What Happened to Atlanta Braves’ Second Baseman Dan Uggla?
The Atlanta Braves appeared to make a great deal in acquiring Dan Uggla in the 2010 offseason. The Braves gave up serviceable players but received one of the best hitting second basemen in the MLB. While Uggla has played solid defense, walked at a high rate and been a good teammate, he has largely been a disappointment with the Braves. So what happened?
In his final season with the Miami Marlins in 2010, Uggla posted career highs in batting average (.287), OBP (.369), OPS (.877) and RBI (105). In his two seasons in Atlanta, he has posted career lows in average (.220), OBP (.311), OPS (.732), slugging percentage (.384), home runs (19), RBI (78) and runs (86). It was unlikely he would have a year like 2010 in which he hit for high average and power, but some sort of middle ground over the last three seasons would be a welcome sight to Braves’ fans.
The simple solution fans point to is that he strikes out too much. However, his strikeout rate has been similar in Atlanta the past two seasons as it was with the Marlins. Could pitchers have made adjustments to him after the 2010 season? That’s not the case either as he’s seen roughly 50% fastballs over the past five seasons, and there are no vast differences in offspeed pitches he’s faced. His groundball-to-flyball ratio has also not seen any change the last few seasons.
The two stats that do jump out are his BABIP and wFB. BABIP refers to batting average on balls in play, and Uggla posted a .330 in 2010. On the other hand, he posted a .253 and .283 respectively in 2011 and 2012. He was very efficient in 2010 when he put the ball in play. This indicates he found the holes in the defense which he was not able to do the last couple seasons. His three highest BABIP totals pair with his three highest batting averages. In baseball, a hitter can do everything right and having nothing to show for it. Here’s a weird stat to chew on – Uggla posted a career best line drive percentage in 2012. Braves’ fans should look at these numbers with an optimistic view, knowing that he should find holes in the defense at some point.
The wFB stat refers to fastball runs above average. From 2006-2010 Uggla’s worst wFB was 15.3 (best 23.9). His wFB the past two seasons: 4.9 and 9.4. One of Uggla’s strengths as a hitter is his quick bat. It’s rare for pitchers to get a fastball by him. For whatever reason, he has not punished the fastball in Atlanta as he did with the Marlins. This could relate to some tough luck as mentioned above, but the significant decline leads me to believe it’s a combination of factors – taking too many, not driving the pitch or simply missing the pitch.
There are not many variances in Uggla’s advanced stats to give insight into his struggles in Atlanta. That should offer hope to Braves’ fans for an improved 2013 season. Beating up on the fastball was how he made his living as a hitter and what he needs to get back to doing. That’s the one glaring stat as a Brave. Doing that in combination with some better luck from the baseball gods will go a long way in Uggla having better numbers in 2013. And baseball is a numbers game.
(Note: All advanced stats according to Fangraphs)