Back in April, we talked about the first-year struggles of $100 million free agents with their new team. We took a look at Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi amongst others and how they all saw their OPS drop in the first year with their new team.
Some of the reasons why we thought these players didn’t exceed expectations were pressure to preform, injuries, adjusting to a new league, adjusting to a new city, moving their family to a new city, dealing with the new media—or simply they weren’t $100-million-a-year players. A regression in stats was expected.
First-year struggles with a new team aren’t just tied to $100 million free agents. Players who get traded to a new team tend to struggle in their first year as well.
Case in point: Dan Uggla.
The Atlanta Braves acquired Uggla from the Florida Marlins in the hope that he would be the right-handed power bat they so desperately needed over the last couple of seasons. Through 56 games, Uggla has been more of ugly than the All-Star they thought they were getting.
Uggla is hitting .178/.246/.322 with seven HRs in 228 plate appearances. He’s last amongst all major league second basemen in WAR (-0.5) and wOBA (.250).
I think Uggla’s struggles are a simple case of trying to hard to impress his new team.
Uggla has always been a patient hitter. In his career with the Marlins, Uggla was walking in 10.8 percent of his plate appearances. Through 56 games with the Braves, Uggla is walking only 7.9 percent of the time.
It’s as if he has lost all patience in a Braves uniform.
From 2009 to 2010, Uggla swung at 40.5 percent of the pitches he saw. In 2011, he is swinging at 48 percent of the pitches he sees. He’s going up to the plate hacking and swinging at everything, which is a clear sign of a guy trying to do too much.
The Braves are doing all they can to help Uggla turn things around. They have given him days off and have dropped him in the order. But Uggla is going to need to do his part.
He needs to remember what made him successful in the past—taking pitches, working the count and then getting his pitch and driving it.
In other words, relax and stop trying so hard.