Dan Uggla's batting average reaches .240, all sins forgiven

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Reader Andrew Butler had this to say on his own blog about one of my favorite Marlins and resident scapegoat of all things clutch, Dan Uggla.

The first complaint I’ll handle is that he strikes out too much.

Yes he does strikeout alot but in the long run does that matter? His K% is 25.7% which is actually down from the last 2 years of 32.2% and 26.4% which is actually a good improvement. But another thing is that his BB/K ratio went up as well meaning he is getting on base more. Its somewhat of a Adam Dunn complex where theres alot of strikes but a high OBP, Uggla is kind of like that although his OBP is lower…

Ugglas OBP is currently .355 which is above around the league average which is around .340. So not much wrong with him striking out, its prevents double plays and other occurences[sic] that saber people like.

Actually, I believe league OBP is around .330. FanGraphs has the major league average at .333, but Andrew here has the right point. Uggla is your typical power-patience guy, and something that all power-patience guys rack up is strikeouts. Unfortunately, most of us have been programmed to equate strikeouts and poor play, often times the worst play, when in reality they’re barely any different than any other out.

Here’s where the typical person would fire back that “if you put the ball in play, you give yourself a chance for something to happen, like the fielder making a mistake!” Sure you do, but consider that major leaguers are seen as “poor fielders”  (whether it’s right or wrong) if they field at 93% efficiency. That means even if Uggla hit significantly more balls in play, only a scant few would result in errors and free bases. And putting the ball in play is no guarantee that it’ll fall through, especially with Uggla.

In any case, Andrew’s piece inspired me to point this out. Dan Uggla’s batting average has hit .240 as of prior to tonight’s game against the Houston Astros. For many hitters, .240 is bad. But for high power-patience hitters, .240 can be representative of a solid season. Now of course, Uggla isn’t Adam Dunn or even Jack Cust in terms of walking, so he does need more of a .260 average to put an excellent wOBA up. But even at a .240 average, Uggla has a .355 OBP and a .447 SLG, which has been good for a .351 wOBA and almost nine runs above average offensively, without adjusting for home park. Pretty good considering the start he had, and indicative of what I have been saying all along: Uggla’s peripherals are fine, his BABIP is down, and even if his batting average remains low, he’ll still be league average.

In my previous Uggla analysis (Ugglanalysis?), I mentioned one thing that may be keeping his BABIP low. His fly ball rate of over 50% on the year was definitely hurting his chances of getting balls to land. Uggla’s never had a great line drive rate, perhaps due to many of his hard hit balls ending in the seats and getting considered as fly balls instead of liners, perhaps because that’s the way he is (such is the subjectivity of line drives vs. fly balls). But his previous year, the breakout year, had a fly ball rate down underneath 50%. Last year he was close, at 48%, and had a monster year. To compare:

Uggla’s fly ball rate when I wrote the original analysis (June 21): 51.4%
Uggla’s fly ball rate now (as of August 18, prior to game): 48.4%
Uggla’s fly ball rate, 2008: 48.1%

This of course could mean nothing at all, at least with regards to the 48% number. Since June 21, Uggla’s dropped his fly ball rate three percent, subsequently upped his ground ball rate by three percent, and has a BABIP of .306 in the period. Granted, this is in 111 balls in play, and let’s face it, BABIP definitely doesn’t stabilize in 111 balls in play, but I’m pretty certain that Uggla’s increase in ground balls, along with a healthy dose of regression to the mean, has assisted in him pulling his batting average up to .240 and making his season close to a win above average with a little more than a month left in the year.

ZiPS projects Uggla to have a .353 wOBA to finish the year, giving him around 13 wRAA unadjusted for home park for the year. If he maintains something like -10 runs on defense (UZR/150 has him on pace for -9.4 runs), he’ll be worth close to 2.8 WAR for the season. This is far more than I expected after we saw that first month. Still, an average player who is cost-controlled is a good thing. If only some of the other fans would notice this.

Tags: Andrew Butler Dan Uggla Jack Cust Miami Marlins

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