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MLB Today: Braves Grip on Wild Card Slipping

June 25, 2011 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Dan Uggla is struggling badly for the Atlanta Braves.
Dan Uggla is still hitting 30 points below his weight.

The Atlanta Braves have been spinning their wheels lately and have now fallen five games back of the first place Phillies in the NL East and are just 3.5 games ahead of the surging Nationals. More importantly, their grip on the NL Wild Card slot has slipped to a half a game with the Giants turning things around with three straight wins.

Dan Uggla? That big right-handed power bat the Braves thought they were adding to the middle of their lineup? Apparently, he purchased Nate McLouth’s DVD, How to Become an Atlanta Brave and Completely Forget How to Play Baseball.

We identified Uggla’s sluggish start very early in the season, but it’s honestly hard to believe that over two months later, we’re still waiting for the real Dan Uggla to show up.

He took an 0-for-3 Friday, committing an error and whiffing twice to drop back to .175, or about 30 points below his weight. After Uggla’s only three-hit game of the season on May 4, he reached a high water mark of .218. Pretty sad, huh?

Uggla is still hitting for power (he spanked his 10th dinger on Thursday), although not quite up to his usual standards. He’ll need a very big second half if he has any chance of reaching 30 homers for the fifth straight season.

Some people are uttering the name Rob Deer when discussing Uggla’s 2011 season. I think that’s grossly unfair, at least so far. But you do have to wonder how much longer the Braves will stick with Uggla before letting him ride the pine for a while.

Other than his rookie season and last year, Uggla has never really hit for much average, but what we’re seeing this year is just ridiculous. Some fans have even suggested that he should be sent to Triple-A, but you don’t generally demote players that you have a $62-million investment in.

Quick Hits

  • Anibal Sanchez is averaging a career high 105.6 pitches per start, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting his performance yet as he’s enjoying a career year, although it’s worth noting he hasn’t been nearly as dominant in June as he was in May. Then again, how could he top that month, when he went 4-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 43 1/3 IP? Sanchez isn’t a big dude (6’0″, 205), so I do wonder about his durability. It’s something to watch in the second half especially since after shattering his career high in innings pitched last year, he’s on pace to easily surpass that this season.
  • Scott Thorman, the one-time Brave prospect who never panned out and hasn’t played a game in the bigs since 2007, looks like he’s on his last legs in organized ball. He’s bounced around Triple-A the past few years and while he’s had decent seasons the past two years, Thorman is sucking something fierce this season. He’s managed one his in his last five games for Toledo (Detroit’s IL club), and is hitting just .190 in June, dropping his season mark to .215 through 66 games with just 15 walks to his credit. His slugging percentage is way, way down and Thorman is looking like a prime candidate to wind up in an Independent League before the season’s done.
  • Willy Aybar, who somehow was the Rays’ DH early last year, has had a tough go of it lately. Tampa Bay declined its option on him in November and he was unable to join the Edmonton Capitals in the Indy North American League because the Canadian government wouldn’t grant him a visa. A couple of weeks ago, Aybar was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife (or, as it’s commonly known, pulling a “Brett Myers”). Don’t look for the historically troubled Aybar to resurrect his big league career anytime soon.
  • Chipper Jones, who the Braves have experimented with at the clean-up spot a few times this year, has been quite chilly lately, prompting his arrival on the wire of some shallower leagues. But he’s actually hitting quite well in June (.281 with three homers and an 835 OPS). He’s not drawing walks like he used to, but then again, he doesn’t exactly fill opposing pitchers with fear anymore. As always, he’s battled various health ailments this year, and you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop with him, so I can’t say I blame those owners that have opted to go in a different direction.
  • Veteran Chris Woodward has hit safely in seven straight games – four times putting in multi-hit efforts – for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. He’s enjoying a solid season, but did next to nothing when he was up with the Jays briefly in late-April. We thought Woodward might be a useful sub for the Mariners last year, but he sucked in his brief look (just 19 at-bats), so there doesn’t seem much hope that he has anything left to offer at the major league level.
  • Pete Orr, who saw time with the Phillies when Chase Utley was on the DL, hit very well when he was sent down to Triple-A. But then he slumped badly in June, before picking the pace up the past week and a half or so. The veteran Canadian infielder may not get another shot in Philadelphia this year, but I can’t help but root for this scrappy dude.
  • How did Greg Norton, just one season after his big league career ended, become a manager at the Triple-A level? I guess he’s on the fast track to a big league job at this rate.
  • Whatever the real reason Jim Riggleman resigned – bruised ego, perceived lack of respect, wrong flavour of Pop Tarts in the clubhouse – once thing’s for sure. The Nats haven’t skipped a beat, winning four straight to move to two games over .500. Impressive. Their manager deserves a raise!
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