Posted: 5:51 pm Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Mixed results so far for Uggla, B.J. Upton 

By David O'Brien

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – With more than half of spring training completed and opening day just over three weeks away, the report card is incomplete on Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, veteran hitters trying to bounce back from career-worst performances last season. So far, they’ve had mixed results.

Upton was 4-for-20 (.200) with two doubles and a .238 on-base percentage in seven games before Saturday, when the center fielder was a late scratch from the split-squad lineup against Miami due to sickness. Jose Constanza replaced him and had three hits in a game that ended in a 6-6 tie after nine innings, the third tie in 13 games for the Braves (2-8-3).

Uggla was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the other split-squad game, an 8-2 loss against the Nationals in Viera.

For the spring, Upton has one walk and eight strikeouts, including five strikeouts in nine at-bats over his past three games.

“We’re seeing some fundamentally good swings and then we’re seeing some spins,” Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said of Upton, who had too much movement in the batter’s box when he set career lows in average (.186), on-base percentage (.268) and slugging percentage (.289), matched his full-season low of nine homers, and struck out 151 times in 391 at-bats.

It was his first season in a five-year, $75.25 million contract, the largest free-agent deal in Braves history.

Upton, 29, eliminated much of the leg and head movement in his stance during the winter, trying to get back to the simpler swing he had years ago with Tampa Bay. Generally speaking, he’s looked better in batting practice than games this spring.

“He does some different things in the game than he doesn’t do in BP,” Walker said. “He knows what he’s trying to do, and in the games we’re getting about a third of them that are really good, and then about two-thirds of them he’s spinning. He seems to be getting better and better. We’re trying to get his bad-posture spin out of it.

“We need more than what we’ve got so far, but he’s headed in the right direction, I think.”

Uggla is 4-for-17 (.235) with four singles, five walks and seven strikeouts. After collecting three hits and three walks in nine plate appearances in his first three games, he has one hit in 16 plate appearances over his past five games.

“When he came into camp everything was great,” Walker said. “Then he lost it for two or three days.”

Uggla is still owed $26 million in 2014-2015. Barring a trade, he’ll be the opening-day second baseman and have a chance to show he can still be productive. But if he struggles the Braves have options, including prospect Tommy La Stella.

30 comments
nashvillewill
nashvillewill

I do not wish to waste one more AB from Uggla and BJU. Release them, trade them, send them to AA, I don't care as long as they are not on the roster. Take the financial hit and play players for the minimum. They cannot do any worse and the team will not miss any production since there is no production. Have these guys been to a sports psychologist? Has Wren been to a sports psychologist?

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

The Braves need to take a lesson from the play book of the great NFL teams who, from Day One of the pre-season, adopt the attitude that anything less than a Super Bowl appearance will be considered as a failed season. And they agree on that and talk about it and live it in the games and in practice eveery day. From Day One, they begin to do that, and it comes from the top down (it is critical that it come from the top down), preparing themselves to play in  the Super Bowl.  


And executive management and on-the-field management makes it crystal clear from the start - so there will be no whining and crying later on -  that the best producers will play, the lesser producers will get only limited playing time, and poor producers will sit, and stay seated, unless they demonstrate that they can produce, or extreme circumstances, such as injuries, require their  temporary presence on the field. You want to play, you want to make the big bucks, it is up to you to produce. Endless analysis of your problems coupled with excuse making will not be cut it here. 


Sadly, it appears that the analysis/excuse making has already begun, during a spring season in which the Braves have so far won only 2 games. (Oh that doesn't matter?? It's spring training?) Tell that to the Nationals - tell that to any team with a culture of winning during the season (AND IN THE POST SEASON) and that believes that winning is a habit that needs to be instilled from Day One). 


One thing is pretty clear. Last year, until it was to late, the Braves did not have the kind of hard nose, top down management (executive of on the field) that carries teams to World Series and Super Bowl appearances. Will they this year? If they don't it will be apparent very early on. If the Braves play people because of the size of their salaries instead of what they do on the field, as they did last year, we can all pretty much get ready for a repeat season. Lots of winnable games frittered away, but a post season slot, and then a quick exit. 


If they cut all the analysis and the excuse making, and ignore the whining and crying, and just suck up the big lack of return on investment, and the producers hit the field day after day, then fasten  your seat belts. World Series here we come. 




TideDawg
TideDawg

I think the only thing that will save Uggla from the "has been" heap is a change of scenery. He needs something to motivate him and nothing  motivates a player like trying to prove to the team that got rid of you that they made a mistake.


On the other hand, Uggla makes $13 million a year and LaStella is going to make the minimum major league salary of about $300 thousand. So put Uggla on the bench, play LaStella, and the net cost will only be about $13million $300 thousand and you put the best player on the field and only increase your cost by$300 thousand. That extra $300 thousand is chicken feed to a major league team. Tell me why you disagree! I'm open.

RickyBobby
RickyBobby

We're all beating  dead horse but I still say Uggla has had SEVERAL seasons of "working things out" and he's only getting worse.  For those - especially Uggla himself - who say it was just a bad last season, that's excusing his VERY subpar tenure here in Atlanta compared to his time in Florida.  I do know that his numbers dropped significantly as MLB started to step up new rounds of steroid/HGH testing...Coincidence?

BreastMan
BreastMan

They're both insecure head cases, that's why they suck. Play Pena and Schaefer and don't let Frank Wren sign any more free agents.

BreastMan
BreastMan

They're both insecure head cases, that's why they suck. Play Pena and Schaefer and don't let Frank Wren sign any more free agents.

rs121
rs121

Mixed results?  LOL  Wow, looks like more of the same ole, same ole to me.  Do batting practice statistics count in Major League games?  If a bench player making the minimum can outhit these guys just play them. There is the same amount of money involved and you will get more production.  You can't afford to give away 25% of your at bats to these 2 guys, not counting the pitcher.  The only problem is the "ego factor" but you can't worry about that anymore.  They had all last season, off season, and preseason to get squared away.  There is no more room for excuses.  Let's see how badly Fredi and Frank want to win.  If they go a month into this season with the same production out of these two guys, they need to bite the bullet.  I guess they could play them until there contract expires but the drum and din from the fans and empty seats will start having an effect. 

BravoDawg
BravoDawg

Look at the bright side: when the Braves move to the new ballpark Uggly will be long gone!

Birdhair
Birdhair

If a .238 obp combined with a lack of discipline in games is a good sign for a $75m player I'd hate to see what a bad sign would be?

Who writes this stuff and actually believes it?

Tree Rollins and dis_g are spot on with their posts. Sugar daddy frank wren should be fired yesterday.

GADABOUT
GADABOUT

The triple A team is the place these 2 need to start the season.  Work there problems out and then work their way back to the Big league team.  Talking is not going to fix anything.

Hesalive
Hesalive

Just an awful situation for all parties involved. These players are working hard to fix themselves but hitting a baseball in the big leagues is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. 

ButtermilkTuesdays007
ButtermilkTuesdays007

“He does some different things in the game than he doesn’t do in BP." 


Walker said that exact same thing about B.J. last year. So yeah, that's not really very encouraging to hear. 

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Can we just all relax and admit we know what we already knew before -they both just suck! Can we just move on now?

Frank Wren sucks also- he didn't add a single quality player in the offseason.

TheMonger
TheMonger

Even the official scorers are starting to feel sorry for these clowns Uggla and BJ Upton.  Who else saw that routine ground ball that BJ Upton hit to Rollins in the Philly game?  The ball was a medium speed, routine ground ball hit right at Rollins that he dropped right in front of him, smacked his glove, and was ruled an error on the spot, as it should have been.  Magically, the very next inning it was ruled a hit.  Seriously, a little league ground ball that the shortstop boots, and the scorer felt so bad for BJ that he gave him a hit.

TheMonger
TheMonger

Blah, Blah, Blah..... Excuse after excuse after excuse for these pathetic sad-sack "baseball players".  They barely deserve the title of baseball players after hitting .179 and .183 last year.  Even the pitchers are laughing at them now.  "He lost it for 2 or 3 days, other than that everything is great", "a third of his at-bats are good, but it's the other two-thirds that he struggles mightly", " I swear he hits much better in batting practice...Honestly", " when the sun is at a 45 degree angle and it is before 3 P.M. facing a Caucasian left handed pitcher with a Rawlings glove on the first Monday of every month, this guy can hit the cover off the ball!!!"

It is really, really sad now....

Donald_01
Donald_01

Do not forget that 2 of Uggla's 4 hits were the first game of spring training.  Take those out and it gets back to his previously outstanding average.

dis_g
dis_g

Have kept my mouth shut for a long time because it is hard to follow Schuerholtz, but the signings of Kawakame, B. J. Upton, Derek Lowe, and Uggla were beyond the realms of reason.  Frank Wren, I am quite happy that you have given contracts to the talent we grew, but your free agent signings have be awful, and to the organization, your decision to move, especially to a location that clearly despises Atlanta, is despicable. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

I would love to see Tommy La Stella starting at 2b and Lipka starting in CF or Shafer. The kids look better than Uggla and BJ but $$$ will we the position over best player.

GetBackJojo
GetBackJojo

I say, get a side car for the pink bike, and send Bossman Joke, and Danny back to Atlanta. When they get here, they can get water for the real players. Take no more time "running them out there". Run them out of town now.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

This report on BJ really does not sound good. Tell me again, what did he do over the winter? Admire his SI cover?

The Braves are going to win a LOT of games this year with or without these guys. I wouldn't be surprised if the Braves wind up paying BJ to play in the American League.

BoboIsNotTheProblem
BoboIsNotTheProblem

Mixed results? They're batting .235 and .200, respectively, with horrible OPS's and lots of strikeouts. They suck just as bad as last year, especially given those stats are padded against spring training pitchers. Those are not major league baseball stats. 

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

Upton is the absolute worst signing that this GM could make.  He out bid himself for Upton.  NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE was going to give Upton this kind of money.  Ugly was bad enough, but Upton will never hit.  He will be lucky and the Braves lucky if he hits .240, 16 HR and 60 RBI.  All that money for no production.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Ficklefan  I don't follow football all that closely, but my understanding is that contracts are not guaranteed.  It's an apples and oranges comparison.

And please, tell me what exactly have the Nationals won in the post season?  They've only even been there once, and only even had two winning regular seasons to begin with.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair  Who writes this stuff

You.  No where did the article say that.  And it's not the first time I've seen you act like an article said one thing, when it didn't.

BreastMan
BreastMan

Who could Wren have signed? It was a weak market

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Let's just all be big boys about this and admit they both suck and so does their Sugar Daddy Frank Wren!

Rick_C
Rick_C

@dis_g  The extensions were only a possibility because of the move.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@58Supersports  Lipka ain't even close to ready for the big leagues.  He has a minor league career 655 OPS, and hasn't even played above A+.