For the past two years, many Atlanta Braves fans have sat and hoped for that one swing that would finally break the seemingly never ending slump Braves’ second baseman Dan Uggla had.
While the numbers in spring training were not eye opening, Uggla repeatedly told reporters that he felt better and that he will approach the regular season with more confidence and will prove that this year will be different than the last two.
According to MLB.com‘s Mark Bowman,
Uggla spent the final month of Spring Training focusing on getting his timing and weight distribution right. The results came slow as he ended up hitting just .200 (15-for-75) with two home runs in 26 Grapefruit League games. But there was some tangible improvement, evidenced by the fact that Uggla struck out 13 times in his final 52 at-bats.
While the batting average isn’t exactly superb, the fact that Uggla struck out only once per every four at bats is something that Braves’ fan should see as being a positive, rather than a negative. In the two years Uggla has been with the Braves, he has struck out a combined 324 times.
Uggla told Bowman,
“I’ve never looked at spring numbers. Spring is to get work in and try to get that feeling. You want to get hot and roll it into the season. It really started clicking a couple days before we broke camp. I know everybody would have loved to see me hit .350 with seven homers. But it just doesn’t go like that.”
While only time will tell if this will be true, last night against the Philadelphia Phillies was surely a good sign that he may finally put together a season that Braves fans are desperately wanting him to have. He went 1-3 with a home run, RBI, walked and struck out against Phillies’ pitcher Cole Hamels–who has owned Uggla throughout his career (.145 career batting average against Hamels).
With the acquisition of the Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, you could assume that some of the pressure has been taken off Uggla to perform by hitting the ball out of the park. He’s moved down in the lineup where hitters usually see more fastballs, and if there is one thing that Uggla can hit–it’s the fastball.
If Uggla can build off the game he had last night with the home run, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he could hit for a higher average than Braves fans have seen, and get on base more rather than striking out.
Follow Brad Stiene on Twitter, @bs_rant1