Apr 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) reacts after striking out against the Miami Marlins in the fifth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

What is Dan Uggla?


Apr 21, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) slides into third on an catcher Evan Gattis (not pictured) single in the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

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Offense

When looking at his batted ball profile, he is outperforming his career average line drive rate, and has seen his fly ball rate drop, which are both likely to lead to an increased batting average on balls in play. With just a slight uptick in the amount of ground balls he’s hitting, his BABIP stands at .288, which is near to his career average .287, and this is before any expected regression with his line drive rate falling back to “normal”. Three of Uggla’s main peripheral stats (BABIP, Line Drive%, and HR/FB%) this season are very similar to his 2012 season, when he hit .220/.348/.384 with 19 HRs.

So far in 2014, however, his fly ball rate is even lower than it was in 2012, and thus it’s unlikely that he will have another near 20 HR season this year. Dan has yet to pop up as well, but he holds a 10% IFFB for his career. While evaluating BABIP on just 82 PAs isn’t completely telling, the picture that is painted thus far is not one that leads me to have hope that Dan will rebound, especially when looking at his numbers starting from mid-2013.

Uggla’s K% has dropped 7 points in the early going when compared to his 2013 results. This is a good thing on the surface, as a strikeout rate over 30% generally is not indicative of a good hitter at the plate. However, Dan has also lost nearly 10% on his walk rate, which is now at a Simmonsian-like 4.9%. His contact is up, along with the amount of “in-the-zone” strikes swung at, and his out of zone swing percentage has for the most part held steady with career averages.

This seems to indicate that pitchers are not as afraid to pitch to Uggla as they were in the past, or that he is more adept at selecting pitches and making any type of contact, explaining his improved rates. However, despite this “success”, his results this far with an above normal batted ball profile and average BABIP lead to a 76 wRC+, or a .281 wOBA. His OPS is .627. Just for reference, league average numbers for 2B thus far is a .302 wOBA, 90 wRC+, and .680 OPS. The league average 2B also adds value defensively, something Uggla definitely does NOT do.

 

Defense

Oh, man. The defense. This is where Dan truly lets loose his suckage. In the early going, the league average conversion rate for balls in the zone of a 2B is at 77.7%. Last year, the rate was 80.1%. In 2013, Dan Uggla was below average, costing the Braves 19 defensive runs overall, with a 76.5% RZR. In 2014, he has cost the Braves one run defensively, with a 72.1% RZR. He has gotten even worse compared to league average! Errors aren’t really an accurate way to evaluate defense, but when a player has 7 before the first month of games is complete… Here are two examples of Dan’s, I don’t even know what.

Wheeler’s RBI grounder

Duda’s grounder plates Wright

It’s not like Uggla’s replacements outside of Ramiro Peña will be anything special defensively, but they all have more offensive upside than Dan right now, and could possibly all even be better defensively. Uggla was in 2013, and is on pace to repeat again in 2014, the worst defensive 2B in the entire MLB. He is detracting from his already below average offensive performance. It’s just April 24th, and so giving Dan another month to attempt to be useful isn’t a terribly unwise idea. But remember, Ramiro Peña can play defense and Tyler Pastornicky at age 24 is still awaiting his shot to play everyday. Oh, and Tommy La Stella is hitting .339 with a .412 OBP for AAA Gwinnett.

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  • Ryan Cothran

    Well written, Julien! I’ve truly given up on Dan at this stage and wish him the best in another uniform. If the Braves do pull the plUggla, I hope they have enough insight to see the value in Pena and Pastornicky off the bench and not in a full-time role and give La Stella the starting gig. La Stella is an OBP machine that has great gap power. He’s also left-handed which the Braves so desperately need in the lineup. He’s “The Balance”.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ Julien Benjamin

      Strong agree Ryan.

  • fireboss

    If you want to know what’s wrong with Dan – and won’t get better – look at his whiff rate on fastballs. Brooks baseball says his eye is as good as ever, recognizing in zone pitches better than most but he’s become steadily less able to get around on good fastballs over the past 4 years. Dan’s value was always his ability to turn on a good fastball up in the zone. Now he only turns on badly located fastballs – cookies. Without bat speed he’s become a mistake only hitter and even then if the mistake is high octane he doesn’t drive it like he did in 2010. His defense isn’t significantly worse than his days as a Marlin but with his offense sinking his defense gets more scrutiny. Baseball has always been about balancing offense and defense; do the benefits of one offset the shortcomings of the other in Dan’s case and I’d argue BJ’s as well, the answer is no.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ Julien Benjamin

      Yep, so true.