Dan Uggla was starting to look like a candidate for worst-acquisition-of-the-offseason. Hitting just .170/.234/.306 on June 10th, the Altanta Braves second baseman had hardly lived up to expectations. Right as it looked as if things could get no worse, Uggla began to turn things around. While he started to come around slowly toward the end of June, Uggla completely exploded in July. Though it’s early, Uggla seems to have carried that momentum into August, and currently carries a 29 game hit streak. Even though luck is often a major factor in these types of surges, Uggla has been pretty damn good the last month and a half.
Sure enough, the luck dragons have played a large role in Uggla’s current hit streak. After posting BABIPs of .195, .187, .185 the first three months of the season, Uggla finally experienced a change in luck starting in July. The hits finally started dropping for Uggla, leading to a .328 BABIP. His improvement hasn’t been all luck, however, as it appears Uggla has legitimately improved over the last month and a half.
As David Pinto explained in a recent article, Uggla appears to have adjusted to the way pitchers are attacking him this season. Instead of taking close pitches on the outside corner, Uggla started being more aggressive at the plate. Pinto concludes that Uggla has gained more plate coverage as a result of his new approach.
Looking at his monthly splits, this conclusion looks to be accurate. Instead of swinging at inside pitches and making weak contact, Uggla has hit the ball with more authority lately. His line drive rate jumped to 16.7% in July — a sign that he’s been able to make better contact with the ball over that period. While it’s extremely early, Uggla appears to have carried that success into August, spraying line drives all over the field with even more frequency. While he won’t hit line drives at a 23.8% clip all month, it’s an encouraging sign that luck is not the only factor behind Uggla’s recent surge.
Even though it appears Uggla has been more aggressive at the plate, he’s also managed to up his walk rate during that same period. Now that he’s swinging at more pitches on the outside corner, Uggla hasn’t been vulnerable to the inside fastball, and is laying off those pitches more often. This change in approach has given Uggla better plate coverage, and has helped him lay off pitches he wouldn’t normally hit well. Seems like a formula that should work going forward.
For Uggla, the streak couldn’t have come at a better time. Because Atlanta handed him a hefty contract extension before the season, Uggla was dangerously close to looking like an “Adam Dunn level” bust this season. With the recent surge, Uggla has injected some much needed offense into the Braves lineup, and shown the promise that made him a valuable offseason acquisition. For a team that may be fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch, Uggla’s resurgence might be the thing that puts the Braves over the top.