Edit: I wrote this prior to last night’s game, a game in which Uggla mashed 2 HR, drove in 5 runs, drew a walk, and made 2 spectacular plays in the field. So basically every single aspect of his game that I criticize below, he tried his best to prove me wrong…. in one game. Tip of the hat to you Uggla! Out of respect to the larger sample, being last year’s results and the 2 weeks of the season prior to last night, I will post this knowing that I could draw some critics after last night’s turnaround.
Prelude: I like Dan Uggla. He seems to be a genuinely hard-working, good guy. He hustles every single play, rarely throws temper tantrums if a call doesn’t go his way, gives his time to charity, and seems truly loved by his teammates. It’s not with pleasure that I write the piece below, but with the harsh reality that is the aging process.
Is Uggla’s tenure with the Braves coming to an end?
There were great signs from Dan Uggla this spring, but 2 weeks into the season and Uggla’s numbers have actually been worse than his 2013 numbers. His power has been all but non-existent with only 2 extra base hits and 0 home runs. Fangraphs has his performance this year at a -0.2 WAR. That means that Uggla’s performance thus far has been worth less than an average replacement. Seeing as though the Braves have 2 above average replacements in Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky at the big league level and Tommy La Stella at AAA, how long do the Braves give Uggla to right the ship? I was hopeful that Uggla would turn it around, but here are some reasons why I think Uggla might be done:
1. BABIP- Uggla’s batting average on balls in play this year is actually higher than what it was last year, therefore the unlucky card can’t be played, especially when comparing this year to last.
2. Power- The last skill that kept Dan from being a below-level replacement player was his power, of which looks to have diminished.
3. K-rate- Sometimes players can sacrifice power for contact. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case for Uggla. He’s still striking out more than 1 time every 4 plate appearances.
4. Plummeting walk rate- Uggla has always been able to take a walk, but this year his BB rate is 2.3%, dropping 9% from his career. The pitchers might have figured out that Dan just can’t make consistent contact and therefore they’re feeding him strikes at a high dose. If I were a pitcher, I sure would.
5. A .471 OPS. There’s no luck, no defense, and no amount of money that can hide a .471 OPS.
I have a feeling that the Braves won’t wait too long to pull the plug on Uggla this year. There are plenty of options for 2nd base that can provide positive value. Watch Uggla’s numbers closely over the next few weeks. If there’s not significant improvement by the end of May, I think we’ll see a drastic change.
Updated numbers after last night’s game:
According to Fangraphs, Dan’s game last night provided 0.2 WAR, making his value thus far back to nil (it was -0.2). He also raised his OPS almost .200 points to .665. By no means are these numbers respectable yet, but it goes without saying that Danny-boy has earned a little slack on the proverbial leash with last night’s performance.