Aug 9, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) talks to the umpire after getting hit by a pitch in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Uggla Walks Alot. So What?

I read an interesting article just yesterday that described an experiment performed last Saturday by Atlanta Braves’ manager, Fredi Gonzalez.  Word is that Fredi wrote down the offensive slash for Dan Uggla on a piece of paper, and wrote Dan’s name beside it.  He also wrote down the offensive slash of Philadelphia Phillies’ 2nd baseman, Chase Utley, without putting Utley’s name beside it.

He then reportedly went to a couple of his coaches and continued his experiment with the following:

I wrote down both lines and asked my coaches, ‘Who’s the other guy?  I even said it was another second baseman in the [National League] East.  They finally got it.

It seems that the other coaches finally got that the 2nd line was that of Chase Utley (although how long it actually took them to get the hint is unknown).  The point of Fredi’s experiment seems to have been to try and show that both Uggla and Utley are not that much different in terms of production.

Wait, what?  What were the slashes you ask?  Well, on Saturday, the line for Dan Uggla was  a .183 BA, with 21 homers, 53 RBIs, and 29 more walks than Utley’s 40.  Uggla’s On Base Percentage on Saturday? Well it was .311 then and still is as of this article.  The line for Chase Utley on Saturday’s experiment was a .272 BA, with 16 homers and 53 RBIs.  Utley’s On Base Percentage on Saturday was .344.

When asked to explain his little experiment in comparative numbers, Fredi said:

There is some productivity there, which is what I am trying to say.  Obviously you want .260-.270 with 21 homers and that kind of stuff, it makes it look better, but you compare those two numbers and you scratch your head.  I’m thinking Utley had to have scored a lot more runs [Utley led only 62 to 59 on Saturday], but he doesn’t because Danny walks a lot.

Personally, I think that trying to compare Dan Uggla and Chase Utley is a little like comparing apples and oranges.  Both have flavor, but depending on who you ask, one is always better than the other.  I’m certain I will get drawn and quartered from some on Twitter for saying this, but Chase Utley is clearly playing better right now than Dan Uggla, and is, in my opinion, simply a better player period!

It appears to me that Fredi is hearing way too many complaints, possibly even from staff, about Dan’s lack of production, and is fishing for any data that might help make the case for keeping Dan on the field and in the lineup.  I had to ask when I first read the original article on the experiment, why Fredi would even conduct it in the first place?  Are the complaints loud?  Is he uncertain himself about continuing to play Dan?  Is he trying to justify doing so, somehow, in his own mind day-in, day-out?

Before you grab the nearest slimy, sea bass and proceed to smack me upside my Utley Lovin’ Head, let me explain…

What Is Wrong With Fredi’s Comparisons

Line-by-line comparisons only deal with numbers, and do not provide the entire picture for any player.  That’s the problem I always have with strictly numbers-based analysis (many of you know what I’m referring to)  - that you simply cannot fully analyze a player on numbers alone! You MUST employ a lot of good ole’ fashioned, traditional eye-tests for any player!   As my friend and colleague Fred Owens pointed out recently in conversations about Uggla, ” pitchers no longer worry about Uggla, he hits only mistakes, can’t get around on a good fastball and unless the breaking ball is a hanger he misses it by a foot.”

If you live and die by the numbers though, let’s look at some that Fredi didn’t point out in his experiment:  Dan’s last home run was back on July 25th, his last double July 30, his last multi-hit game July 24th. Since the first of August his line is .090/.294/.090 ; 6 for 67 with 2 RBIs, 23 Ks and 17 walks.

By contrast, since August 1st, Utley has struggled some as well, with a line of  .174/.318/.411/.729.  Even with his struggles lately though, he still has 7 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers, 16 RBI, 14 walks, and 20 strikeouts.  He also has  numerous mult-hit games, and many of them recently.

Further Numbers Comparisons

With RISP:  Utley .291/.356/.453/.810 in101 PA.  Uggla .143/.296/.330/.625 in115 PA
2 out RISP:  Utley .154/.327/.308/.634 49 PA.  Uggla .103/.314/.256/.570 inn 51 PA
High Lvrg:  Utley .250/.348/.400/.748  in 89 PA. Uggla.152/.313/.354/.667 in 99 PA
Runner on second 2 out:  Utley .158/.304/.474 in 22 PA.  Uggla .000/.429/.000 in 14 PA

[As I was on vacation, I gratefully acknowledge my colleague Fred Owens for help with the data above]

I realize this all seems like a hate-fest of Dan Uggla.  No!  I love Dan Uggla.  Over the years, he’s provided a great deal of leadership for the Braves, has heated up many times right when he needed to, and despite my disagreement with signing a contract extension of such length several years ago, Dan has – for the most part – been productive for the Atlanta Braves.  This year, however, is the first year I can remember when from start to finish, Dan has just not been Dan.  Oh, he almost always slumps first or second half, but the year-long slump he’s been mired in this year seems inescapable.

Fredi said, “Danny walks a lot.”  I say, “So What!”  I’m not going to discount the value of walks, but they don’t make up for hits.  Utley hits the ball, regardless of any poorly made slash comparisons.  Finally, there’s nothing sexy or morale-building about a ton of strikeouts amid a bunch of walks.  If I’m Dan Uggla’s teammate, am I going to get excited about that, and feel motivation from that to turn my own game up a notch?  Or would I be more excited if Dan was hitting like Chase Utley?  You cannot turn a walk into a double on a mistake!  You can’t drive in a guy on 2nd with a walk!  Put simply – fans don’t need excuses – fans need Dan to start hitting!

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  • aRunning_Maniac

    Yeah, until Gonzalez actually understands which stats matter and which ones do not, it would be best if Fredi doesn’t attempt another numbers-based argument or player-to-player comparison. He’s not going to win over many fans, or even colleagues for that matter, with such an argument.

    • cheadrick

      Yeah I think Fredi was just grasping at straw to try and somehow convince fans, media, and maybe even some of his own players and coaches, that when he and Wren (and mostly Wren) are doing with Dan makes some sense. Unfortunately, his argument is lacking,and any MLB manager should know that. My only hope is Dan has another one of those last minute surges. Still waiting.

  • Tim Wilde

    …regardless of this information ….here’s the bottom line….for the Braves to have their best opportunity to advance in the playoffs…..they NEED Dan Uggla to perform somewhat close to his career numbers. Don’t even think that Elliot Johnson is the answer…even hitting .257 his overall production is below that of Uggla. Roughly 3 weeks for Dan to break out and regain some confidence, if he doesn’t you have to go with Elliot Johnson at 2nd base and hope the others will pull up the slack!!!

    • fireboss

      I hope you mean below what Uggla would be doing if he hadn’t fallen off the cliff. Needing him to do and him being likely to do it are two very different things. For Dan to get his career numbers in the next 19 games giving him 4 PA a game he would strike out 19 times and walk 9 while getting 12 hits two of which would be home runs. He’s certainly capable of that when he’s hitting but he hasn’t been hitting. In his last 19 games Dan’s struck out 20 times (close) walked 14 (that’s 5 more yay?) had 5 hits no homers and no xbh at all. He was close to the last two weeks in June but not since. IF EJ just does what he’s been doing he’ll have the same RC/G (4,5) as Dan (4.1) and be a better fielder.

      As to the others picking up the slack for EJ, they’ve been carrying Dan and BJ all year, swapping EJ in makes no difference to their load and improves the infield defense as well as speed on the bases.

      Everything about Dan has gone down since he became a Brave except his walk rate. He was never a great hitter but he used to be able to make pitchers work hard to get him out. He’d hit 30 and drive in 88-100 but hat hasn’t been the case this year. Uggla may be our Cerrano this post season if Jobu is on his side. I hope he turns it on and makes me look bad but I don’t see that happening. Do you?