Again, the Braves’ Dan Uggla pursues a weird slice of history

It might take more than tape to fix what ails Dan Uggla's bat. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It might take more than tape to fix what ails Dan Uggla's bat. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This not just in: Dan Uggla had a weird 2011 season. His batting average was .173 on the Fourth of July, whereupon he embarked on a 33-game hitting streak, the longest in Atlanta Braves annals and probably the strangest in the history of baseball.

So it shouldn’t come as a total shock that, in 2012, the same Uggla could join a select group of players, one of whom is the sainted Dale Murphy and another of whom is the rather famous George Herman Ruth, in another statistical oddity. At this moment, Uggla is tied for the National League lead in strikeouts (118) and walks (66).

According to Baseball-Reference.com, only nine big-leaguers have ever done that double over a full season: Babe Ruth (four times), Hack Wilson, Dolph Camilli, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, the aforementioned Murphy (in 1985), Jason Giambi, Jim Thome and the immortal Jack Cust. (Though it’s all but a given that Adam Dunn of the White Sox will lead the American League in walks and K’s this season. He’s way ahead in both categories. He also leads the majors in home runs.)

When the Braves traded for Uggla in November 2010 and signed him to a $60 million contract extension through 2015, they believed they’d invested in a proven run-producer. Over his first five big-league seasons he’d driven in at least 88 runs, and even last season, when he hit only .233, he had 82 RBI’s. Through 104 games this season, he has 50. Last season he hit a career-best 36 home runs; to date he has 12.

His batting average is .209, which is lower than it was a calendar year ago. (He was at .212 on Aug. 1, 2011, the day his hitting streak reached 23 games.) But get this: Owing to those walks, his on-base percentage is .346, only one point lower than Michael Bourn (who’s hitting .292) and Jason Heyward (.270).

The league-leading strikeout total might suggest that Uggla will swing at anything, but that doesn’t account for his league lead in walks. He has actually gotten better at not swinging. At least in that regard, the change in hitting coaches from Larry Parrish to Greg Walker/Scott Fletcher appears to have helped Uggla, who has already walked four more times than he did last season.

According to ESPN’s stats, Uggla is third among NL batters in pitches seen per plate appearance — 4.2o, up from 3.89 last season — and, per Baseball-Reference, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is a not-wretched .276, up from .253 last season. Trouble is, he isn’t putting many balls in play.

He’s waiting for his pitch, which is supposed to be a good thing, but either he doesn’t do much with it or his pitch never arrives. I say again: Weird.

By Mark Bradley

167 comments Add your comment

LostCause

August 2nd, 2012
1:29 pm

Interesting.

swhite

August 2nd, 2012
1:35 pm

Maybe he should talk to Freeman and McCann to get a recommendation on a good optometrist. It couldn’t hurt!

Mark Bradley

August 2nd, 2012
1:36 pm

Kudos, LostCause.

JoshTown

August 2nd, 2012
1:39 pm

Any word on if Chipper has worked with him in the cages at all? I know he’s offered advice to Heyward and Freddie and that seemed to help. Or since Uggla is more of a veteran, he’s left to work it out with just the coaches?

Shug

August 2nd, 2012
1:42 pm

Basically, he’s not a good hitter. He either doesn’t hit the ball (strike out or walk) or, if he does hit the ball, it’s an out. At the plate, he’s Gil Garrido or Sonny Jackson with just a little bit more power.

Mark Bradley

August 2nd, 2012
1:43 pm

That actually wasn’t I who offered those kudos. But I do now.

dean

August 2nd, 2012
1:44 pm

Swinging at eye-level pitches seems to be the deal right now. If it was me on the mound that’s all I would throw him.

dean

August 2nd, 2012
1:45 pm

Swinging at eye-level pitches seems to be the pitch right now. If it was me on the mound that’s all I would throw him.

dean

August 2nd, 2012
1:46 pm

How did I do that???

DetroitBraves

August 2nd, 2012
1:55 pm

If he were hitting homeruns he would be a classic 3 true outcomes player. In fact, with the OBP he would be a valuable hitter despite the low batting average and strikeouts if he were hitting homeruns. But he’s not hitting homeruns. Without power and carrying a cast iron glove this contract may get really ugly.

Keith

August 2nd, 2012
1:55 pm

Mark, it reminds me of the game by hanson with 7 walks, 7 sbs but getting the win with not allowing many runs. Interesting season. :)

Najeh Davenpoop

August 2nd, 2012
1:59 pm

I miss Omar Infante.

Old Boy

August 2nd, 2012
1:59 pm

I love it. Now there can be a race to see who can post the first ‘Kudos’ as Mark Bradley.

dean

August 2nd, 2012
2:00 pm

I would say he’s Dave Kingman-ish but I don’t think Kingman ever hit a single. You know what I mean.

Ted M

August 2nd, 2012
2:01 pm

I think Uggla is simply a .220 hitter go for 75 rbi & 20 homers. That’s the way its gonna be for the rest of his career

SC

August 2nd, 2012
2:02 pm

Days off haven’t worked. Move him up in the lineup? See if he gets more to hit?

Ted M

August 2nd, 2012
2:03 pm

his glove is NOT cast iron.

Ostrich Racer

August 2nd, 2012
2:07 pm

Shug got it right — he’s just not a very good hitter. We bought an aging, post-Steroid Era power guy, and paid a premium in the extension because he was coming off a career year (.289!). This was foreseeable.

lanier

August 2nd, 2012
2:11 pm

if he would settle down at the plate it would have to help. ive never seen a guy bounce around so much waiting on the pitch

Gwinnett Fred

August 2nd, 2012
2:12 pm

In reading the headline, the first thing that popped into my mind was the worst batting average at the end of the season for a hitter voted to start the All Star game (which is something he may still do, though not sure who the current “leader” in that distinction is.

Najeh Davenpoop Is A Rascist

August 2nd, 2012
2:15 pm

Aren’t ya hotshot. He dun don’ like Kenneysaw too much do ya BOY.

DetroitBraves

August 2nd, 2012
2:16 pm

Uggla’s defensive runs saved is at 4 right now. But there is a lot of year-to-year variability in defensive metrics. Here are his numbers for his career, and remember he isn’t getting any young: -3, -15(!), 4, -12, -9, -13, 4.

Unless he’s figure out something to make him a better defensive second baseman at an age when even good defensive players see their skills decline I don’t see his glove saving this contract. The Braves signed him for his bat and only his bat. If there’s no bat there’s no value.

Fish Bisch

August 2nd, 2012
2:16 pm

extremus

August 2nd, 2012
2:27 pm

Well, all we can do is hope that Uggla gets things seriously turned around because with a contract that huge and production that awful, the Braves would have to eat a big portion of his remaining money to even trade him for a bag of bats.

In related news, this is why I think guaranteed contracts in pro sports is stupid. Athletes should be paid based on given production rather than upfront just like anyone else.

beseball been berry berry goood to me

August 2nd, 2012
2:40 pm

Remember Dave Kingman? He swung at everything….either a homerun or a strikeout!

I look maaahvelous!

August 2nd, 2012
2:45 pm

Uggla can always make it as Popeyes double with those forearms!
or He’ll be a heck of a pro softball player when he’s done with the big leagues

Realtycheck

August 2nd, 2012
2:47 pm

Remember the year Ron Gant spent the off season pumping iron and couldn’t hit the inside of a barn the next year? Uggla has muscle-bound himself.

I look maaahvelous!

August 2nd, 2012
2:47 pm

Better to look good, than to feel good…..come sit with me dahling!

Peter

August 2nd, 2012
2:47 pm

Yup another wonderful long term expensive accusation…. wow…

CAN HE SWING AT A STRIKE FOR A CHANGE ?

TN Jeff

August 2nd, 2012
2:49 pm

Good news on Uggla from Batting Practice this afternoon. He seems to be improving as he went 1 for 5 with only 3 strikeouts.

0.00 GPA

August 2nd, 2012
2:49 pm

“accusation”? or aquisition?

fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life

August 2nd, 2012
2:53 pm

muscles don’t work in baseball….fat slobs do….especially as pitchers. Where’s The Tub of Goo?

Chicos Bail Bonds

August 2nd, 2012
2:56 pm

needs Wannamaker to coach him up.

Kelly Leak

August 2nd, 2012
2:59 pm

Wasn’t that Buttermaker?

Tootsi

August 2nd, 2012
3:00 pm

Wren does not take enough heat for the bad contracts he has doled out or taken on via trade. Lowe, Kawakami, McLouth, Uggla, and not to mention the near miss on an awful contract to AJ Burnett.

The smarter course prior to last season would have been to hold onto Infante and use that $15 mil per that you gave Uggla to go after an outfielder and another starter. There was no need to move Prado from second, and that move, while not yet haunting us so much this year, will be hard to shake over the next 3 years.

Uggla is a lost cause at this point and the fact that Fredi continues to say “we’ll just keep running him out there” does not inspire any confidence that a change will be made in the near future.

OTP

August 2nd, 2012
3:00 pm

Need to tape his head and feet. He moves around too much. It has got to be taking away from his concentration and swing.

33 game hit streak in september and october!

August 2nd, 2012
3:02 pm

He can still out hit any critic

jonesing for the Dawgs!

August 2nd, 2012
3:05 pm

Come on Mark Bradley, UGA has started practice! Time for football!

Mr. Hankey

August 2nd, 2012
3:06 pm

Who was the shrink that straightened out Smoltz? Maybe it’s time to give him a call. Who knows. Or maybe he just needs a big hug. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I like the guy enough but maybed we should trade him for somebody who can freakin hit.

foultip

August 2nd, 2012
3:13 pm

Have Uggla bat left handed a few times, it might straighten him out.

Strike3

August 2nd, 2012
3:15 pm

The only sign I would give him is the bunt sign. Maybe he could put the ball in play every once in awhile.

steve brown

August 2nd, 2012
3:29 pm

Kelly Johnson with more muscles. Really don’t enjoy watching the fire and ice journey he seems to be perpetually on.

Bob Davis

August 2nd, 2012
3:31 pm

For starters, Uggla needs to stop with the open-left-side, toe-tapping routine. Set the left leg and foot and stop with the toe-tapping–I don’t care if the left leg is set in a closed, square, or open stance–just stop with the toe-tapping! Also, Uggla has GOT to be more patient with staying with the pitch and not flying open like he usually does before he swings. All this causes his right leg to buckle and for him to hit with weak, uppercut-type stroke. You’d think the new hitting coaches would work with him (even in his sleep) to stop this, yet Uggla’s hitting woes continue….

ActuallyWatchesGames

August 2nd, 2012
3:33 pm

DetroitBraves – maybe you should spend less time looking at unreliable defensive “statistics” and more time actually watching Uggla play defense. Sure, he’s not a gold-glover, but he is at worst an average defensive 2B.

yep

August 2nd, 2012
3:39 pm

“He’s waiting for his pitch, which is supposed to be a good thing, but either he doesn’t do much with it or his pitch never arrives”

maybe he should pick a different pitch to wait for. :)

Chopping Champion

August 2nd, 2012
3:40 pm

I agree with RealityCheck. At the beginning of the year, we all wondered if all that extra lifting he did this offseason was going to adversely affect him at the plate. Looks like we’ve gotten our answer.

When Pigs Fly

August 2nd, 2012
3:42 pm

The only good thing about this is the man’s character. He seems to be a great guy having a tough time producing. I think he will turn it around at some point but if he can’t become a more consistent
part of the offense, he will need to be replaced. And it’s unlikely that anyone will want to trade for a guy who dissappears for half of every season.

Giving a guy a long term contract when he has yet to prove himself for your club makes no sense.
We’re lucky that Dempster stopped the braves from doing the same for him

PMC

August 2nd, 2012
3:43 pm

Well, it was the right idea anyway. The thought was, Uggla would be a middle of the order power guy who would drive in runs (ostensibly what the Braves needed) and at 60 million he was about 40 million dollars cheaper than a left fielder that could do that same thing or so we thought.

In retrospect, we should have left Prado at 2nd, and just paid doe a true corner outfielder.

PMC

August 2nd, 2012
3:44 pm

If he breaks out though like he did last season, it’s going to be a huge boost to the lineup.

jay

August 2nd, 2012
3:46 pm

@Najeh, me too. I always thought we should have kept him over getting Uggla. Right now we’d have Prado at short and Omar at second on the cheap. Instead we get to watch this roided-up-looking dude swing and miss every night. Kudos that he does walk a lot, but we ain’t paying him for walks alone. Honestly he needs to lose muscle and become more flexible this offseason instead of pumping so much iron.