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Starting Nine: Dan Uggla, a Very Good Brave

The All-Star second baseman set the standard for power hitting at the position in a run defined by the Three True Outcomes

Florida Marlins v Atlanta Braves
Dan Uggla hit 79 home runs with the Braves, which was a franchise record for second basemen until Ozzie Albies broke that mark last season.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Dan Uggla’s four-year run in Atlanta started with a bang — to be more exact, a career-high 36 of them during a home run-filled 2011 — and ended with a whimper — he was hitting .149 average before he was dumped with $18.2 million remaining on his contact in 2014.

The totality of Uggla’s time with the Braves included the third-most home runs of any second baseman (79) in that span, along with the highest walk rate (12.2 percent) and the highest strikeout rate (27.1 percent), underscoring his Three True Outcomes nature.

Yes, there were highs and there were lows, but there were in all plenty of moments where Uggla was a Very Good Brave.

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1. Mr. Three True Outcomes

In this millennia, the Three True Outcomes have been baseball’s norm. Since 1901, 20 of the league’s 25 highest home run totals, 19 of the top 25 years in walks and 21 of the top 25 in terms of walks have all come since 2000. Jim Thome and Adam Dunn set the standard for at-bats ending in a home run, walk or strikeout during the first 10 years of the decade, and the likes of Chris Davis and Joey Gallo have carried that mantle in the recent decade, but the king of the Three True Outcomes when it comes to the Braves has been Uggla. He owns two of three highest strikeout seasons — 31.8 percent in 2013 and 26.7 in 2014 — and another in the top 13 with his 23.2 rate in 2011. He also owns two of the nine highest Braves seasons in walks — 14.9 percent in 2012, which is sixth, and 14.3 percent in 2013, which comes in ninth — and hit the ninth most home runs (79) by a Brave since 2000. The only player with a higher percentage of hits resulting in homers than Uggla’s 22.1 en route to 79 HRs is Ronald Acuña Jr with 24.6 percent of his 426 hits.

2. Power at the position

On Aug. 12 of this past season, Ozzie Albies hit his 80th career home run, which put him past Uggla for the most ever by a Braves second baseman. While it’s a record that Albies seems destined to continue to build upon with no fewer than 24 homers in any full 162-game season on his resume, let us appreciate how Uggla got to that number of 79 with Atlanta. He did it in 1,701 at-bats — it took Albies 2,098 — a rate of one per every 21.5 ABs compared to Albies’ 26.2. Uggla took down the previous mark of 72 from Marcus Giles, which took Giles 2,514 ABs and a rate of one every 34 at-bats. Uggla’s HRs came over 499 games in a Braves uniform, making it the ninth highest total for any second baseman to start a stint with a franchise. By the way, at third on that list is also Uggla, who bashed 99 in his his first 499 games with the Marlins.

3. The height of his 30-homer ways

Going further into Uggla’s ability to deliver the long ball, he owns the record for the most 30-home run seasons by a second basemen with five, a mark that’s two more than any player in history at the position. While the first four of those — the seasons of 2007-10 — came while he was with the Marlins, the Braves did get the height of Uggla’s home run capabilities when he bashed a career-high 36 in 2011. While that figure is the second highest of any Braves second baseman, trailing Davey Johnson’s 43 in 1973, 21 of Uggla’s bombs came after the All-Star break, the most prolific second half of any Braves 2B.

4. He’s gone streaking

Since the Braves’ move to Atlanta in 1966, no player has a longer hit streak than the one that Uggla cobbled together over 32 games July 5 to Aug. 13, 2011, and the only run better in franchise history belongs to Tommy Holmes at 37 in 1945. Among all second basemen, Uggla trails Luis Castillo (35) and Rogers Hornsby and Chase Utley at 33. During a span that began with a home run off Eric Stults (a future Braves teammate) and ended with an 0-for-3 day saw Uggla bash 15 home runs over those 32 games to go with a .377/.438/.762 slash line. Going back to his Three True Outcomes nature, no second baseman has ever had more homers (15), walks (12) or strikeouts (27) during a streak of 30-plus games.

5. Making Mendoza look like Williams

This doesn’t exactly factor into the “Very Good” category, but it’s worth discussing, nonetheless. When Uggla hit .179 during the 2013 season — a year in which he inexplicably opted to have LASIK surgery in-season after learning that spring that he had an astigmatism — he tied Rob Deer for the lowest average ever for a qualified hitter. While that “record” was surpassed in 2918 when the Orioles’ Chris Davis at .168, Uggla’s mark remains the low point for any Brave in franchise history, and in the modern era, it’s not especially close. In the expansion era, Uggla’s .179 is 28 points lower than the next closest player (Jim Wynn at .207) and in the last 40 years, only B.J. Upton comes close with a .208 average in 2014. Uggla did hit 22 home runs in 2013, which makes him one of seven players to ever hit 20 plus homers and hit under .200, along with Davis (2014), Deer (1991), Joey Gallo (2021), Carlos Pena (2010), Mark Reynolds (2010) and Eugenio Suarez (2021).

6. Flipping the script defensively

During Uggla’s time with the Braves his dWAR of minus-1.5 is the third worst among all second basemen in that span. He was never going to win a Gold Glove, and — as his record three errors in the 2008 All-Star Game and the most at the position during his time in Atlanta underscore — he could be a liability in the field. But Uggla also had the best season of his 10-year career in the field with the Braves in 2012, when he had a 0.9 dWAR and 5.9 Defensive Runs Above Average, figures that ranked 13th and eighth, respectively, at the position. Since 1980, Uggla’s four Defensive Runs Saved during that season are the fourth best of any Braves second baseman, bested by Marcus Giles’ 19 in 2003 and Albies with 13 in 2018 and nine in 2019.

7. Passed over for the postseason ahead of an unceremonious exit

After hitting .179 with 22 homers, Uggla’s production shouldn’t have made it a surprise that he was left off the Braves’ roster for the National League Division Series against the Dodgers in 2013. That didn’t make the situation any easier for anyone involved. Uggla walked away from manager Fredi Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren when they told him. Gonzalez had, to that point, managed Uggla in every one of his MLB seasons dating back to their days with the Marlins in 2007. “It was difficult ... but I think if you look at the scope of the entire team and think you put the best 25 [players] out there, it makes [the decision] a little easier. But yeah, it was a difficult decision.” It didn’t make it any easier that Uggla was still in the midst of a five-year, $62 million deal he’d inked before 2011. Uggla would return for 48 games the next year, hitting .162/.241/.231 with two home runs over 130 at-bats. The Braves had seen enough and let him go with $5.2 million remaining on his 2014 salary and $13 million for 2015 ... and speaking of 2015.

8. One final blow

That money the Braves were on the hook for in 2015 made Uggla the highest-paid player on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster in 2015, a point that also became a bit of a punch line on April 28 of that season. The Braves led 9-1 after three innings, but Washington battled back, trailing 12-10 in the ninth when Uggla smashed a three-run home run — the last he’d hit in his career in Atlanta — off Jason Grilli en route to a 13-12 win. It was part of a five-RBI day for Uggla, who also hit a two-run triple in the seventh. “It was cool,” Uggla said. “This stadium (Turner Field), this place is very special to me. I’ve had a lot of great memories here. ... I love Atlanta. I love the fans here. I love everything about this place.”

9. For your viewing pleasure ...

When Uggla ran into Brandon Phillips in a shopping mall in 2012, little did we know it was an intersection of the Braves’ present and it’s not-too-distant future at second base. Five years after this video, Uggla was out of baseball and Phillips was manning his old spot in Atlanta, if ever so briefly until Albies’ arrival. But let’s enjoy this run-in, as Uggla told Phillips “I’m trying to be like him,” to Phillips’ reply of “I’m trying to be like you.” The ties would go deeper than either would expect beyond both playing second base for the Braves. Both players have World Series rings, despite neither getting a single at-bat in the postseason. Uggla played four games with the Giants when they won the World Series in 2014 and Phillips appeared in nine games with the Red Sox during their 2018 championship season.

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