SportsCrack Blog

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Getting Ugly for Uggla

Image Courtesy of the AP

Matt and I were having a conversation the other day about Atlanta's most recent trade for perennial All Star Dan Uggla and I think we can all be honest, it's getting ugly. When Atlanta made the trade for the slugging 2nd baseman, no one would have guess he would be so, well, sluggish. Uggla is hitting .175, that's not even his weight.

The only comfort I take is that Omar Infante hasn't exactly had a great season, only batting .250 with 17 RBIs, our bullpen lefties are second to none, and Dan Uggla's defense has been absolutely spectacular. Still, we signed a clean up hitter, not expecting to have to clean up for him. Maybe the pressure of a lot of money is getting to him and if so, he's in the wrong profession.

Dave O'Brien talked yesterday on the Braves Blog on the AJC about Uggla getting slotted in the 7th hole and being benched twice in the last 7 games.

Gonzalez decided to “give him a breather” on Tuesday for the second time in seven games, using Uggla only as a pinch-runner for Chipper Jones late in the game.

The manager joked Wednesday that Uggla was too much of a “pain in the [rear]” pacing and fidgeting in the dugout to not play him in consecutive games.

“He’s your every-day second baseman,” Gonzalez said, on a serious note. “He can’t break out of that stuff sitting on the bench. There comes a point where you just give him a little mental rest and then run him back in there, let him play. He’s earned that.”

The Braves traded Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn to the Marlins for Uggla in November, then signed him to a five-year, $62 million contract extension before spring training, giving him the highest average annual salary ($12.4 million) for any second baseman.

Uggla averaged nearly 31 home runs and 93 RBIs in five seasons with the Marlins, including career-highs of 33 homers and 105 RBIs in 2010, when he also had personal bests in average (.287), on-base percentage (.369) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.877).

Before Wednesday, his .178 average this season was the second-lowest among National League qualifiers, and his .568 OPS was third-lowest. With runners in scoring position, his .118 average (6-for-51) was the third-lowest in the league.

The Braves got him to be the right-handed power hitter their lineup had lacked in recent years, but Uggla’s .115 average and .154 slugging percentage against lefties were the third-worst marks in the NL before Wednesday.

He had seven homers and 16 RBIs before Wednesday, including two homers and seven RBIs in May while batting .160 (16-for-100).

I, for one, still believe in Uggla and not just because his forearm is bigger than my leg. I personally like the guy. He works hard, he's a team first guy, he's as much of a blue collar player as there is in the game. He's just got to get out of his own head and go back to having fun playing baseball. In the end, I think Uggla will be more than worth his salary to the Braves, even if they do decide to package Uggla, Hanson, and Beachy to make a run at Albert Pujols. Hey, a guy can dream right?!?!?

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