Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dan Uggla - The New Soriano?

Tim Brown wrote a piece for Yahoo Sports concerning Dan Uggla's agent stating Dan Uggla wants to stay at second base. The agent is quoted as saying: "...he’s performed remarkably over these four years at second base and there should be no reason to consider a position change at this time.” In the words of modern philosophers: "What pipe has he been smoking from?"

All this sounds vaguely familiar. Not too long ago another second baseman, adept at hitting homers on a regular basis, but one who struggled in the field, insisted on staying at that position despite being asked to change. His name is Alphonso Soriano who now plays quite infrequently for the Cubs. Soriano eventually did become a left fielder and had a couple of good seasons there.

Well, we know agents are supposed to paint their clients in the best possible light. But shouldn't there be some truth or at least a hint of it in the babble that comes out of an agent's mouth? Dan Uggla has not been remarkable at second base. He was decent in 2008 and finished with a UZR slightly ahead of average with a score of 1.6. But in 2009, Uggla's UZR plummeted to new depths to -10.1. That low score tops his previous low of two years ago when he finished at -9.3. Plus, his range factor has dropped from his career marks around the 4.8 level to 4.4.

It's hard not to feel for Uggla's situation. Because of his bat, he's been worth $61 million in his four years with the Marlins while only making a fraction of that. The Marlins have had a steal for those four years. Now Uggla is reaching his arbitration years where he can finally cash in a bit and the Marlins won't be able to afford it and, since his career got a late start, he's going into 2010 at 30 years old and his abilities will only diminish from here.

And there is a economic advantage to being a good offensive player as a second baseman. The positional worth of a second baseman is higher than a first baseman or an outfielder. And as such, his WAR (Wins over replacement) value is higher as a second baseman. That all makes perfect economic sense for an agent and his player. But the reality is that he just isn't good enough to play that position. So any front office and fan of fielding stats can scoff at the "remarkably" comment as first degree hyperbole.

It's hard to know what kind of third baseman Uggla can be. But at least the value there is higher than an outfielder. Heck, he couldn't do any worse than Bonifacio did there last year. And his offensive worth is only marginal as a corner outfielder. That is the dilemma for Uggla.

Uggla is still a value at the plate. His 97 walks were a career high. He has hit over 30 homers for four straight years. He will get his dollars at arbitration this year. And there is no doubt he will be playing for somebody for the next couple of years. But any team that values defense will have to think twice about weakening their infield defense to play him at second. And if that's where he insists on playing, he will have a problem and be a problem.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Definitely the new Soriano. Good comparison.