Dan Uggla's power and place in Marlins history

With Dan Uggla’s second home run of the day on Friday evening against the New York Mets, he tied Derrek Lee for the third-most home runs in Marlins history. Uggla then homered on Sunday afternoon against the Mets, putting him in sole possession of third place on the all-time Marlins home run list.

This distinction is somewhat significant I suppose, despite the relatively short history of the team. In his four-plus seasons here, Uggla has carved out a pretty solid Marlins career, along with becoming a fan favorite among some Fish fans (myself included). In light of this occassion, I figured I’d take a look at how Uggla stands as of now among the “pantheon” of Marlins greats.

His name is “Highly-Efficient Home Run Hitter”

Uggla stands third on a list that prominently features Lee, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Lowell, not at all bad company in terms of former Marlins. Uggla right now is just eight homers behind Cabrera and 13 behind Lowell for the all-time lead, and given Uggla’s pension for 30+ home run seasons (aiming for his fourth in a row), I would not be surprised if he ended the season the career leader in home runs.

What’s perhaps more impressive is the rate at which he knocked pitches out of the park. Here are the four players in question and the amount of PA it took for them to hit 129 HR.

Player PA PA/HR
Mike Lowell 3227 25.02
Miguel Cabrera 2829 21.93
Dan Uggla 2846 22.06
Derrek Lee 3164 24.53

Among these four guys, there are two classes of home run hitter. Lowell and Lee ran into their share, but did not hit them as efficiently as Uggla and Cabrera. Miggy and Uggla were at about the same pace in terms of home run power, knocking pitches out of the park once every 22 or so PA. There is no bias in terms of walk rates either; both Cabrera and Uggla have walked at about 10.5% of their PA as Marlins in their career.

It’s amazing how similar Cabrera and Uggla actually were, outside for one huge factor. Neither Cabrera nor Uggla were much with the glove, though Cabrera was immensely more devastating to the Marlins when measuring defense with TotalZone (UZR is a little kinder, but it still is Cabrera’s loss). Both players were proficient at home runs, even though Miggy was never really known as a home run hitter. The reason he was never really considered a “slugger” in the Ryan Howard sense is because:

A) he never his 40+ homers in a season

and

B) he always hit for a high average.

This critical factor is what separated Uggla’s offense from Cabrera’s. As a Marlin, Cabrera was a .313/.388/.542 hitter*, while Uggla is a career .259/.345/.485 hitter as a Fish. The two have almost identical walk rates (though Cabrera took more intentional walks) and almost equal power numbers; Cabrera’s ISO as a Marlin (unadjusted for triples) was .229, while Uggla’s is .226. The difference is of course their averages. Cabrera had a magical BABIP touch and did not strike out often, while Uggla swung and missed a lot more.

His place in history

This is likely to be Uggla’s final season as a Marlin, given his soon-to-be extreme cost for 2011. Barring a Marlins headscratching move by the front office, Uggla should be in another uniform (sadly for me, as he is my favorite player) in 2011. If he indeed leaves us, he will take his place among the better Marlins players of all time.

Uggla as of now has accumulated 1.0 WAR according to Rally’s WAR methodology, as shown here on Baseball-Reference. With that 1.0 WAR, Uggla has now picked up 12.2 WAR in his career as a Fish. This essentially ties him with Jeff Conine on the list of all-time Marlins WAR leaders. If Uggla ends the year with a respectable two more WAR, he will finish with 14.2 WAR, which will put him close to Gary Sheffield and Dontrelle Willis in the 14-WAR range. At that count, Uggla would be seventh in total WAR by the end of his Marlins career, behind two names on this very list.

A total of 14.2 WAR in five seasons would average to 2.8 WAR per year, in the range of a solid starter, not exactly the profile of a player who made two All-Star appearances for the team. Still, Uggla’s defense cannot be ignored, and almost certainly prevented him from being an All-Star bat at a premium position. Still, being behind guys like Lowell, Sheffield, and Cliff Floyd is nothing to sneeze at; Lowell was the only guy who played out a career similar to Uggla’s (five years with the Marlins), but he had less defensive troubles. The other two had two monster, career years with the Fish during their time with the team. Ultimately, Uggla will be remembered for his longevity and decent production. If the Marlins can make a playoff push this year, his contributions should also be considered, of course.

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Tags: Dan Uggla Derrek Lee Miami Marlins Miguel Cabrera Mike Lowell

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