The Braves need the powerful little Dan Uggla they traded for, and then signed to a really expensive long-term contract.
— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) September 3, 2012
#Braves Uggla was told Sunday by Fredi that they had to make a change and didn't know how much playing time he'd get in Sept.
Even though they don't explicitly say he's being benched, that statement amounts to the Braves benching Dan Uggla. The Braves second baseman, who still has three years and $39 million left on his contract, has seen his bating average fall to and stay in the low-.200s for the past three months. Since the beginning of June he has hit just .165, though he has been able to get on base with a .311 on-base percentage, and still leads the lead in walks with 80.
The Braves will likely start Martin Prado at second base in place of Uggla, with Reed Johnson starting in left field in place of Prado. Johnson has hit .322 since being acquired by the Braves at the end of July. Despite a bit of a slump in July, Prado is hitting better lately, and has been a much better hitter than Uggla over the past three months.
This is a good decision by Fredi Gonzalez. He's not messing around and hoping a player will return to form, he's given Uggla weeks if not months to work out his problems and the problems still persist. There are players hitting better than Uggla, and Fredi is right to get them into the lineup over the over-paid second baseman.
This is a big change in managing style from last year, especially down the stretch. Gonzalez basically watched from the bench last year as players under-performed. This year he's giving everyone, even the veterans, a short leash. He's putting the guys who are hitting in the lineup, and he's making out his lineup with platoon splits and matchups in mind -- trying to maximize every advantage on paper that he can, which is about all you can ask him to do. At some point the players have to play up their full ability.
The benching of Uggla brings up a touchy subject, since, as I mentioned above, he's signed for three more years at a considerable sum. Mark my words, there will be talk all off-season about the Braves trying to trade him -- potentially for another team's overpriced problem. I imagine though that there won't be many takers and we'll have to hold our breath and hope he can turn around his career next spring.
For now though he'll have to adjust to a new role of not playing everyday, and trying to provide value as a pinch hitter. But don't think that Dan Uggla is giving up. Uggla will be in the cage everyday trying to figure out how to get out of this slump. And maybe, just maybe, he'll break out. The Braves certainly could use a Dan Uggla that's fully fueled and firing on all cylinders down the stretch and into the (fingers crossed) postseason -- on that though, I'm not holding my breath.