(Photo of Dan Uggla by Getty Images)
There are only two qualified players in the major leagues with a lower batting average than Chone Figgins’s .188, and one of them is in the lineup for the Atlanta Braves tonight. That would be Dan Uggla, a two-time All-Star who was supposed to be a huge boost to the Braves lineup when he was acquired in a November trade with Florida for infielder Omar Infante and pitcher Mike Dunn.
Uggla seemed to fill a major need for the Braves: another right-handed power bat to compliment lefties Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and rookie Freddie Freeman. Uggla was coming off a season with 33 homers (his fourth straight year over 30 homers) and 105 RBIs, and the Braves quickly did what the Marlins were unable to do: Sign Uggla to a multi-year extension, for five years and $62 million.
Uggla is making $9 million this year, which happens to be the same salary as Figgins in the second year of his four-year, $36-million free agent deal. Uggla, like Figgins, has struggled almost from the start this season, and is beginning to hear some booing at Turner Field (sound familiar?). He brings a .177 batting average into tonight’s game, 11 points below Figgins (who will be starting at third base) and ahead of only one player in the majors: Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox, who signed a four-year, $56-million deal before this season and is hitting .173.
To be fair, Uggla may have a lower batting average than Figgins, but he’s been more productive. He has 11 homers and 27 RBIs to go along with a .244 on-base percentage and .334 slugging percentage, good for a .578 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Figgins has one homer, 14 RBIs (and isn’t even compensating on the bases, contributing eight stolen bases but getting caught six times). Figgins has a .235 on-base percentage and .252 slugging percentage for a mind-bogglingly low (if mind-boggingly is a word) .487 OPS.
Among qualified players in the majors, Figgins ranks 161st — dead last — in OPS, and Uggla is 159th. In between Uggla’s .578 and Figgins’ .487, at 160th, is San Francisco’s Miguel Tejada with a.543 OPS. (Dunn, with 42 walks contributing to his on-base percentage, is way up at 146th with his .624 OPS).
Here’s a recent story in which Uggla talks about his struggles. He is trying desperately to find answers and regain his confidence — which sounds quite familiar to those of us who have watched Figgins all year.