• Exclusives

    Monster year ahead for Dan Uggla?

    By Kent Covington

    Braves 2B Dan Uggla

    Atlanta’s power-hitting second baseman, Dan Uggla, has always been a slow starter.  To put it kindly, he’s usually not at his best in the month of April. But his early season struggles generally start before the season ever begins. You see, Uggla is not a strong spring performer… until this year, anyway.

    “Who cares, man? It’s only spring!”

    Okay, I agree with you that spring performance does not necessarily mean very much, if anything. And you have to be careful how much importance you assign to it.

    I will confess that after a very solid showing last spring, I thought former Braves outfielder, Nate McLouth, was on track for a strong comeback season in 2011. I was wrong. Of course, my expectations were based not only on his spring performance, but also his past regular season accomplishments. Nevertheless, his ’11 spring performance turned out to be misleading, as pre-season success often is.

    Here’s my take on the relevance of pre-season stats in a nutshell:

    EARLY spring performance (the first couple weeks of March) means nothing at all. Many players are just getting their legs underneath them, and minor league players account for half or more of the results. Read nothing into early March whatsoever.

    LATE spring, however (the last week or two of March), can be an indicator of a player’s readiness–or lack thereof–for the season ahead. Late spring play is not always prophetic. Sometimes a player shows you something quite different, good or bad, from late March to early April. Other times, though, spring performance is indeed an omen that portends early season success or frustration.

    It could be argued that Dan Uggla’s Grapefruit League stats have historically been a pretty accurate indicator of how his season would begin.

    Dan Uggla career spring training statistics

     

    YEAR

    TEAM

    G

    AB

    R

    H

    2B

    3B

    HR

    RBI

    BB

    SO

    SB

    CS

    AVG

    OBP

    SLG

    OPS

    2006

    FLA

    25

    74

    8

    20

    5

    0

    2

    10

    6

    12

    3

    1

    .270

    .337

    .419

    .756

    2007

    FLA

    23

    76

    8

    17

    3

    0

    2

    11

    6

    18

    0

    1

    .224

    .274

    .342

    .616

    2008

    FLA

    23

    75

    13

    19

    8

    0

    3

    11

    7

    17

    0

    0

    .253

    .317

    .480

    .797

    2009

    FLA

    24

    68

    9

    14

    1

    0

    5

    8

    8

    24

    1

    0

    .206

    .289

    .441

    .731

    2010

    FLA

    21

    61

    7

    12

    3

    0

    2

    7

    7

    19

    0

    0

    .197

    .271

    .344

    .616

    2011

    ATL

    23

    66

    6

    14

    3

    0

    1

    9

    7

    17

    0

    0

    .212

    .284

    .303

    .587

    2012

    ATL

    22

    59

    9

    18

    5

    0

    6

    15

    7

    15

    0

    0

    .305

    .391

    .695

    1.086

    With the exception of one season (2010), the pattern throughout Uggla’s career has been that he will struggle all spring, then carry those struggles into regular season play until his frozen bat begins to thaw, usually sometime in May.

    But this spring, Uggla looks a little LOT different than in pre-seasons past. He’s punishing opposing pitchers just as he did throughout the second half of last season. It almost appears as if the Braves’ slugger never took any time off over the winter.

    There is a reason for his spring success this year, according to Dan Uggla himself. He observed the aggressive approach Chipper Jones and Brian McCann take in the batter’s box each spring and decided to adopt it. As the numbers above suggest, that approach seems to be working for him.

     

    So if that pattern of similarity between his March and April numbers holds this year… that would be marvelous news, wouldn’t it?

    Even though it’s only spring training, to see the way Dan Uggla is swinging the bat right now–just a few days from opening day–it’s difficult to imagine him struggling so mightily in April, as he often has in the past.

    After floundering through the first half of last season, Uggla grew comfortable in Braves uniform and at the plate. He has always excelled at Turner Field from the visiting dugout, and one could make a strong case that once he found his stride in Atlanta (around the All-Star break last year), he played the best baseball of his career.

    It’s logical then to wonder, given the spring he’s having, if Dan Uggla could start the 2012 season the way he finished the 2011 campaign.  And if he does, what kind of of numbers could he put up for the Braves this year?

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