If Uggla doesn’t turn things around, Braves are sunk

Sometimes it seems like Dan Uggla has been swinging half of a bat. (AP photo)

It seems like Dan Uggla has been swinging half of a bat all season. (AP photo)

When the Braves signed Dan Uggla to a five-year, $62 million extension in January, I didn’t have a big problem with it. True, it was a significant commitment from a team that has been struggling to create some payroll flexibility in recent years. But if Uggla’s next five seasons were similar to his previous five, the investment was worthy.

The problem: Uggla has face-planted. If he doesn’t turn it around, this contract will turn into one of the worst albatrosses in pro sports.

He is hitting .172 through 60 games. Perspective: He would have to add 66 points to his average just to be as good as Nate McLouth (.238). It’s even worse over the last 16 games: Uggla is 5-for-60 (.083) with an on-base percentage of .152.

But the Braves have no options here. The contract extension means Uggla can’t really be benched for an extended period, and he certainly can’t be traded. Sending him to Triple-A Gwinnett, which he likely would have to sign off on, also seems implausible, although the Braves have done it with other high-priced fizzles.

In short, they have no choice but to wait and hope that Uggla turns it around.

This is a bad position for a general manager to be in, because no matter what Frank Wren eventually decides to do with the roster, he’s going to have to work around the annual salaries that the team has committed to Uggla though 2015: $10 million (including a $1 million signing bonus) this season, $13 million in each of the four that follow.

Of all that has gone wrong so far this season, the lack of production from Uggla and Jason Heyward stands out. The Braves are sunk unless that changes. Manager Fredi Gonzalez continues to hope that the numbers eventually reflect the back of the players’ bubble gum cards.

So, how confident are you? Is this an aberration for Uggla or do you expect him to struggle all season? Also, what were your thoughts on the $62 million contract back in January  (be honest)?

By Jeff Schultz

Earlier: SEC didn’t go nearly far enough with ‘oversigning’ issue

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

320 comments Add your comment

Paul H

June 6th, 2011
11:46 am

Brandon

June 6th, 2011
11:47 am

The braves must have forgot that Uggla does his best hitting against the braves.

TMitch

June 6th, 2011
11:51 am

Paul H

June 6th, 2011
11:52 am

And seriously. Enough is enough, not just with Uggla, but our whole offense. Taking care of business against the bottom dwellers is the difference between 3rd place teams (Braves) and first place teams (Phillies).

give Dan a chance

June 6th, 2011
11:52 am

I am not worried about the struggles that Dan Uggla has been having. I know that everyone is going crazy and wanting Dan’s head, but maybe he just had a slow start and all the pressure people were putting on him turned his slow start into the downward spiral that is his .172 average. But to say that Dan is going to hit .172 for 5 years is ridiculous. Before the all star break he will turn it around, and he will still hit 30 home runs, guaranteed.

Rich

June 6th, 2011
11:53 am

I was shocked that the Braves didnt go after a high priced outfielder in the offseason because of budgetary constraints, but were then able to come up with 62 million for Uggla. I thought it was a bad decision because of his poor defense and his penchant for swinging at everything. I vividly remember Braves announcer Joe Simpson derding Uggla over the years. I guess Joe has really had to bite his tongue this year,

ted williams head

June 6th, 2011
11:53 am

guys tend to hit their lifetime stats until they get old but he better hurry

MatthewH

June 6th, 2011
11:53 am

Your tweet said “excessive stalling until I find something to blog about.” While this subject is good, it has been done. Maybe you should have stalled some more?

ATL born and raised

June 6th, 2011
11:54 am

Uggla has always been a second half player. His start has been disappointing, yes, but he will turn it around. Wait until The end of July before you talk about what the Braves should do with him. Extra BP and video room until then.

Paul H

June 6th, 2011
11:55 am

I thought it was an aberration in April. June? Not so sure. I keep thinking he will turn it around but the season isn’t getting any younger. I also wonder if the huge contract put pressure on him to try to outpeform himself, instead of just doing what he knows how to do.

Chi Town

June 6th, 2011
11:55 am

Braves suck.

We need Saban to come in and coach us.

Right, Schultzy?

BooBoo

June 6th, 2011
11:55 am

When you have winner genetics, you win. Frank Wren has loser genetics. Uggla needs to hire the OJ Dream Team and sue Wren for making him go into a hitting slump. His Hitting DNA smear can be found in Miami.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2011
11:56 am

PaulH — Correct, that is a major issue.

Worm

June 6th, 2011
11:56 am

Put Prado back at second and start Hinske til he shows signs of life.

Ramblinwreck83

June 6th, 2011
11:57 am

Uggla’s killing the Braves as well as the fans. I really got excited about this trade before the season started but, now it looks like another player has just robbed the Braves again (i.e. Mike Hampton) except Uggla plays pretty much everyday.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2011
11:57 am

MatthewH — It’s worthy and topical until the story changes (and then, that would be a story). Type the word “Uggla” and there’s a reaction. That’s all you need to know. Welcome to my world.

Scott

June 6th, 2011
11:57 am

3 of the last 4 years he has hit .260 or worse so it isn’t like we were getting Tony Gwynn, you should have expected a .240 or .250 average with a ton of power, I think the projection of 19HR for his season at this pace is really the killer as without him their already power weak lineup looks even worse.

stevie zero

June 6th, 2011
11:59 am

uggla swings way too hard and has never ever tried to go to right field. stubborn as he!! and no signs of making an adjustment. liked the signing in january. now uggla just looks like some clubgoing d-bag redneck who cant hit for schwazz. maybe stay out of the gym for five minutes and alter that swing. and whats with all the lame feauxhawks?? what a bunch of dorks

option smoption

June 6th, 2011
11:59 am

Nobody will ever rob the braves as bad as Mike Hampton did while he was here (sort of).

Carpool Tunnel Syndrome

June 6th, 2011
12:00 pm

Just to clarify: he can’t be optioned to the minors without his permission because he has more than 5 years of major-league service.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2011
12:00 pm

Ramblingwreck83 — Funny thing about Hampton is that actually wasn’t a bad deal for two seasons (Rockies, Mets were sharing in his salary, and he was throwing a lot of innings). The next three years were the nightmare.

wxwax

June 6th, 2011
12:00 pm

Most players have bad seasons at some point. He’ll only be a true boat anchor if he doesn’t produce in year two of his contract.

But maybe “ATL born and raised” is right, maybe he’ll get hot in the 2nd half.

Pecan

June 6th, 2011
12:00 pm

Looks like the same ole Braves from the last several seasons. I can’t watch anymore. We all got spoiled when they were winning division championships, and now it’s been a long time since winning a World Series game. I think we are sunk for years to come.

Time

June 6th, 2011
12:01 pm

The Braves do need Uggla. But by no means does his continued slumping mean they are sunk. Besides, you’re talking about one of the more consistent offensive players in recent years. He’ll be at or close to what it says on the back of the baseball card by the end of the year.

But even if he doesn’t, don’t look now but Freddie Freeman is quickly developing into a middle of the order force. His quick development could help to cancel out the effects of Uggla’s slump.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2011
12:01 pm

Carpool Tunnel Syndrome — That is correct. Uggla actually strikes me as the kind of guy who would accept the assignment, as long as there was an agreed upon limit going into it.

joemoedee

June 6th, 2011
12:02 pm

You’d have to think Uggla and Heyward can turn it around, but overall as a team the offense has not been TOO bad. Shockingly, this offense has not been that much off of the Phillies.

The Braves, as a team, have more HR, and the scoring per game is within .2 r/g. The only thing that the Phillies have done offensively significantly better than the Braves is steal bases. (Average, OPS, etc, pretty close)

The Braves are 11 of 27 in stolen bases, the worst in MLB, by far. (Lowest amount of stolen bases, as well as the worst percentage of steals) If there’s no threat to run, in what has become a more fundamental MLB with the drop of home runs, pitchers have a different approach.

Also, losing 16 men in scoring position by being caught stealing doesn’t help the offense, either.

Looking Forward to Freddies (both of them)

June 6th, 2011
12:05 pm

It is not an aberration, he has serious problems with his swing and the coaching staff are apparently doing nothing to help him fix it. Until he fixes his swing and timing he will be lucky to hit .175. Now we should turn to the bigger issue:

When one player slumps, then the problem lies with that player. When every one on the team slumps (outside of a few individuals) then it is a coaching problem. Much has been said about Larry Parrish’s philosophy of being aggressive at the plate. It is a horrible philosophy unless you have a team of high batting average slap-hitters. The braves are constructed of large lumbering power hitter which means that they need to work counts to their favor to get big hits; this aggressive philosophy is killing the team because no one walks and our hitters (except Prado and Freeman) cannot hit the ball the other way. Thus we have no one to drive in when we do get the occasional hit.

I thought Pendleton bad a poor hitting coach – now I realize that we truly were spoiled. Parrish has exactly the wrong philosophy for this team. I am not saying he is a poor coach, just his philosophy does not fit our team…and this is showing.

Doves

June 6th, 2011
12:05 pm

Can’t we sue for breach of contract?

jo

June 6th, 2011
12:07 pm

lately even the pitching has fizzled…………..maybe uggla is pitching too? Or maybe the Braves just aren’t that good…..(but we can always hope for something better!)

Sweet Old Buck

June 6th, 2011
12:07 pm

Schultzie, you couldn’t be more on target. The lack of information on Heyward’s condition is troubling. I still question Chipper’s ability to last through the wear and tear of the season. Thank goodness for Mac and Martin. But, we need more than that. Uggla has to do it for us, or you can kiss this season good-bye. All the pitching we have will not save us.

chpatt

June 6th, 2011
12:07 pm

Did anyone see Valentine analyze Uggla’s swing and compare it? It was spot on! Hit front foot points to left field when he steps before he swings, meaning he has no chance of hitting anything even close to the outside corner. Even Valentine said that he will never hit unless he’s changing this habit. Is Larry Parrish trying to teach him? If so, why is he not getting through to Uggla? I know Uggla’s a gamer, but at some point he has got to realize that he must change what he is doing. If I were him I would go back and watch videos of all my home runs from last year. Last year he hit .287 with 33 HR and 105 RBI….His best year by far. So why not watch video of that? Oh well, i only wish he weren’t ignorant.

Sons of Rick Matula

June 6th, 2011
12:08 pm

I think that Uggla will come out of this but he still will not be worth the money. If he digs himself out of this, the best we can hope for now is 15/60/.250. Heyward is a bigger concern. Is he the next Francoeur? Over hyped local kid. Right now, I’d say Jeff had better years 1&2. Plus he played every day. “J-Hey” can’t stay on the field.

Jeremiah Weed

June 6th, 2011
12:08 pm

We’re only 3.5 games back with all of this going on…i won’t bury the the Braves yet but Uggla is not getting any younger and if Heyward’s injuries keep popping up ….well I dunno about him

JoeFan

June 6th, 2011
12:08 pm

Just play Uggla every 4th or 5th game to see if anything has changed. Until then he stays on the bench and the Braves trot out whoever can play 2B and has a clue regarding hitting a baseball. In the meantime send Heyward back to AAA and let him work things out there not flailing away in Atlanta.

phoenix falcon

June 6th, 2011
12:10 pm

trade him now while you can, because he’s only going to get worst from here, he sucks, big contracts creates big pressure, and we all know what pressure does, and guess what, his contract is NOT GOING AWAY, GET RID OF HIM.

Blackberry Cobbler

June 6th, 2011
12:11 pm

Truth is, the Braves are SUNK ANYWAY.

It’s not just Uggla. You can’t throw the whole problem at Uggla. The lineup has just got too many other light-hitters as well– Gonzalez and the whole mix and match combination of outfield and first base (McOUT, Shaffer, Heyward, Mather). The only one hitting is Hinske.

Combine this with the inconsistent pitching of Lowe, Hanson, and Hudson and well, you have a .500 ball club.

The only half-consistent offense on this team is Prado, Chipper, McCann, and Hinske. The only strong pitching on the team is Jurgens and the bullpen.

Bob

June 6th, 2011
12:12 pm

I don’t think Uggla isn’t trying…just the opposite. He has no confidence right now and his mechanics are off. Being a professional, why doesn’t he volunteer for a week’s stint at AAA to help with his confidence/mechanics, and help the team?

JOHN

June 6th, 2011
12:12 pm

Can’t blame TP for the hitting now. The Braves are at a cross roads… they need players that listen and want to be coached. Why are we still trying to pull everything. Even a dog learns…

phoenix falcon

June 6th, 2011
12:14 pm

at least i get to watch one 1st place team everyday……….GO D-BACKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ramblinwreck83

June 6th, 2011
12:17 pm

Your absolutely right Jeff. As much as i hated Hampton killing the Braves payroll, he was pretty good when he played and on the front end it wasn’t expensive but, no one remembers those years. Only the last three. I just think Uggla should try to take a little different approach. He’s looks like he’s trying to kill everything he swings at. That cause a player to get all out of whack with his swing.

Smoltzie

June 6th, 2011
12:18 pm

Schafer is hitting 216 also….I like the kid but is he going to hit enough? Thanks Liberty Media….they have money to buy book companies but no money to up the Braves payroll…Time for front office changes…Or just be happy with what you’ve got. Being average is ok sometimes….I don’t think WINNING is the top priority of this organizaton…Making money is top. As long as the seats are somewhat full and they are making some money then this is what you’ll get. That’s why they hired a safe manager…One of the good ‘ol boys…

NORRIS

June 6th, 2011
12:21 pm

The braves as a whole dont score runs. Their hitting is not good as a whole.
Even if Heyward were in the lineup, he hasnt been hitting and he was still unproven.
Once again when Prado is at third we might have the worst outfield in the history of baseball…

VaBravesfan

June 6th, 2011
12:22 pm

It is a huge Catch-22. He is not going to turn it around by sitting on the bench but he certainly doesn’t seem to be doing it by playing, either. He will start hitting at some point, but will it be too late?

MatthewH

June 6th, 2011
12:23 pm

well, Jeff, you got the comments, so you were right. My original comment wasn’t a criticism by any means, just an observation, and I know you need those hits. By the way, a few years ago I remember something about a meeting where it was decided that you (and others) would do 3 blogs a day. Did that finally get scrapped?

Tucker T

June 6th, 2011
12:24 pm

I think Uggla needs a good head shrinker. He has turned into the worst kind of problem. A headcase. Charlie Morton is a prime example. It appears he has figured it out this year with the Pirates…about three years too late for the Braves.

Delbert D.

June 6th, 2011
12:27 pm

So I said to myself, “Self, cheer up. Things could be worse.” I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse.

Tucker T

June 6th, 2011
12:31 pm

What amazes me about Uggla is that he is not striking out that much, at least by his standards. He has only struck out 46 times in 60 games. This is a guy who has averaged a strikeout per game in his career. He is popping up a lot. He says that his timing is off. Maybe a stint in the minors will help that but it would be a major embarrassment for him and the team. A good sports psychologist would help too.

Dan Uggly

June 6th, 2011
12:33 pm

At first, I thought it was just the name that was fuggly. Now it’s the performance to…

Clint

June 6th, 2011
12:34 pm

Did anyone notice the point Bobby Valentine made last night about Uggla’s front foot being pointed at the pitcher when he swings robbing him of using his legs at all in his swing. They did a side by side shot with Chipper illustrating the right and wrong way. This seems like an obvious mechanical flaw. Why isn’t anyone on the Braves coaching staff addressing this? This fact along with his anti-OBP strategy really sinks Larry Parish credibility as a MLB level hitting coach!

Jamaaliver

June 6th, 2011
12:35 pm

Jeff,

Could the new hitting coach’s philosophy be a part of Uggla’s as well as the entire offense’s problem?

Is he currently with the same hitting instructor he had in Florida?