The Good, The Bad, The Uggla

I have little doubt at this point that you the reader hasn’t figured out what we should have all figured at some point this fantasy season: second base was pretty deep. In fact, there were 29 different keystoners whom Zach Sanders listed at $0 and up, with Darwin Barney reeling in that break-even evaluation.

Today I’m tasked with evaluating Dan Uggla, a player with plenty of real-life utility — 3.5 WAR ranks as his fourth-best season out of seven — but one who was probably over-drafted given his season-ending 17th-place ranking. The list of players he finished behind contains some surprises, namely Omar Infante and Danny Espinosa, but again that’s more due in part to the depth at the position than anything.

Dave Cameron had a great piece on Uggla about six or seven weeks ago in which he chronicled Uggla’s demise; rather, his demise with the bat which will likely portend his decline in the rest of his game, considering he was almost a win better in 2012 than last year. Among the harbingers for Uggla were an escalating whiff rate, including four months in 2012 in which he whiffed more frequently than his worst month at any time in 2011.

And it’s likely that those problems are what basically killed his batted-ball profile. For one, Uggla killed owners in batting average leagues with a .220 average. The career-best walk rate was really nice — he led the NL in walks — but even I don’t play in any leagues where walk rate alone does a whole heck of a lot. And we’re talking a really, really big boost in his isolated OBP, as his career mark entering 2012 was .085, and he pulled a .128 this year. Again this is a part of Uggla’s game that is encouraging, but his contract isn’t really crafted for him to turn into an OBP savant considering his declining power and clunky — though better in 2012 — defense.

Finally, Uggla’s power completely tanked. Sure, the 19 home runs were nice, but he slugged .384, resulting in a banjo-esque .732 OPS, a slightly-below league average .325 wOBA, and fewer than 50 extra-base hits when he usually pokes 60 or more.

What essentially sabotaged Uggla’s season was hitting the ball in the air; the 46.4 percent fly ball rate is his highest dating back to his early-Marlins days, and with that conspiring with his awful career-high pop-up rate of 16.8 percent (7-plus percent over his career rate), it’s almost stunning that he managed a higher BABIP this season (.283) than last (.253). So, Uggla hit the ball in the air 60-plus percent of the time, resulting in a line of .160/.158/.531 on such batted-balls. The MLB as a whole hit .222/.217/.613 on bird-chasers, so we’re left to wonder on Uggla a bit here. Likely, the pop-ups were Uggla’s death knell (league average 10.0 percent), as a six percent variation is definitely a probable cause for flattening his flyball success.

The again, maybe he just doesn’t have the power he used to, as we sort of have a chicken-and-egg scenario with crazy flyball rates and a .164 isolated power mark (career-worst by over 30 points, career mark .224 entering 2012). Complicating matters a bit is that Uggla hit line drives at not only a career-best (20.1 percent), but a far and away best (career mark 16.9 percent/17.8 percent previous best). This has to give Uggla owners, present and future, at least some semblance that he could be rejuvenated in 2013 and forward, but for my fantasy dollars I’m looking in another direction. I just don’t think a few more line drives will override the rest of his declining abilities, let alone do I think that line drive spike is really sustainable.

The Braves may be saddled with three more seasons at $13 mill per, but you don’t need to be. Sell on him if you’re in a keeper league and can get a bit(e), and strongly consider only taking him as a flier in redraft leagues next spring. There’s an non-zero chance he could parlay the line drives into something more, but you’ll have to live with a ton of K’s and a low batting average. You can do better.




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In addition to Rotographs, Warne is a Minnesota Twins beat writer for 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

18 Responses to “The Good, The Bad, The Uggla”

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  1. Braves Fan says:

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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  2. ralph says:

    Uggla’s basically impossible to evaluate. Here’s what his numbers on the road were in 2012: .250/.361/441 — yes, that means his home numbers were just historically awful: .187/.333/.323. Given that players usually perform better at home, what are the odds of such a divergence being random?

    On the bright side, he only struck out 19.8% of the time in Sept/Oct. The drop in power is probably the most concerning though. I wonder if he was hiding an injury during his 3-4 month tour de suckitude.

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    • Travis L says:

      Take home/road reverse splits with a grain of salt. His Sept K rate sample size isn’t big enough to take an indicator of returning to higher level.

      I also don’t think you can look at his numbers and point to an injury (I try to do the reverse — injury explains numbers). Especially for a guy with his skillset, body type, and age.

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  3. Cody says:

    Every time I have seen this headline throughout the years, I smile and then die a little inside.

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  4. Matty Brown says:

    Is it 2B week? There are separate articles this week on Altuve, Hill, Cano, Weeks, Phillips, Beckham, Pedroia, Kipnis, and Utley……ok, this now seems like a dumb question…it is obviously some sort of 2B week!

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  5. Dan says:

    Will. Not. Draft. Again.

    Will nominate early, however.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Ben says:

    Brandon,

    I’m going to go on the opposite here and totally buy Uggla next year. Look at his career state line for homers, 27, 31, 32, 31, 33, 36, and ….. 19. Which one doesn’t belong? Which one had the worst HR/Fly Ball ratio?? 11.4% in 2012 which was easily his worst in his career. Let’s give the guy a break. How many other guys not named Pujols, Fielder, Miggy can maitain perfect consistency every year. Everybody is bailing on Uggla like he was always this .300 – 30 – 30 type player and all of sudden didnt’ do it this year. Dude was terrible in 2012 and still scored 86 runs and drove in 78. That’s a career year for a lot of the nerds people are putting ahead of him. I’ll take Uggla for cheap and be happy with my .230 – 90 – 30 – 90 line next year. He’s a gamer who never gets a hurt and has some pride. Bounce back will come.

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  7. I kept Uggla in a five-keeper league. I also kept Stanton and Bruce. The problem I encountered was that none of them are particularly adept at making contact. I ended up trading Bruce for Pedroia, partially to cutdown on Ks. When all three of my position player keepers made bad contact, my team struggled to make contact. The lesson learned was to be moderate in plate discipline acorss my position-player-keepers.

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  8. Hammerin' Hank says:

    Uggla’s rough year in 2011 was bearable bc of the power but he’s just lost everything this year. At least he’s a hustler so it’s hard to hate on his effort.

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  10. me again says:

    can i start with the ridiculous trade scenarios?

    uggla and venters for altuve??? eh?? eh????

    here’s your dh, ‘stros!

    pretty please!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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