Dan Uggla: 5 Ways the Atlanta Braves Slugger Can Turn His Season Around
When the Atlanta Braves acquired Dan Uggla from the Florida Marlins, fans across Braves Country rejoiced. Aside from the fact that Uggla crushed Atlanta's pitching to the tune of 23 home runs in 89 games during his career, Uggla represented the right-handed power bat that the Braves had been missing for years.
Through Uggla's first 51 games with the Braves, however, the results haven't been what the team was expecting when they parted with All-Star utility man Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn to get him.
Uggla has just two home runs over his past 28 games and his .180/.250/.335 slash line represents career lows in each category. His .180 batting average is the third-worst in baseball among qualifiers.
So here are the top five things Uggla needs to do, to return to his status as one of baseball's elite power hitters.
Be Less Aggressive
Uggla is only walking in 8 percent of his plate appearances, his lowest rate since his 2006 rookie season. Combine that with the fact that he is swinging at nearly 27 percent of the pitches he sees outside of the strike zone and 47 percent of pitches overall, both career highs, and it is clear that Uggla is showing much less patience this season.
Opposing teams have been peppering the outside corner against Uggla, because he hasn't proven he can consistently take the ball the other way with authority and hasn't shown the willingness to move closer to the plate.
It should be noted that the entire Braves lineup has been more aggressive this season, under new hitting coach Larry Parrish. So that could be a factor in Uggla's free-swinging ways as well.
Destroy the Fastball
According to FanGraphs' pitch type values chart, Uggla killed the fastball in his first five seasons. His worst season against that pitch came in 2008 when he was still 16.6 runs above average. This season, however, his performance against the fastball is 4.9 runs below average or 21.9 runs worse than his previous career low.
He is seeing the lowest percentage of fastballs in his career because of his prior success against it, so it seems he is guessing off-speed and when he gets a fastball he just can't capitalize. Uggla needs to focus on the fastball first and start crushing it like he has in the past, and everything else should fall into place.
Start Hitting Line Drives First
So far this season, Uggla is at career lows in line-drive percentage (14) and fly-ball percentage (39). When he does hit a fly ball, 10 percent of them are on the infield, a career-high. For the first time in his career, he is hitting more ground balls than fly balls.
Overall, it seems like Uggla is just not squaring up pitches like he has in the past, causing grounders and weak pop-ups. It would seem a lot of this goes back to the outside pitches Uggla is struggling with. When he tries to go the other way, it turns into a weak grounder to second base and if he tries to pull the outside pitch it results in a weak fly ball.
Uggla needs to move up on the plate and prove he can hit the outside pitch and force pitchers to test him inside—where he has done most of his damage throughout his career.
Find a Rabbit's Foot
Lady Luck hasn't been treating Uggla well so far this season, and it has caused his numbers to look like those of a Triple-A player as opposed to hitting fifth for a contender.
His batting average on balls in play currently sits at .194, which is 136 points worse than last season's .330 and 108 points worse than his career .302 mark. That number should rebound to at least .250 by season's end, if not more.
Also, his home run to fly ball ratio is sitting at a career low 12 percent. Some of that has to do with the increased number of infield flies mentioned earlier, and some of it is just bad luck. If he can increase that percentage closer to his career average of 15, it will have a big impact on his home run totals.
Take a Deep Breath
Uggla has acknowledged the five-year, $62 million extension he signed after being acquired by the Braves has weighed heavily on him. It probably seems like another monkey jumps on his back every game he doesn't provide a big hit, but he has to understand it is impossible to make up for lost time with one swing of the bat.
With two scheduled off-days and another day without an at-bat (he came in as a defensive replacement, go figure) this week, Uggla has had a good amount of time to clear his head. Hopefully, that time off gave him the chance to reflect on what has been ailing him in these early months and what needs to be done to turn it around and help the Braves in the chase for the playoffs.