For those looking for some reason for hope concerning the Braves and their slumping All-Star second baseman, we offer this: It was a year ago today that Dan Uggla went from struggling mightily to on fire, with no transition period between.
We’re going to keep today’s blog short because I spent what would have been blog-writing time instead doing the breaking story on Jonny Venters going on the 15-day DL with an “elbow impingement,” an injury that neither he nor the Braves have mentioned or hinted at any time, despite being asked repeatedly in the past two months if he was injured.
Even when I asked after last night’s game how long the Braves could keep using Venters the way he’s been pitching, Gonzalez said nothing about any injury whatsoever, and in fact said they would keep pitching him and that he had shown signs of progress. He said the Braves had to get him back to being effective or they’d be “up against it.”
Anyway, I cover all that in the story that’s posted on the blog now about Venters to the DL and lefty Luis Avilan called up from the minors for the first time. Avilan will be here in Atlanta for tonight’s series finale against the Cubs, as the Braves try to salvage a split of the four-game series and 10-game homestand. They’ve lost five of their past seven games and fallen six games behind Washington in the NL East.
But back to Uggla.
A year ago he was batting .173 with a .568 OPS, 12 homers and 29 RBI in 86 games through July 4 (the season started almost a week earlier in 2012). Then he went on an absolute hitting binge, batting .377 with 15 homers, 32 RBIs and 1.200 OPS in 33 games from July 5 through Aug. 13.
This year through July 4 he’s hit .229 with 11 homers, 43 RBIs, 54 walks, 94 strikeouts and a .359 OBP and .759 OPS in 80 (of the team’s 81) games. His OPS is actually just five points below what he finished with last season, primarily due to the increased walks. But Uggla will be the first to tell you, the Braves aren’t paying him to walk.
Walks are nice, but a lot nicer when they come with big power numbers for a hitter like Uggla.
Uggla’s current stats don’t reflect how poorly he’s fared in recent weeks. He’s gone 21 games without a homer and is 6-for-61 (.098) in past 18 games with one double, two RBIs, 10 walks, 25 strikeouts and .362 OPS.
For the season, he’s hit just .217 (41-for-189) against righties with eight homers, 30 walks, 64 strikeouts and a .727 OPS.
In 40 home games, Uggla has hit .202 with four homers, 32 walks, 48 strikeouts, a .367 OBP and .341 slugging percentage. That’s right, he has a higher OBP than slugging percentage this season at Turner Field.
One other thing: The Braves had better pitching and had others picking up the middle-of-the-order slack in the first half last season when Uggla was struggling in the first half. They had a 50-36 record despite his .173 average and .568 OPS in those first 86 games.
This year, the Braves’ pitching has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency, and their best middle-of-the-order hitters have all struggled mightily for stretches due to injury or just plain slumps. They are 42-39 at the halfway point of the season.
• Heyward’s spot in order: OK, we always have to tread lightly when mentioning anything regarding Jason Heyward’s stats, because his many followers read into anything they view as negative reporting about him, and his detractors accuse us of fanning a hype machine when we write anything good about him. There don’t seem to be many riding the fence when it comes to their opinion of the talented right fielder.
So anyway, we present these numbers simply for information purposes, fully aware that many will consider them sample sizes too small to judge and others will blow them out of proportion and make career projections from them, etc. We’re just giving you the numbers. Make of them what you may:
Heyward in 6-hole this season: .356 (31-for-87) with seven homers, nine walks, 16 strikeouts, .417 OPB, .690 slugging
Heyward in 6-hole in his career: .302 (60-for-199) with 17 homers, 28 walks, 35 strikeouts, .389 OBP, .633 slugging
Heyward in 3-hole this season: .192 (6-for-33) with 1 homer, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts, .250 OBP, .364 slugging
Heyward in 3-hole in his career: .196 (21-for-107) with two homers, 15 walks, 33 strikeouts, .301 OBP, .336 slugging
He has hit more than twice as much in 2-hole as anywhere else, and that’s where manager Bobby Cox batted him most of the time in 2010 as a rookie. But this season he’s only had 16 at-bats (4-for-16, one homer, two walks) in the 2-hole.
Heyward in 2-hole for his career: .267 (148-for-554) with 17 HR, 81 walks, 128 strikeouts, .367 OBP, .428 slugging
His worst stats are in the 5-hole, where he’s hit .197 (15-for-76) in his career with one homer, eight walks, 27 strikeouts, .291 OBP and .329 slugging.
• Tonight’s matchup: It’s Mike Minor going for the Braves against Matt Garza (4-6, 4.01 ERA), one of the potentially available pitchers the Braves have scouting as the trade deadline approaches.
Garza is 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA in his past six starts, but he’s struggled on the road this season, going 2-5 with a 5.22 ERA and 11 homers allowed in nine road starts (compared to 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA and one homer in six starts at Wrigley Field).
The right-hander is 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in his past six road starts, with nine homers allowed in 33 innings.
Michael Bourn is 10-for-17 against Garza.
“TORNADOES” by Drive-By Truckers
The clouds started forming at five o’clock pm
The funnel clouds touched down
five miles north of Russellville
Sirens were blowing, clouds spat rain
and as the things came threw, it sounded like a train
“It came without no warning” said Bobbi Jo McLean
She and husband Nolen always loved to watch the rain
It sucked him out the window, he ain’t come home again
All she can remember is “It sounded like a train”
Pieces of that truck stop, litter up the highway, I been told
And I hear that missing trucker ended up in Kansas
(or maybe it was Oz).
The Nightmare Tour ended for my band and me
the night all the shit went down
A homecoming concert, the night the tornadoes hit my hometown.
The few who braved the weather were sucked out of the auditorium
I can still remember the sound of their applause in the rain
as it echoed through them storm clouds, I swear, It sounded like a train.
– by David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog