Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dan Uggla's Historic Season

Has anyone in the history of Major League Baseball ever had a stranger season than Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves? First he was hitting historically bad and rivaled Adam Dunn as the most disappointing acquisition of the last decade. Then he rattled off a hitting streak that lasted over thirty games. Despite it all, Uggla has managed to hit the ball over the wall/fence thirty times this season. With a month left in the season, Uggla has an outside chance to add one more strange feat to his season. If he can do it (or not do it in this case), then he will do something done only five times in MLB history.

Hitting thirty homers in a season is not rare. We, as fans, tend to view the number with a bit of awe. But it's been done one thousand, one hundred and fifty seven times. That's a lot, right? So Uggla's thirty homers is awesome to those of us casually watching, but it's a rather pedestrian feat. But combine that number of homers with a batting average under .250 and an on base percentage under .310 and with less than 80 runs batted in? Well, only four other players in history have done that:

  • Ron Kittle (White Sox - 1984) - 32, .215, .295, 74
  • Jeremy Burnitz (Two teams - 2003) - 31, .239, .295, 77
  • Jose Valentin (White Sox - 2004) - 30, .216, .287, 70
  • Chris Young (Diamondbacks - 2007) - 32, .237, .295, 68

As you can see, there is no chance Uggla saves Chris Young from his fate at having the lowest number of RBIs in this list as Uggla stands at: 30, .230, .300, 66. Surely, Uggla will get three RBIs between now and the end of the season. Only three players have hit thirty homers and had less RBIs than Chris Young did in 2007. They were Hanley Ramirez (38, 66 in 2008), Rob Deer (32, 64 in 1992) and the immortal Felix Mantilla (30, 64 in 1964).

And it's the RBIs that might foul this list up before the season is over. Uggla needs only fifteen ribbies in the next month and a week to climb out of this historical list. Judging from his RBIs per games played, Uggla is on pace to reach 81 ribbies before the season is over. That would land him just outside this illustrious gang of four. But it's still possible for a couple of reasons. First, the Braves don't exactly excel in getting on base from the lead off and second positions in their batting order. Their lead off batters have a .313 OBP and their second place batters are even worse with an OBP of .293. Less runners on base leave fewer opportunities to drive runs in. But--and this is a big butt--the Braves did get Michael Bourn, who will get on base far more times than previous lead off batters for this team.

So yes, if anything fouls up Uggla's final inclusion on this list, it will the the RBIs. But say we get rid of RBIs and replace it with WAR. Uggla currently has compiled 1.2 of rWAR. If you look for seasons with more than 30 homers, less than a .250 average, less than a .310 on base average and a rWAR of less than 2.0 for a season, only fourteen players have ever done that. Dave Kingman did it four times! Others included: Steve Balboni, Mike Pagliarulo, Joe Carter, Mike Jacobs, Jeremy Burnitz, Chris Young, Ron Kittle, Tony Bautista, Cory Snider and Tony Armas. Uggla has a great chance at joining that exclusive group.

There's one other semi-exclusive group Uggla can join. Actually, he could rejoin it as he's already done it once already. Dan Uggla currently sports a .458 slugging percentage. Of all the players who have ever hit more than thirty homers in a season, only 43 of them finished with a slugging percentage under .470. Dan Uggla already did that in 2009. If his slugging percentage stays under .460 (which would be hard to fathom), only 29 players have done that with 30 or more homers. Ken Harrelson (.419) and Dave Kingman (.417) have the two lowest slugging percentages ever for players who hit more than 30 homers.

To say the least, Dan Uggla is having a season to remember. This writer isn't exactly sure he'll want to remember it though. But if he wants to feel better, he can just think about Adam Dunn.

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