back to the math The injured Heyward put up a line of .227/.319/.389/.708 in 2011. His second half numbers were .229/.325/.367/.734 were marginally better than his first half. This is no evidence or as you so loudly put it ZERO EVIDENCE that he would have he would have done better than Constanza. There is evidence that the time off he got when Constanza played allowed him to rest his ailing shoulder and have a better September 9.258/.375/.364/.739) than July (.211/.283/.411//.694) or August (.213/.278/./.362/.639).

            No one I’ve heard or seen quoted suggests that Constanza is anything but a AAAA player at best but
            facts are facts and you like the math. From his call up on 29 July and the game when he injured his ankle on August 21st, his line .327./.417./.487/.904. Hobbled by his ankle he was unable to run which cost him infield hits even so after his last full game his line was still .324/.361/.412/.773 and he finished with a
            .303/.389/.385/.724. There isn’t any confirmation bias in those numbers. it’s what happened and as you said it’s just the math.
            IF Heyward were healthy – specifically if his shoulder wasn’t screaming with every swing – or even close to healthy where he could control the bat – there is no question that he would have been the right choice. But he wasn’t. If Heyward was screwed over it was because the Braves didn’t put him on the DL earlier- as they should have done with McCann last year – so he could have rested that shoulder and been all the way back by September or at worst when 2012 started.
            I have no idea if you played on Heaven’s baseball team or any other team but if you have and you Have never had one of those streaks then I’m sorry for you. There’s no better feeling than running a streak where every pitch looks like as big as a balloon and every swing catches the sweet part of the bat. But even if you haven’t and you played any team sport you must have witnessed a streak up close. if you haven’t then the angels must have been distracting you because players get hot and players get cold. It happens, you can’t predict it nor should you ignore it when it does happen.
            I’m sure that your father Hallowed Be His Name will have words for you about the unpredictability of the human condition and how he created them to do things others think can’t be done. He might also have told you that it isn’t nice to talk down to people because they disagree with you. He might say that discussions with them could be instructive even if you disagree because you never know when you nay learn something.

            In your Father’s name Amen

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      “I seriously doubt that”

      Hmmmm…. guessing you should have known the answer to that already.

      There is a corollary to the ‘hot hand’ theory (it’s really not a fallacy), and that’s the ‘glacially-cold hand’ theory: as with BJ Upton, that’s the axiom we’re dealing with in Uggla – When a Player isn’t Producing Above Replacement Level Performance, He Needs To Be Replaced.

  • Lee Trocinski

    Uggla has a higher OBP and the same SLG as Elliot, so you can’t say Elliot has hit better. Obviously, EJ’s defense is better, but I’m not sure it’s enough to be more valuable than Uggla’s bat if there is any improvement on his end.

    • cheadrick

      Not saying Elliot “has hit better” Lee. Saying that Elliot was called upon to help the team when the team finally admitted Dan wasn’t, and should be given a chance to continue to contribute while he is hitting. He plugs a hole at 2nd, and is hitting. If he stops, you still have Uggla, but the logic of putting in Uggla when he’s struggled all year, and may continue, is loopy. As Joseph said, there is no reason to rush him back to Atlanta. Let him get a few more at-bats in Gwinnett. He has not hit well enough all year to rushing him back to anything but the bench, which is where Fredi put him, and somehow is now magically convinced the eyes were the only issue. As I said, if I’m wrong and Dan hits, I’ll be ecstatic.

      • Lee Trocinski

        EJ will likely start to strike out at near-Uggla levels, and his lack of power or walks will warrant Uggla’s return to the lineup. I agree that 2 games is probably a bit quick, but September 1 sounds like a good day to return.

        • cheadrick

          Well look, I don’t want folks to misunderstand me on this. I support Uggla getting back in the lineup, but just not too quickly. I have an issue with taking out a hitter who is performing, even though EJ probably won’t stay at his pace. I think he’s surrounded with some good guys, getting to play now, and that enthusiasm sometimes turns into momentum. Uggla has to be given that chance, but I would at least wait until EJ has an 0fer. Against Masterson tonight, we could see both have an 0fer, at least if he’s as good as he’s been lately.

          • Lee Trocinski

            EJ’s “pace” is replacement level. Uggla in his “horrific” year, is still at or above replacement level, depending on how poor you evaluate his defense. Activate (and mostly play) Uggla when rosters can expand, and everyone will be happy.

          • fireboss

            Wellllllllllllll actually while Fangraphs has Uggla at 0.9 WAR, Baseball Prospectus has him at 1 -0.4 WARP and BBR at a -0.5WAR. Keeping in mind that WAR isn’t an exact science that Uggla is a replacement level player this year. EJ is at a -0.1 on FG , -0.7 on BP and +0.8 ob BBR which makes him replacement level as well.

            Uggla is striking out in 31.8% of his plate appearances and making contact just over 66% of the time while EJ in striking out in about 26% and making contact just over 75% of his . The question then is whether the likelihood that Dan will run into a mistake FB or a hanging breaking ball high enough that it offsets the likelihood that an error at will cost a run. I’ll take the contact and the glove, particularly when the contact guy is hot because quite frankly Uggla isn’t, hasn’t been and nothing in his approach indicates he’s likely to.

          • Jesus

            so, since your confirmation bias doesn’t match the numbers you ignore the numbers? bwahahaha, this is analysis? dear ,my dad, man, what on earth are you people up to here? Julien seems to be a rational person. The other writers seem to be from the Bill Shanks vein

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  • cheatotoole

    Johnon’s 2013 stats and career stats show he’s not the answer. Uggla has been bad, Johnson is deomonstrably worse. There is no evidence, outside a week’s worth of cherry picked stats that suggest Johnson is an improvement.