Can Dan Uggla Bounce Back For Atlanta Braves In 2013?

By Thom Tsang
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Despite hitting 55 homers (second-most among second basemen over the last two seasons), driving in 165 runs (3rd), and scoring 174 runs (6th), you could say that Dan Uggla‘s time with the Atlanta Braves has been an unequivocal disappointment.

That’s saying a lot about the man who owns MLB‘s longest hitting streak since 2006, but you’d be absolutely right.

A career-best 36 home runs may have masked the fact that Uggla set career-lows in batting average (.220) and OPS (.762) in a 2.5 fWAR year, but a power outage in 2012 where he hit a career-low 19 homers finally put the question to the forefront on the minds of many who follow the team.

Is Dan Uggla done?

It’s perhaps a drastic question, and one that the Braves definitely don’t want to ask, as they’re committed to the second baseman for three more years and $39 million dollars, but after a season that saw Uggla hit a career-worst .220 along with a equally disappointing .732 OPS, that’s a question worth asking.

Fortunately for the Braves, there are signs that suggest the answer is no.

Or at least, not yet anyway.

Although he showed a significant decline in a number of offensive categories, Uggla also exhibited signs of life in others. Most significantly of these is his ability to draw walks, which he was able to do at an NL-leading 14.9 percent last season.

That he was able to draw so many free bases meant that he kept a relatively useful .348 OBP despite his NL-worst batting average among qualified second basemen, and is reflected in his 3.5 fWAR.

However, the main culprit for his downward trend, strikeouts, only got worse, as Uggla whiffed at 26.7 percent in 2012, a number that he hasn’t seen since 2008.

That’s something that the second baseman has been critical about when talking about last season, but on the other hand, it’s something that he started to fix towards the end of the year. While it peaked at 32.7 percent in June of 2012, Uggla struck out only 19.8 percent of the time in the final month of the season, leading to a much better .70 BB/K ratio at the plate.

Unsurprisingly, he was also a better hitter, posting a .282/.386/.435 triple-slash in September/October that resembles the vintage Dan Uggla that baseball fans have been used to getting. If the season had continued on, perhaps Uggla could have done enough to save his season.

Unfortunately for him, it ended before he could do so, and that it did leave many question marks as to what he can do next season.

Just don’t count him out – not at age-32. It may have been a frustrating couple of years, but if signs like the hitting streak in 2011 and the last month of 2012 are any indication, 2013 could see life from the in-his-prime Dan Uggla that the Braves signed to a big contract.

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