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.
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.
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.