In the past 100 years there have been just eight times when a major league hitter batted below .185 in a season in which he had at least 350 at-bats. Remarkably, the NL East champion Braves had two of those eight cases last year in Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who also happened to be the team’s highest-paid players, with two and four years remaining on their respective contracts. To repeat, those two Braves accounted for fully one quarter of the past century’s case studies in which a big leaguer batted .185 or lower in 350 or more at-bats. Think about that. Some might suggest that puts hitting coach Greg Walker and assistant Scott Fletcher, who return on one-year contracts, in a challenging situation, to say the least. But Walker, a veteran former player and coach, insists he’s excited about the challenge or opportunity, however you want to look at it. (Some might call the assignment daunting, or worse.) “If I didn’t think the two guys had the desire to be good, I wouldn’t be as excited,” Walker said Friday. “These two guys don’t want to have another year like that. I can’t say put it in stone that everything’s going to be rosy, but I’m optimistic. Upton, in the first year of a five-year, $75.25 million contract – the largest free-agent deal in Braves history – batted .184 and a .268 OBP in 391 at-bats, with 14 doubles, nine homers, 26 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 126 games. Uggla, in the third year of his five-year, $62 million contract, batted .179 with a .309 OBP in 448 at-bats, with 10 doubles, 22 home runs and 55 RBIs in 136 games. The two of them struck out 322 times in 839 at-bats. The Braves have tried to trade Uggla this offseason but found no takers interesting in paying any significant part of the $26 million he’s still owed over the next two seasons. At this point it looks as if they won’t be able to trade the veteran second baseman unless another team has an injury or two in the spring, and/or Uggla shows he can reverse the two-year erosion in his offensive performance and be a significantly better hitter than he was in 2013.
The daunting task: Get B.J. and Uggla back on track
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Jan 13