Monday, April 14, 2008

The Case Against Uggla

Dan Uggla is one of the top second basemen in the National League. His power numbers and improved defensive play (forget that Sunday error) come at a low price that is perfectly "cost effective" for the notoriously thrifty Marlins.

Beginning with Joe Girardi in 2006 and continuing with Fredi Gonzalez last year and early on this season, Dan Uggla has usually batted second in the Marlins' lineup. Despite Uggla's numerous talents on the diamond, I don't think batting second is among them.

Uggla has proven to us all that he loves to hit the long ball. Chicks dig it, fans love it, owners pay for it, so why not? However, at the cost of all those big, manly swings are lots and lots of strikeouts (123 in '06, 167 in '07, a team-leading 14 already this season). Not a quality one desires in the #2 spot in the lineup, a spot that requires taking pitches to allow speedster Hanley Ramirez to swipe second base and hitting with two strikes.

Batting behind the most fearsome hitter in the lineup (Ramirez) also does not suit Uggla. Without the protection of Miguel Cabrera, pitchers this season have worked around and even intentionally walked Ramirez to get to Uggla. He, for the most part, has struggled in those situations.

As Uggla's average and OBP have dipped since his All-Star rookie season, so has his average with runners in scoring position. And as the Marlins continue to live and die by the home run, it makes little sense to put someone so willing to do so in a spot in the lineup that requires patience and situational hitting.

With every first inning strikeout I plead with Fredi Gonzalez from my right field bleacher seat to move Uggla down in the order where he can swing for the fences all he wants. Let him bat sixth where his homers are more likely to come with men on base and his strikeouts can be more tolerable.

But who will bat second? It seems that in the short term the Marlins have settled on amazin' little Alfredo Amezaga as their center fielder against right handed pitching. Amezaga demonstrates great bat control, a good-eye and the ability to put the ball in play with two strikes. He fanned only 46 times in 334 at bats in 2007. In the early part of this season he has a .485 OPB while Uggla struggles.

Against lefties let Uggla or Jorge Cantu or even Mike Rabelo bat second. But against righties, Uggla doesn't belong up there in the order. Especially with his slow start to the season, do Uggla a favor, take the pressure off, and let him swing away care-free.

Case closed.


ASponge said...

I was probably the first to defend Uggla in the 2nd position, but I'm a changed man. You're absolutely right. Uggla would be much more effective in, say, the 5 spot. I'd go with Amezaga for now (while he's hot), and perhaps with Maybin when he's ready.

You could also just put Hermida at 2, Jacobs 3, Willingham 4, Uggla 5. That's a little atypical, but why not give it a try?

Future Fish said...

There is little reason to have Uggla in the 2 hole period.

Unfortunately, we don't have anyone else best suited for that spot either. Perhaps Amezaga.

Maybin is more in the lines of a Torri Hunter type player