To say that last season was a roller coaster for Dan Uggla would be a compliment to any roller coaster. After a disastrous start that saw him hitting .170 at the beginning of June and under .200 until July 27th, Uggla went on a 33-game hitting streak that saw his average climb to .237. The awful start coined the term #Struggla, and he was a punchline until the hitting streak really got under way. But now that the season is over and another one nears dawn, we have to start wondering about next year.
Before we take a look forward, it’s kind of fun to look back at what he’s done.
As you can see, Uggla’s entire career has been a roller coaster. Jacob Peterson (aka @junkstats; follow him if you don’t already) was the first to point out the BABiP fluctuations to me. His career BABiP is .294, but none of his seasons are particularly close to that mark. When you then look at his fWAR, it’s no surprise that it fluctuates wildly as well as his average is 3.7, but none of his seasons are within a win of that. Based on this, it looks like Uggla is headed for a nice 4-5 win season.
We, of course, can’t just assume that. Adam LaRoche had those ridiculously good second halves … until he didn’t in 2010. Bouncing back-and-forth like that is mainly just a statistical anomaly - someone has to do it - and we just happen to be witnesses. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe statisticians whose job it is to do this sort of thing. Bill James and RotoChamp all have Uggla playing to his career averages, and the FANS come to the same conclusion - Uggla should be worth about 3.5 wins this next season. We certainly don’t “know” that, but that’s the best prediction we can give.
The next question we have to ask is if Uggla showed signs of decline. When a player goes up-and-down like he has, it’s harder to see when he declines. So we need to look at some peripheral stats to see what’s going on and if the .253 BABiP is really to blame. First thing’s first, Uggla didn’t strike out more than usual. While the BB rate dropped (probably due to being #aggressive), I expect the reason behind that - Larry Parrish - is gone. The next thing we do is look at batted ball statistics. Before we get too into it, batted ball statistics can fluctuate because it can be difficult to tell between a line drive and a fly ball, etc. When you look at those, everything looks pretty normal except for a massive spike in pop flies, but the question becomes what caused it. Was it a loss of bat speed? Well, he still hit usual array of home runs and didn’t seem to sell-out and strike out for the power. Was it something in his swing mechanics that prohibited him from making the same contact? Perhaps. I remember a lot of backside collapses, which would cause that sort of thing, but I can’t compare him to past seasons. Ultimately, the answer is no. I don’t think he’s declining, at least rapidly.
Uggla will turn 32 during Spring Training, and he’s beginning to reach the point at which we ask questions about collapses. Additionally, the scrutiny over Uggla’s extension was over a possible quick decline. But let’s remember a few things. 32 isn’t that old. It’s just beyond his theoretical prime. And while the worries over the extension were about a decline, the worry wasn’t really about 2012. I realize that the slow start to 2011 caused some additional concerns and that his hitting streak didn’t make up for that, but we have to realize that, as odd as the it was, his season was one that was bound to happen at some point to someone. It’s certainly an interesting story, but let’s not read too much into it.
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