Dan Uggla (written by Adam M)

The Braves owe Dan Uggla $36 million over the next three years, and they’ll be lucky to come out only slightly behind on the deal. In all likelihood, they’ll come out way behind. In 2012 Uggla showed signs that foreshadowed the beginning of what may be a rapid and steep decline.

Braves fans, of course, were hoping that Uggla would improve upon his mildly-disappointing 2011 season—a season in which he managed to be both wretched and amazing at the same time. Unfortunately, Uggla’s hitting got worse, not better. Uggla this season replicated his streaky tendencies, but this time he countered a dreadful half with an only-merely good half. When it was all said and done, Uggla had posted a 103 wRC+, barely above league average. His isolated slugging, when compared with the previous five seasons, had plummeted. And while his walk percentage spiked to an elite 14.9%, his strike out percentage rose to a worrying 26.7%.

It wasn’t all disappointment, though. For a change, the defensive metrics actually liked Uggla. Both his DRS and UZR were positive for the first time since 2008, and that, when combined with the average hitting, allowed the brawny second baseman to post a respectable 3.5 fWAR and 2.7 rWAR. Each of those tallies, I’ll note, marked an improvement upon 2011, and if they’re to be believed, Dan Uggla was worth the money the Braves paid him this year.

The bigger question remains whether he will continue to be worth it. My fear is that he won’t. A decrease in power and spike in strikeouts and walks foretells, often, a decline in bat quickness. That’s what has me worried: if Uggla continues these tendencies, he will probably be a below-average player starting as soon as next season. The trouble, of course, is that the cash-strapped Braves are paying him to be at least good for three more seasons.

Ultimately, Uggla will have to regain some of his power and whiff a bit less often to maintain his value, as there is little reason to hope that he will continue to post positive defensive marks. We are, after all, talking about a guy whose career DRS is -43, and whose UZR/150 is -4.3. Those numbers suggest regression to the mean. They also suggest that Uggla’s value, as ever, will be tied to his bat.

Oh, and did I mention that he’s going to be 33 years old next year? Dan Uggla is going to be 33 years old next year.

Yes, I’m concerned.

111 thoughts on “Dan Uggla (written by Adam M)”

  1. Great recap. A very well written way of saying “Ohhhhhhh sh*#.”

    A trick-or-treater came to my door dressed as a Falcons player. He was with 8 or 9 other children. Instead of handing each child one piece of candy, my wife lowered the bowl and offered it to the children. Each child only took one or two, until this little hyena started a cash grab. It was like he was robbing a cash register. Literally the little punk took around 20 pieces until my wife pulled his arm away. The bowl was cleaned out. I grabbed two NutriGrain bars hoping no one would show while she ran to the BP and bought more candy.

  2. Very concerned about Uggla.

    This concerns me also –
    Levine told Heyman that Boras told Soriano he “could get $60 million for four years” on the open market this offseason, which would be the richest contract for a reliever in history. “People can make logical conclusions. I am happy he feels he has a feel for the value of the player,” added Boras of Levine.

  3. Talking Chop has picked up on a report that Pascual Perez was killed in a home invasion robbery. He was 55.

  4. Uggla seems to have issues with adjusting to mechanical flaws, but has an offseason workout regime that is probably only second to Prado. I actually expect to see a smaller Uggla come ST. Hopefully, he comes to the right conclusion and realizes that he can’t have the body of a professional wrestler and maintain his current batspeed. So many players are working on increased flexibility and less iron pumping as their bodies start to decline and hopefully Uggla will be one of them. I think Uggla will have a better 2013 than 2012 but probably not by much. We have to remember that he is a 2nd baseman and is still top 5 in the league at his position.

  5. The Uggla TRADE was great. The Uggla EXTESNION was a bad idea AT THE TIME as most on this site recognized.

    I still can see us at beginning of 2012 moving Prado back to second and bringing in Willingham on 3 years 7 mill per year (that is what the Twins paid and he wanted to be on the Braves). We would have had 5 mill extra for last year and would have gotten better performance AND we wouldn’t have an albatross contract (even if Willingham drops off, there are only 2 more years at barely over half the money for Uggla).

  6. I’m viewing the last three years of Uggla’s contract as I did with D Lowe’s:

    Year 1 – Average

    Year 2 – Bad, with moments of mediocrity that give us SOME value.

    Year 3 – Sunk Cost

    So, what I’m hoping for now is a season and a half of league average play, with another 2/3 season of mediocrity, followed by the trap-door drop of Dead Second Baseman Walking.

  7. @5 – Agreed that Uggla clearly goes through boom/bust cycles that appear to be largely or totally based on hitting mechanics issues. Frankly, while his stats looked bad in 2012, I don’t think he was suffering from reduced bat speed – rather, he was 1) having trouble with pitch recognition / selection, and 2) for most of the season he was swinging with a pronounced uppercut which didn’t do him any favors on contact.

    Who knows what version(s) of Uggla will show up next season, but I think he’s still got that 35+ HR, .825-.850 OPS bat somewhere, if he can just find it. I’m not sold that Uggla’s bad 2012 was the result of a permanent, age-related decline in hitting skills.

  8. @9 per Fangraphs, Uggla has been worth 2.5 and 3.5 WAR, respectively, over the last two years. I believe the FA value of wins was roughly $5M in 2011 and $5.5M in 2012, putting his total output at $12.5M in 2011 and $19.25M in 2012 ($31.75M total).

    Dan’s been paid $22M by the Braves so far and will earn another $36M total over the next 3 years. Even if there’s little to no inflation in the cost per win of free agents, Dan will “earn” $12M annually in value for the Braves if he can put up 6 WAR in 2013 – 15. While Uggla is infuriating to watch at times, he’s been consistently worth between 2.5 – 5 WAR each year in his career, and he’s likely to at least do enough to be worth his contract.

  9. Uggla is a prime example of something I don’t understand: MLB clubs have access to everything that should help a player understand what are their relative strengths and weaknesses.

    Yet so often, players (often established, well-paid players) fall into the same habits that have bedeviled them in the past. For instance, Andruw and then Francouer simply would not lay off an outside breaking pitch. Nearly every pitcher in Triple A can throw a slider off the plate but if those two got two strikes on them you could write the “K” down immediately.

    In Uggla’s case, when his swing morphs into that 13-year-old-fat-kid-swing where he tries to hit everything 900 feet down the left field line he’s as easy as a Georgia Theta at Homecoming.

    I realize bad habits are hard to break, but it’s just not that hard to make adjustments that stick when you’re getting four at-bats a game for 100 games in a row.

    All this is to ask: what good is a hitting coach (or two) if, using all the resources at hand, they still can’t get a MLB-level hitter to discipline themselves to replicate what has made them successful in the past?

    Drives me crazy.

  10. @12, It may not be that Uggla’s gotten into a bad habit by accident with the uppercut swing. I guess it’s possible that he couldn’t find his swing at the beginning of the season and panicked and was unable to absorb any advice. But that would be the best case scenario.

    The concern is that it’s not accidental. That he’s purposefully uppercutting, aka trying to compensate for something else that he’s lost, whether it’s bat speed or maybe he sustained some injury that caused things to snowball.

    We won’t be able to have a real sense of what’s happening to him until the end of next season, maybe. It doesn’t look good, though.

  11. Still thinking people are weighting batting average too much. A .348 OBP and 19 home runs from your second baseman isn’t the end of the world.

  12. Uggla’s problem didn’t seem to be lack of discipline (he led the league in walks, didn’t he?); it was lack of bat speed. He struck out often on pitches that were strikes on the inside part of the plate that he couldn’t catch up to. I think Ryan is right (@5), there’s just too much muscle in his arms and upper body for effective batting. Flexibility and speed are far more important than mere bulk in getting the bat through the hitting zone.

  13. I’m with NickH in both @10 and @11. I think Uggla’s worth just about what we’re paying him, recognizing that there is natural variance and Uggla’s may be a bit higher than most. The problem is that his value comes about in such an annoying fashion, with lots of walks and occasional mammos and broken bat fisters over the infield combined with a couple of hundred at bats where he looks clueless. Like every player ever, he needs to make adjustments. He’s made them before. 33 is not my favorite age, but I’m not ready to give up on him yet. Further, replacing him with Prado is tantamount to replacing him with Francisco. You get all the same strikeouts and all the same frustrations.

  14. I have no problem with walks, low batting average, or even strikeouts. My concern is that the 19 HRs will diminish further–his ISO fell dramatically this season–and that the walks will soon not be enough to make up for what he’s losing elsewhere.

    As I said, he was worth the money this season. The concern is about the next three seasons.

  15. Adam M: Predictions are hard, especially about the future. We agree about the past, and we agree that DU is, if not already in decline, in the range where expectations tend to fall over time. But when you get four half seasons as different as the last four, your estimate of the mean is bound to be really hazy. If the last three months of the season is Uggla’s true new level, we’re hosed. But there just isn’t great evidence to support that hypothesis. I’m willing to bet there’s life in the Old Owl yet. (Although I grant I have nothing to support *that* hypothesis either.)

  16. From Klaw chat today:

    Mike (San Diego)

    You’re a GM and you get to choose from any of the NL East’s crop of RFs. Who do you take? Heyward, Stanton, or Harper?

    Klaw (1:24 PM)

    Heyward. Best combination of current production (offense and defense) and future potential.

  17. Pascual Perez has been killed during a robbery attempt at his home in Santo Domingo. See MLB news feed for details.

  18. At this point, I’d put the Braves’ chances at resigning Bourn at 25% or less. But hey, at least we’ll get a compensation pick!

  19. @32: I hear you. But I’m pretty sure I’d rather have Schafer out there than the *current* Ted Williams.

    Isn’t Schafer the one CF to have when you need more than one? (How many remember that reference?)

  20. You guys really think Schafer is going to be the everyday CFer? I’m thinking this means no Constanza in Atlanta next year, so as a backup pinch runner/defensive sub, I don’t mind Schafer. I don’t think Wren would fill the CF hole four days after the World Series ended, especially with a guy like Jordan Schafer.

  21. @36 – I would love to have 35 HR / 110 RBI in LF next year, but a) the Twins would very likely ask for a lot in return for him, b) he is frequently injured and plays bad defense, and c) last year was (by far) a career year offensively.

    By way of comparison – Wilingham’s career slash line is .261/.362/.483, Uggla’s is .253/.343/.469 – so he’s Uggla with a few more 1Bs each season. He’s also a year older than Uggla and is guaranteed to miss 20+ games each year with health issues.

    I guess what I’m saying is, Willingham is a good player, but he’s not as good as his 2012 stat line looks. This is the same dude who averaged 125 games, 62R / 20HR / 58 RBI in 2009-10 for the Nats.

  22. Waaay too early to read this move as a plan to put Schafer in CF. He’s just a pickup off waivers. I’d take Willingham OVER Hamilton in LF just on playing time, assuming we could get him for something reasonable.

  23. @39 when you say you’d take Willingham over Hamilton “just on playing time”, are you saying you think Willingham is superior to Hamilton when looking purely at on-field production? If so, I would have to strenuously disagree with you.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the Schafer pickup is just organizational depth – he’ll be a AAA CF or major league pinch-runner / defensive replacement.

  24. Nate McLouth had a Dr. Jekell/Mr. Hyde year. Horrible for Pittsburg/Savior for Baltimore. Free Agent?

  25. I doubt there’s any chance that the Braves would go after Nate McLouth, considering how unconscionably horrendous he was during his time in Atlanta.

    At least, I certainly hope not. I would be disappointed if I am wrong, to put it mildly.

  26. @43 I doubt it too. His numbers are strange. Baltimore may want him back after all their inuries.

  27. This Schafer move perplexes me. He’s already washed out of the organization once, and I don’t know what he offers that Constanza and Durango don’t.

  28. Schaefer is still living the dream based on one good season in Myrtle Beach. I doubt he sees Atlanta next season.

  29. Evan Gattis just crushed another one. The Aquilas fans love the dude. A sample tweet:

    “Creo que desde que vino Brad Tyler las Aguilas no habian traido un gringo que destroze la pelota como Evan Gattis! Es un Demonio!!!”

  30. It’s only a waiver pickup. Don’t read too much into it

    You say that, then Wren will fail to get anyone else, and we’ll get a bunch of propaganda from Bowman about how “impressed” the Braves are with Schafer’s committment and ethic. Just like going into 2006 with Reitsma and the closer’s role.

  31. There’s just something magical about google translate

    “I think that came from the Eagles Brad Tyler had not brought a gringo destroze the ball as Evan Gattis! Is a demon!”

  32. @56

    He went from being the #1 prospect in the organization to being a trade throw-in in three years. That, to me, is washing out.

  33. @53 As I said before, if we have no money to spend, I would have the same fear as you do. However, that’s not the case. We do have money to spend this winter.

  34. I know Hamilton is a big risk but I love him so much and might actually die of happiness if we signed him. Then I wouldn’t have to see him get hurt and be out for a quarter of every season.

  35. @40 – I mean it looks like Willingham will be on the field more than Hamilton. Hamilton is amazing when he’s on the field, but he’s found new and remarkable ways of missing playing time so I don’t think he’s much of a bet.

  36. But he could put on a great show in bp.

    (I actually did watch that HR derby. And, yes, I was laughing like a little kid.)

  37. So if we sign Hamilton, can we carry an all-glove, no-hit CF like Schaeffer?

    I think maybe so, but we’d be lacking in the lead-off spot AND we’d be awfully left-handed at the dish.

  38. @66 Did he wear himself out that night with so many swings? “HRs are rally killers” anyway.

  39. One downside with Hamilton is once again, we are more lefthanded.

    What do people think about Torii Hunter? Can he still cover an average CF and can he still hit lefthanders and not totally stink the joint against righthanders?

  40. Hamilton in right, Heyward in center, Gattis in left? You could play Schafer in center against righties…

    Then trade for David Price, and I’d just go ahead and join Bethany in the happiness grave.

  41. Hamilton seems like the type of guy the Braves avoid. He has a lot of baggage and is prone to “fall off the waggon”

    I just don’t see the Braves offering someone with the potential to be a cancer the type of money someone will pay him.

    I bet he winds up in Miami, LA, Boston or on one of the Chicago teams.

    He really would be the perfect Met, but I don’t think they have the funds.

  42. Here is something that I have been thinking. Is it worse to be a left-handed hitting dominant line-up than right-handed? It seems to me it is because lefties generally have more trouble against lefties than righties do against righties. The Braves have had a hell of a time finding legitimate right-handed bats-and Uggla hasn’t helped that much.

  43. I’d be fine with Hamilton at the right price, but that will only happen if literally every other team stays away from him. I’m actually not overly concerned about the baggage — I’m more concerned about his propensity to injury and his streakiness with the bat. I basically think of him as being more or less like the 36-year old Chipper Jones: he’s a hell of a hitter when he’s healthy, but his defense is iffy and getting iffier, and you have to build in the expectation of a fair amount of time on the shelf.

    I want both Uptons. I really really want Justin, who’s incredibly talented and who the Diamondbacks are trying to run out of town and kill the value of.

  44. I love Willingham — I wanted him back in 2009, when the Nats got him for a song — but he’ll be 34 in February, and over the last five seasons he has averaged 126 games a year, which is actually worse than Hamilton over that span.

    And, as with Uggla, 34-year-old right-handed sluggers don’t often tend to age well. I’m worried that Willingham’s window of effectiveness is about to close.

  45. Just for fun, because I like the idea of BJ Upton too, here are the careers of Upton and Kelly Johnson:

    Upton .255/.336/.422 bWAR 13.6 in 966 Games
    Kelly .255/.338/.429 bWAR 13.8 in 933 Games

    I know Upton has some speed on Kelly and he’s got youth and potentially untapped upside, but the offensive similarity is quite striking to me.

  46. Jon Heyman was quoted saying Hamilton would get 5/150 — which was political cover should the Rangers not sign him, but still. Sticker shock is likely. Would he command so much of our available money that we’d have to settle for a substandard solution to our other positional need (which, to me, would still be CF…I’d put Hamilton in left, so we could all watch his defensive WAR skyrocket amazingly)?

  47. I can’t see the Braves signing a premium free agent. They aren’t going to commit that much money. They will either make a trade or sign some second-tier guy. I don’t know who it would be but I would be shocked to see them get someone like Hamilton or even one of the Uptons. Even though the Braves theoretically have money this winter, what’s the point of committing all to one player if you know it prevents you from making other deals in the future? And Hamilton is hardly the guy to stake the farm on.

  48. If we could afford Hamilton, then we really could afford to keep Bourn and then trade for Justin Upton. Hamilton at 5/150 is ridiculous. An outfield of Heyward, Bourn, Justin Upton would be amazing.

    Since Im dreaming, we could also trade Uggla to Toronto and then flip the prospects to Texas for Andrus

    Bourn CF
    Prado 3B/2B
    Heyward RF
    Upton LF
    Freeman 1B
    Bmac C
    Andrus 2B/3B
    Simmons SS


  49. Willingham (along with Dunn and Swisher) is a player I was hoping the Braves would go after… 4 years ago. 2012 Willingham is a little old and 2012 Swisher will be overpayed in my opinion. You would think that “corner outfielder with pop” would be one of the easiest roster holes to fill for any GM but that Braves have been sorely missing one for what seems like a decade.

    I guess we’re stuck with Uggla and just need to hope for the best. At least his batting eye and patience are still there. I’ll give him that. Just imagine how much worse the last two years could have been if he was chasing pitches outside the zone. Maybe he can improve his bat speed with just a few more bicep curls…

  50. @34 – don’t worry, Jonathon. Many great artists have gone unappreciated. (But not by me – that was a GREAT pull.)

    Stu’s endless quest to have an all-Vandy rotation is, uh, supported by me. I love our starters, but we need a Number One. I really think I’d rather have Price than Hamilton.

    I’m just now appreciating how remarkable the Giants’ run was.

  51. Kelly Johnson, anyone? 2B and passable LF?

    Streaky as hell, but so is Uggla. Maybe they could compliment each other. Meh.

  52. I sure would love to see both Uptons in the outfield (i imagine the braves marketing team wouldnt mind either); although the prospect of Kevin Towers negotiating the trade through the media, as he did with Peavy, will grow tiresome in a hurry. Wren was a little loose-lipped that off season too, if I recall correctly, but seems to have learned his lesson.

  53. @84

    Another member of the David Wright To Atlanta fan club! I thought I was the only one!

  54. OK I have no clue as to how the arbitration salaries are calculated, but here are the mlbtraderumors projected numbers for 3 Braves who will be in their 1st year of arbitration this year:

    Kris Medlen: $2MM
    Jayson Heyward: $3.5MM
    Tommy Hanson: $4MM


  55. Wright would be awesome, but I just don’t see him leaving the Mets (or the Mets letting him leave).

  56. The Mets certainly shouldn’t let him leave, but they are a) cash-strapped and b) run by an idiot. If Wilpon won’t open his checkbook — which he categorically refused to do for Reyes, hugely insulting Reyes and shocking Wright by actually refusing to even make Reyes an offer — then Wright will take market value elsewhere.

    Honestly, the Mets don’t deserve him.

  57. Just a short word of thanks to AAR, and everyone who is keeping The House That Mac Built running. Except for Mac’s uncanny way with words and perspective, you all haven’t missed a beat.

    For those who remember, Dee and I went out for prime rib and champagne last night on the one year anniversary of her stage 4 cancer diagnosis. She is doing great, and looks more beautiful than ever. All tests are clear at this point.

    I notice the lack of a ‘Donate’ button. I have no idea of the expense involved in this little piece of heaven on Earth, but I would not object to contributing.

  58. I suppose Wright’s availability will be determined by how much dough the Mets have to shell out to the court in response to their profitting from B. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

    They may not be willing to cough up 18 large for a player who will likely leave after next season anyway when they have no realistic hope to compete next year.

    And IF that happens, I would, if I were Wren, swoop down with a 5/90 offer in a heartbeat.

  59. Congratulations, Mark!

    Nyjer Morgan is now a free agent. He makes a lot more sense than a dude like Jordan Schafer and could turn out to be a steal as long its only a one-year deal for not much money. For the past five season he has been alternating terrible and excellent seasons, only .4 WAR last season, but a 3.9 WAR in 2011, and 5.2(!) in 2009.

  60. Congratulations, Dee and Mark.

    Third base is less a problem than centerfield, and Gattis could fill left.

    Centerfield? Differnt story. If the rumors cited here are true, Wren needs a magic trade to get a centerfielder.

    Who’s young, adequate, cheap and possibly available?

  61. I keep hearing that, if Wright doesn’t re-sign in Flushing, he’d be off to Boston in a deal that would include Will Middlebrooks.

  62. DOB: This week, to get a gauge of how he’s viewed by the Braves, I asked Wren if he viewed Gattis as a prospect despite his age.

    “No question,” Wren said. “He’s a very good prospect. He’s a right-handed hitter with power, and he’s athletic. He can do a lot of things. Evan’s a good looking player.

    “The age is really irrelevant. Where the age is a negative on his side is, it may shorten his career because he’s [already] 26. But theoretically, he should be in his prime.”

    FWIW, the idea that Gattis could be more than a good MLB bench player is being met with derision and annoyance in most corners of the internet that are worth reading. Everybody wants this guy to succeed, but I can understand where the snark is coming from.

  63. @97 – If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be home surfing the net on a Friday night.

    And congrats Mark.

  64. @95: Has Nyjer Morgan changed his attitude? The Braves usually don’t go after guys like that. Heck, that’s all it tool for Yunel to get the boot.

  65. That’s great, Mark, congratulations. It’s always nice to come here and find out some good news.

  66. This can’t be right, can it? From ESPN:

    “In cutting ties with Hunter after five seasons, the Angels open up a starting center field spot for Peter Bourjos, who was relegated to the bench for much of 2012. Rookie of the Year lock — and MVP contender — Mike Trout would shift to left field. Dipoto said Vernon Wells will enter next season — presuming he’s not traded first — as the team’s fourth outfielder. Mark Trumbo, who mashed 32 home runs, but slumped badly in the second half, will take over right field from Hunter.”

  67. Braves should trade Uggla and sign Jeff Keppinger. With the addition of Upton, the Braves can ill afford two strike-out leaders and lowest OBP players in the starting lineup.

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