Uggla, Coghlan, slumps, and perception


Recently, I was thinking about Chris Coghlan’s season-long slump and how it compared to another slump from a Marlins player just last season. Maniac readers from the beginning know that I spent a good deal of this space defending Dan Uggla and his performance last season. I mentioned how Uggla’s BABIP was very low and that he still was maintaining a high walk rate and plenty of power. Sure enough, Uggla’s batting eventually perked up, enough that he was able to post a .355 wOBA that was pretty close to his projected totals at the start of the season.

What I found interesting is how similar his slump was to Coghlan’s slump this year. Check it out:

Chris Coghlan, 2009 wOBA: .372
Dan Uggla, 2008 wOBA: .372

Coghlan, 2010 projected wOBA (CHONE): 0.357
Uggla, 2009 projected wOBA: I believe it was around .350, but if anyone has an actual CHONE quote, that would be good

Coghlan, 2010 to date: 171 PA, .210/.260/.268, .246 wOBA
Uggla, 2009: 172 PA, .207/.326/.414, approximately .317 wOBA

In terms of the things that many fans care about the most, Uggla and Coghlan appeared fairly similar. Both players were coming off very good seasons the previous year. Coghlan had won the Rookie of the Year award, batting .321/.390/.460, while Uggla had finished off a .260/.360/.514 campaign. CHONE likely projected them fairly similarly, though other projection systems were not as high on Coghlan this year. And no discussion about “slumps” would be complete without talking about the almighty batting average, and both players up to 170+ PA were hitting at about the same clip.

Of course, you can tell that Uggla’s power and walks made him a better hitter production-wise than Coghlan in their respective seasons, but most fans don’t care much for that. Many fans will look at the Trinity of BA/HR/RBI, and perhaps pay attention to strikeouts.

Coghlan, 2010 to date: .210/2/11, 22.2% K%
Uggla, 2009: .207/7/29, 21.3% K%

Fans probably are giving Coghlan a pass on HR and RBI because of his role as a leadoff man, but the strikeouts cannot be acceptable, right? So how come, while Uggla was skewered by the end of May for his poor play, Coghlan has yet to receive much in the way of criticism? I remember reading daily comments on Juan C. Rodriguez’ blog and the other beat writer blogs about the need for the immediate jettison of Dan Uggla from Florida.

*These calls were fierce in June, though I don’t recall how heavy they were in May. Anyone else remember?

Meanwhile, the worst comment I have read in my search for Coghlan slump articles is the possibility that Coghlan’s 2009 season was “probably fluky.” This, of course, is an absolute truism, and hardly a complaint about Coghlan’s talent. Why are fans more willing to be patient with Coghlan than they were with Uggla. Perhaps it’s all about the perception of the fan.

Known commodity theory

One of the perceptions that fans probably had about Uggla that they did not share about Coghlan was the idea that Uggla was a “known commodity.” As far as things like the Triple Crown, strikeouts, and defense, fans felt they knew exactly what Uggla was about. He would never hit for a high average or drive in clutch runs, and he struck out more than anyone on the team. His defense at second base was universally regarded as poor. His only redeeming quality, most fans quoted, was that he hit a lot of home runs. The more negative fans have probably felt like this about Uggla for years.

Coghlan, on the other hand, was a brand new player, and the only history people remembered from him was his great 2009 hitting season. There was no easy way to judge his defense, and the numbers spoke for themselves hitting-wise. The success of 2009 (at the plate, at least) may be maintaining promise for Coghlan in 2010.

What have you done for me lately?

Uggla finished 2008 in quite the slide, hitting a meager .226/.343/.396 after the All-Star break. While many blamed the fiasco that was the All-Star game for Uggla, the ankle injury he suffered a few weeks prior could have also contributed. Nevertheless, Uggla did not endear himself to the perception of the fans by playing so poorly down the stretch. Meanwhile, everyone took notice of Coghlan’s monstrous second half, during which he hit .372/.423/.543. Coghlan got 50+ hits in two straight months and rode the offensive wave to the Rookie of the Year award. His slumping start (prior to the break, he was hitting .245/.343/.335) was eons ago and likely well out of the minds of the fans this season. Well, at least until certain fans and local writers use that slump as a comparison to 2010’s slump and mention “how well that turned out.”

Your thoughts

Those are just some of my ideas, but what do you Maniacs think? Why is Coghlan getting a free pass from the fans for his struggles and not getting barraged daily on the message boards about how they need to cut him loose or bench him? Of course, I don’t condone any such action on Coghlan, but you’d think with the aggressiveness of some of these fans on message boards and comment sections, you would think they would have no patience for poor play for any period more than three weeks. Why are they being so much more rational with Coghlan than they were with Uggla?