Atlanta Braves

Are Dan Uggla's Days as an Impact Offensive Player Officially Over?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 21:  Dan Uggla #26 of the Atlanta Braves (R) walks back to the dugout after striking out as home plate umpire Chris Conroy #98 (L) and catcher Dioner Navarro #30 of the Chicago Cubs stand on the field during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field on September 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Braves 3-1.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
Joe GiglioContributor IOctober 2, 2013

According to Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves were strongly considering leaving Dan Uggla, their $13 million per year second baseman, off their division series roster. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted this afternoon, the decision is official. 

Dan Uggla is off the Atlanta Braves' active roster. Entirely. 

No pinch-hitting or starting against a left-handed pitcher. No nearly automatic strikeout, sometimes walk or rare home run. Instead, Atlanta is ready to move on from Uggla's inconsistent bat during their quest for a World Series championship.

If you haven't noticed Uggla's decline over the past few seasons, his exclusion from a postseason roster might be enough for fans to take substantial notice. At the age of 33, it's fair to wonder if Uggla's days as an impact offensive player are officially over.

Uggla is trending in all of the wrong directions as a hitter. His game is predicated on home runs and walks, but neither are occurring for him at a high enough clip to outweigh the dip below a .200 batting average.

For a player that has rated as a negative defender during his career (-3.9 dWAR) and one of the worst base stealing threats in recent memory (26 SB, 20 CS), there is no value to his game without power and the ability to get on-base via the walk.

From 2006-2011, Uggla averaged 32 walks and 71 walks per season. In total, he smashed 190 home runs and walked 425 times during that six year stretch. As the following chart shows, only eight hitters in baseball had more home runs over that span with at least as many free passes. Even if Uggla was a butcher in the field and ran his offense out of rallies with unfounded enthusiasm on the bases, his offensive contributions were too hard to ignore. 

Those attributes convinced the Braves to award him a five-year, $62 million contract after the 2010 season. While his three years in Atlanta haven't been a total disaster (97 OPS+), he's been a below average hitter on an above average contract. With the team deciding he's not worth a spot, even in a limited capacity, on their postseason roster, it's hard to imagine their confidence in earning a return on investment over the next two seasons.

The facts are too hard to ignore: Uggla is declining and likely not headed back up as he ages.

When looking at the numbers provided by Fangraphs, two issues standout: strikeout and line drive percentage.

If you've watched Uggla for any length of time, you know that big strikeout numbers are part of his game, but he's moved into an era that simply won't allow him to make enough contact to succeed.

During the first six years of his career, Uggla only surpassed the 25 percent threshold in strikeouts one time. Over the last two seasons, that number has spiked to 26.7 in 2012 and 31.8 in 2013. Among hitters that have struck out in at least 29 percent of plate appearances over the last two seasons, only Chris Davis has profiled as a very productive offensive player.

Second, and perhaps more alarming, is the lack of line drives off Uggla's bat when he does actually hit the baseball.

Among 140 qualified everyday players, Uggla's 13.2 percent line drive rate came in dead last in 2013. Not only does Uggla rarely make contact, but the contact isn't hard hit off his bat when he does connect.

As you would imagine, Uggla isn't very difficult for opposing pitchers to handle right now. If they throw the ball over the plate, he'll likely hit it weakly. If they throw junk, he'll likely swing and miss.

Scrolling through Dan Uggla's 2013 splits and trying to find the positive to spin into a future resurgence is a fruitless effort. Unless Uggla changes his approach, finds the fountain of youth or is given a fresh start in a new town, things might get worse before they ever get better.

Uggla was once a rare combination of power and patience among middle infielders. He's now a $13 million spectator in Atlanta.

Are Dan Uggla's days as a productive hitter over?

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