Uggla hit a career-worst .179 this season while tying his career high in strikeouts (171). Still, Uggla is a power threat who did manage to put up higher than expected production for his meager average.
Was leaving Uggla off the playoff roster a wise decision, or could this move prove to be a reason Atlanta is sent packing early?
How do the Braves win games?
The Braves win games by pitching well and hitting home runs. So much has been made about Atlanta's lack of being able to manufacture runs, leading many to wonder how it will be able to contend in a much tighter postseason series.
If home runs are the way the Braves score -- which it is -- how wise is it to go to war without the player who ranked No. 3 on the entire team in homers (22)? Uggla had one fewer dinger than Atlanta MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, despite getting 103 fewer trips to the plate.
Uggla's home-run rate of one homer in every 20.4 at-bats is tops on the team, and his home-run potency actually ranks him No. 7 in the entire National League. Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday and Andrew McCutchen only wish they went yard as often as Uggla.
Second base is thinner than a runway model
Uggla certainly does not deserve to start, but how confident should the Braves feel about going into the NLDS with Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish as the only options at second base? Johnson has played surprisingly well since being acquired from the Kansas City Royals in the middle of August, but he is a career .218 hitter who was batting .179 before coming to Atlanta.
Although Janish is an accomplished fielder, his .171 average is actually worse than Uggla's, and he probably couldn't even point someone in the direction of the weight room, let alone swing the power stick like Uggla.
The Braves already lost Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky to season-ending injuries earlier this year. Without Uggla on the roster, Janish now becomes the only additional infielder the Braves will carry. If Janish is inserted as a defensive replacement for Johnson at third late in a game -- as Gonzalez routinely likes to do -- a situation could arise whereby the Braves would have no infielders left in the event of an in-game injury.
No one is saying Uggla is a great option, but he may still be the best option the Braves have.
The Roger Dorn Defense
I keep remembering the scene in the movie "Major League II" when manager Jake Taylor finally inserts Roger Dorn into the big game because they need a base runner and the opposing pitcher was known for pitching Dorn in tight.
"Get a bat and step into one … let him hit you with the ball, I need another runner out there," Taylor insisted.
For all of Uggla's sins putting the bat on the ball this season, the one thing he could still be trusted to do was get on base. One of the crazier stats you will ever see is the fact that Uggla hit just .179 yet still managed to produce an on-base percentage of .309. Uggla's OBP was actually higher than Andrelton Simmons or Evan Gattis.
Uggla can slowly jog to first with the best of them. For a season in which Uggla saw the fewest plate appearances of his career (448), he still somehow led the team in walks (77). In the postseason, where each game matters so much, and the difference between winning and losing can be a single base runner, how can Gonzalez really leave off a player who is still very capable of earning a free pass?
Jose Constanza and B.J. Upton … Really?
Uggla essentially lost his spot on the 25-man roster so B.J. Upton and Jose Constanza could have seats on the bench. For as bad as Uggla played this season, Upton was worse. The 29-year-old averaged .184, but his production was significantly shy of what Uggla gave Atlanta.
Upton had 13 fewer home runs, 29 fewer RBIs, scored half as many runs, took 33 fewer walks, had a higher strikeout percentage, and totaled a worse on-base percentage than did the struggling Uggla.
Upton is one of only two Atlanta players with World Series experience (Gerald Laird). Atlanta's skipper likely saw the seven home runs and 16 RBIs Upton produced in the 2008 postseason and did not want to risk leaving them at home.
Constanza is even more of a head-scratcher than Upton. He played in a grand total of 21 games for Atlanta his season and recorded zero stolen bases. I guess the threat of his speed is what earned him inclusion, but with Jordan Schafer's team-leading 22 stolen bases already in Atlanta's playoff cupboard, the logic behind carrying four backup outfielders and only one extra infielder is a little strange.
Starting Pitchers: Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Freddy Garcia
Bullpen: David Hale, Jordan Walden, Luis Ayala, Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, Alex Wood, and Craig Kimbrel
Outfielders: Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Reed Johnson, Jose Constanza and Jordan Schafer
Infielders: Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Elliot Johnson, Paul Janish and Chris Johnson
Catchers: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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