Bullish on Dan Uggla

This is part of an ongoing pro/con series on RotoGraphs over the next couple of weeks. Today we’ll look at the positive/negative side of Dan Uggla. Expect the opposite side shortly.

Coming into this past week, you’d be hard pressed to find a player that better epitomized the phrase “fantasy disappointment” than Dan Uggla.  While he had seven home runs to his credit by the close of May, he was also sporting a .178 average and had produced a measly 17 RBI.  His OBP hung at a woeful .246 and the talk of manager Fredi Gonzalez giving him a “rest to clear his head” became more prominent, threatening his playing time.  Not that anyone thought the Braves would really bench their new prized second baseman, but with each week that passed from the start of the season, Uggla’s owners have been more and more concerned.

Fortunately though, greener pastures lie ahead and the patience you’ve shown is about to start paying off.  If you’ve looked at his BABIP, his batted ball statistics and his plate discipline, you’ve seen some serious deviations in his normal totals that, when corrected, should allow the slugger to return to form.  Now I’m not saying that you’re going to see him come close to his usual 30 HR total – this early season slump has wiped away almost all chance of that – but if you’re looking for a second baseman who can still hit you another 15-18 HR the rest of the way, then you’ve got your man.

First off, there’s the expected rise in BABIP that you can expect which will lead to much better overall results.  I’m not sure if it’s a mechanics thing or that he’s just pressing too hard at the plate, but Uggla’s abnormally high 44.8 GB% and subsequent 1.12 GB/FB, coupled with some bad luck are obviously dragging him down.  A career low 14.9 LD% isn’t helping the situation either.  To put it simply, more ground balls in the dirt and less line drives leads to more outs for a slow-footed, power hitter.  Fortunately though, the 14.1 IFFB% is a fairly good indicator that more fly balls and, hopefully, home runs are on the horizon.  As he continues to make his adjustments at the plate, all of those numbers should regress towards the means, thus improving his overall performance and totals.

But shouldn’t those adjustments have already been made by now?  Well, ideally yes, but seeing as how none of us are inside Mr. Uggla’s head, we can’t really know just how convoluted things have actually gotten in there.  You can get a pretty good idea by looking at his plate discipline though.  The increased Swing% and dramatically reduced walk rate tell you that he’s up there hacking away, and the increase in his O-Swing% means that what he’s hacking at isn’t very good.  Sure, he’s making his usual contact, but when you start off the majority of your at bats in the hole (60.6% F-Strike) and you’ve been struggling at the plate, you’re throwing your bat at almost everything regardless of whether it’s a pitch you can or should hit.

Fortunately though, we’ve already seen signs of the improvement, which means your window of opportunity to buy low is rapidly closing.  Uggla has now hit safely in 4 of his last 5 games, including two multi-hit games, and is batting .316 in that span with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 6 runs scored.  All of the aforementioned rates have seen an improvement over the last week, and should continue to do so as the season progresses.  Again, don’t fool yourself into thinking that he’s going to produce overall numbers, but his ZiPS for the rest of the season – .240-16-45 are well within reach and those totals aren’t too shabby coming from your second base position.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com


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DD
Guest
DD

Pulled the short straw on this one, huh? There really is no good indicator besides his performance the last week to indicate he’s going to improve (and that is quite a reach anyway). Sure BABIP is helpful and all, but as you said, he’s hacking at everything, looks off-balance, and his swing is slower. The low LD%, high IFFB%, high GB%, and high O-Swing% scream “poor contact” and it’s tough to buy low on a guy with these numbers.

Ryan
Member
Ryan

Yeah, that IFFB% is in no way encouraging.

Mike Benson
Guest
Mike Benson

The good indicator is the gap between his historical BABIP and now (and the other supporting metrics that show deviation from a historical mean). You have to assume that the last 3 years are worth something, and that the player with a large deviation from those numbers are likely to return towards the norm after they figure out what’s keeping them from playing at their norms. If it’s injury, then after the injury subsides and the player gets their timing and strength and confidence back. With Uggla, he has confidence issues. Those usually come and go through the course of the season. We know that Dan is traditionally a very streaky hitter. I believe that he is good enough and has enough reps in this league to turn this around sooner rather than later. Perhaps you believe that his new contract had so many zeros that he didn’t prepare for the season adequately, and that he’s totally lost his desire and drive to return to his norms? Permanent injury? Permanent headcase?

DD
Guest
DD

I agree it’s likely a mental issue, hence the “days off” by his manager. That would explain the hacking at pitches out of the zone, lower BB%, higher swing %, etc. Basically, he started the year struggling, realized people would consider his contract a bad signing, and he started pressing. I’m not saying he can’t turn it around, hell, I only JUST dropped him on my fantasy team, keeping the dream alive as it were. He was never an overly gifted player, isn’t a particularly good athlete, and was never considered a top prospect. These types of players, in my opinion, tend to have more trouble finding their groove when they lose it (see Pat Burrell – I know he was a #1 pick, but a limited player in regard to tools, and also streaky). Basically, the guys who have more tools in the toolbox can figure things out a little easier because the game comes more naturally to them (see Carl Crawford this year).

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