Amidst the ugly 11-4 thumping at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies Monday evening, something awesome happened, something that can be said to be a historical baseball event. Resident slugger Dan Uggla launched his 30th home run of the season. This was the fourth consecutive season of 30+ homers for Uggla, and he is the first second baseman in major league history to reach that distinction. Indeed, he is the first second baseman to ever hit 30 homers in three seasons in a row, and he is also the first second baseman to ever hit 30 homers in four seasons ever.
That’s a lot of firsts, and it goes to show you how offensively excellent Uggla has been over his career as a Fish. But where does this put him in terms of the offensive pantheon of second baseman in the game’s history? I took a look at some stats over the Baseball-Reference Play Index to find out.
The most powerful 2B ever?
Uggla has reached a milestone no player has ever reached at his position, and he has been quickly climbing the career home run ladder for second baseman since he started playing in 2006. Right now, Uggla is 16th all time on the second baseman home run list, trailing Davey Lopes by four dingers and is still a good ways away from career leader Jeff Kent. But if there is one thing Uggla can hang his hat on, it is that he has been the most prolific home run hitter among these players. Looking at the top 25 home run hitters at the second base position, starting from Kent at the top and going down to Frankie Frisch and his 105 career homers, here are the top ten players in PA/HR.
Uggla leads the list by a healthy distance, with fellow contemporary All-Star second baseman Chase Utley on his heels. Kent and the prolific Joe Gordon followed, and no one else was close. So Uggla does have a stake in terms of most powerful second baseman in terms of rate, right? Well, we should also consider the time in which Uggla played. His career so far has taken him from his age 26 thru age 30 seasons (2006-2010), and it seems fair to compare his seasons to others of the same ilk. Ranking age 26-30 seasons for players spending the same amount of time at second base yields this slightly addended list.
There’s a big dropoff at the tail end of this list, but the competition is stiffer at the top. Where did Alfonso Soriano come from? Some of you may have forgotten (or wanted to forget, given Soriano’s play) his time as a terrible second baseman in the early 2000’s. While he was ugly defensively, he was a top-notch power hitter offensively, belting 187 home runs in that time span, including his 46 HR season with the Washington Nationals in 2006. Of course, Soriano moved out of the position by 2006, but still qualified for our search. It’s also interesting to see that Utley and the venerable Rogers Hornsby also come close to Uggla’s mark.
Soriano was an interesting name to bring up here. During those seasons, he hit 39, 38, 28, 36, and 46 home runs. This means he just narrowly missed hitting five straight seasons with 30+ HR, though the last season wasn’t at second base.
So Uggla has been a pretty efficine thome run hitter, but home runs aren’t the only thing that players do to provide offensive value. How did Uggla fair in overall offensive production? Checking out players between the ages of 26 and 30 again, Uggla ranks just 19th on the list in terms of park-adjusted runs above average on offense. Uggla’s 72 batting runs ranks right behind Dick McAuliffe and is three runs behind Soriano and five runs behind Gordon.
If you take a look at the rest of the list, you can see that quite a few of the players ahead of Uggla are well-renowned to say the least. At the very top of the list are three old-timers whose production will likely never be met in Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Following those names are two other great players of the past, Joe Morgan and Rod Carew. After that, we see three contemporary players, showing that these sorts of levels can be achieved in the present time. Utley, Craig Biggio, and Chuck Knoblauch compiled between 130-145 runs above average during a five-year span, almost doubling Uggla’s total.
Quick notes on some of the other offensive categories:
– Uggla leads all second basemen with 747 strikeouts during these five age-seasons. Soriano followed with 693 K’s, and Juan Samuel was next with 692 (and only three batting runs above average).
– Uggla is 19th in walks by players of this ilk. While Knoblauch and Biggio gathered a lot of value from their walks, which combined with a high batting average to yield excellent OBP’s, Uggla has actually walked about 20 more times than Chase Utley. Utley’s advantage is that he laps Uggla in HBP by a mile (more than 60) for reasons everyone in the NL East is quite aware of.
– Speaking of HBP, Ron Hunt was actually hit more often than even Utley. Hunt was hit 136 times between1967 and 1971. He was hit about 50 fewer times than he struck out!
In the middle
Congratulations to Danny for his milestone accomplishment. It’s certainly something to be proud of, and the numbers show that, at least in terms of hitting homers, Uggla has been as prolific a second baseman as there ever was. There is a case that says he is the best home run hitting second baseman during the ages in which he played. But to catch up to some of the greats, he needs more than just home runs, and he falls short of being in the upper echelon of players during that time period. Still, this is a time to be happy and celebrate an achievement by a Marlin, and I’m happy that it went to one of my favorite players.