Bearish on Dan Uggla

It may look like the only way for Dan Uggla‘s season to head is up. That is probably true, but he also has some underlying issues, beyond a low BABIP, that are causing his bad season.

Expanding Strike Zone

The thirty-one year old has generally had a decent understanding of the strike zone and over the previous 3 seasons he has had walk rates of 12.4%, 13.8%, and 11.6%. This season, his his walk rate is down to 8.6%. The reason for the decline is that he is swinging at 48% of all pitches this season, compared to 42% last season. The increase is with pitches both in (66% to 71%) and out (23% to 27%) of the strike zone.

The difference can be seen here in a comparison of his personal strike zone vs RHP.

The images are from the catcher’s perspective with the rule book strike zone shown and the circle is used just for reference. The values are the percentages, in decimal format, of times a pitch is swung at in that zone.

2010 vs RHP

2011 vs RHP

As it can be seen, he has really widened his zone, especially with the inner part of the plate.

Loss of power

The one baseball activity that Uggla looks to have done decent this season is hit for power with 8 home runs. His home run production though is on shaky ground. His FB% has decreased every year since 2007 from 51% to 40%. His 2011 FB% is even inflated because 36% of his fly balls this season have not even left the infield.

This decline in power can further be seen by this graph of the batted fly ball distances (with a LOESS averaging curve) he has hit over the past three years. He is not nearly hitting the ball as far as any previous season with a downward trend.

Extreme Reverse Platoon Split

Usually hitters do better against opposite handed pitchers. This is not the case with the right handed Uggla who has had a reverse split with a career OPS of 0.835 vs RHP and 0.790 vs LHP. This season the split is even worse. Against RHP he has a slash line of 0.215/0.281/0.414 with 9 home runs over 199 PA. Not great by any means, but astronomically better than the 0.088/0.173/0.118 line with 0 home runs over 75 PAs he has against LHP. Owners didn’t draft Uggla expecting to have to platoon him.


Dan Uggla has several issues, besides an obviously low BABIP driving down his AVG, that should cause concern. An expanding strike zone, loss of power, and inability to hit LHP show that owners should cut their losses and move onto other possible 2B candidates.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

9 Responses to “Bearish on Dan Uggla”

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  1. That Guy says:

    Shin Soo Choo. Bearish or Bullish? This is what I must know.

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  2. Andrew says:

    How is citing a reverse split a reason for being bearish? Who cares? If anything, for fantasy purposes, you’d be even more concerned if he couldn’t hit righties.

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  3. bob says:

    I still think it comes down to a player that’s been pressing at the plate. He’s swinging at bad pitches and as a result he’s making weaker contact. However, given his history (both the success and streaky-ness) I think he’s a prime candidate to target. I haven’t seen him dropped in any league I’m in but I’ll be sure to pick him up if he is.

    As I mentioned in the bullish article he seems to have responded positively to move up in the batting order (hitting 2nd). If the trend continues this may be your last chance to get him on the cheap.

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  4. kriz says:

    He’s actually been showing some signs of life the last week or so. A couple doubles and at least one homerun. He’s been riding pine all season in my 10×10 league… I hope he keeps it up. Possible buy low candidate IMO.

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  5. Eddie says:

    I’m looking forward to the “bullish on Roy Halladay” post. In fact, I could write that one myself!

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  6. george says:

    Going up against Dickey today, who owns him (0-13)

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  7. Frankie says:

    The bottom line is this, when Uggla heats up as he did last week are you going to continue to sit him and play Cuddyer, Turner or whatever freebie 2B was out there? For owners that have held him through 10 weeks the answer is HELL NO. You are going to get something in return for your patience. And if you have watched baseball at all over the past 3 yrs you know that there are simply players that look blind one month and then turn it on. Uggla is one of those guys. Power doesn’t just disappear at his age. Once the mental game is beaten he will be back to his old self. Numbers won’t be the same at the end of the day, but pace will be.

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  8. OrioleTragic says:

    Ugh, I can’t stand this “bearish” “bullish” split for the same reason I avoid fantasy magazines or anything for that matter that seems to delight in playing devil’s advocate. Because that means that one writer is going to be required to puff up only the good stuff, and the other writer will be required to focus only on the bad. Any facts or statistics that are more important or less important are lost in this dichotomy of “bullish” and “bearish”. I want to know what players statisticians/experts think I should buy and sell. I don’t have the will nor time to become an expert on every single one of these statistics so that I can make my own decision – that’s why I read these articles! Please scrap this bullish$t!

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  9. Ed Nelson says:

    I’ve had him in a keeper league for years and I finally had to move him but looking at the numbers he should get better. The thing that should really worry anyone who has him is that his production is entirely wrapped up in his ability to maintain a high HR/FB ratio. That skill is predicated on good bat speed and there is some evidence that Uggla’s has eroded (not that unusual considering his age). If his bat speed continues to fall he will be completely useless.

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