Braves waiting for Uggla to begin another surge
Given yesterday’s entry focused on how Ben Sheets and Jair Jurrjens were going to stabilize the Braves rotation, it seems fitting to spend today analyzing how Dan Uggla will provide the consistency that the lineup needs.
While Jurrjens endured a rough outing last night, Uggla has endured a six-week slump that has grown more concerning as it has progressed. The jury is still out regarding whether he reached a turning point when he homered in the final game before the All-Star break. In the 12 plate appearances tallied in three games since then, he has recorded two singles and drawn three walks.
Since hitting two home runs in a four-hit performance against the Marlins on June 5, Uggla has batted .115 with a .298 on-base percentage and .192 slugging percentage. His .490 OPS during this 32-game span ranks as the third-lowest mark among all Major League players dating back to June 6. The only players with a lower mark are Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (.388) and Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (.469).
Last year, Uggla batted .173 through his first 86 games last year and then .377 during the 33-game hitting streak that followed. Obviously the same can not be expected again. But the Braves certainly need to soon see some kind of consistency from the veteran second baseman who is in the second year of his five-year $62 million contract.
Here is where Uggla’s numbers have stood through the first 87 games of the past two seasons:
2011: .178 BA 13 HRs .250 OBP .344 SLG .594 OPS
2012 : .221 BA, 12 HRs .353 OBP .389 SLG .743 OPS
Uggla has traditionally fared better after the All-Star break and August has proven to be his most productive month. Now that Brian McCann appears right and Freddie Freeman has started to look dangerous again, the Braves could truly find themselves with a very dangerous lineup if Uggla at least starts producing some consistency.
Speaking of Freeman, he has batted .390 with three home runs, a .479 on-base percentage and .661 slugging percentage in his past 17 games. Despite spending five weeks battling vision problems and a sore left index finger, he is on pace for 98 RBIs. Whether or not you put much stock in this statistic, this is an impressive pace.
Last night we were reminded that Jurrjens has very little margin for error every time he steps on the mound. With some offensive assistance he might have been able to overcome a blown call in the first inning and Michael Bourn’s slow reaction to Melky Cabrera’s fly ball. But one he missed first base and then watched Chipper Jones miss Barry Zito’s routine grounder, the Braves were on track to complete one of the ugliest games you will ever see.
Now Mike Minor will have a chance to help the Braves rebound and solidify a spot in the rotation whether or not Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster or another starting pitcher is added. Before watching Minor face the Giants tonight, check out what his friend David Price said about him at last week’s All-Star Game.
Lost in the ugliness of last night’s game was the fact that left-handed reliever Luis Avilan helped keep the bullpen fresh by tossing 3 2/3 strong innings last night. Because the Braves needed to use just two other relievers (Cristhian Martinez and Chad Durbin) for one inning a piece, there was not a need to send Avilan back to Gwinnett to open a roster spot for a fresh reliever.
With Jonny Venters not expected to be ready to come off the disabled list before Monday, Avilan could find himself used in a few key spots against Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche in this upcoming weekend’s series against the Nationals.