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.