Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dan Uggla To Atlanta; Castillo Still A Met

On Tuesday, the Florida Marlins traded their second baseman, Dan Uggla, to the division rival Atlanta Braves. In return, the Marlins received utility player and questionable All-Star Omar Infante and pitcher Mike Dunn.

The Mets, on the other hand, still have the one-armed bandit (Luis Castillo) playing second base.

Let me get this straight. The Florida Marlins were having difficulty signing Uggla to a multi-year deal, so they traded him to a division rival (one that finished ahead of them in the standings) and all they got in return was Omar Infante and Mike Dunn? Let's do a short analysis of this deal.

Daniel Cooley Uggla is the only second baseman in history to have four seasons of 30 or more home runs. Only four other second basemen had compiled three such seasons in their careers and none of them did it for three consecutive seasons. Uggla has had four straight seasons of 30-plus home runs, hitting a career-high 33 HR this past season.

Over his first five seasons, Dan Uggla has been incredibly durable, playing in least 146 games every season. In those five seasons, this is what an average Uggla season looks like:

155 games, .263 batting avg., 100 runs, 34 doubles, 31 HR, 93 RBI.

The man considered to be the premier second baseman in the National League is Chase Utley. Over Utley's six full seasons in the majors, his offensive numbers look quite similar to Uggla's:

145 games, .298 batting avg., 105 runs, 36 doubles, 27 HR, 95 RBI.

Despite the similar numbers (other than batting average), Uggla has always been a distant second to Utley in discussions about who the best second baseman in the National League is. It seems like the photo below is the only way Uggla can get close to Utley in anything.

Photo by Jennifer Zambri-Dickerson

Uggla has been a two-time All-Star and won his first Silver Slugger Award in 2010. Although he is a human windmill, striking out 149 times last season and averaging 152 strikeouts per season over his career, he always draws his share of walks, averaging 82 walks per year since 2008. During the same three-year time period, his on-base percentage was .361. By comparison, Mets' leadoff hitter Jose Reyes, whose primary job as a leadoff hitter is to get on base, has never had a single season on-base percentage higher than .358.

Here's one other important fact about the man whose parents gave him a middle name of "Cooley". His favorite ballpark to hit in is Atlanta's Turner Field.

In 45 career games in Atlanta, Uggla has absolutely raked. He's a .354 hitter at Turner Field, picking up 16 doubles, 12 homers and 36 RBI there. Since he will now be playing 81 games in Atlanta, that projects to 29 doubles, 22 HR and 65 RBI for the 2011 season, which would be a good full season for a second baseman, let alone half a season's worth of games.

Basically, Uggla could have a monster season playing half his games in Atlanta, especially considering that he will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

What about the guys Atlanta gave up for Uggla? How do they stack up against the Cooley Man?

Well, Omar Infante has been in the major leagues since 2002. Only once has he reached double figures in home runs (he hit 16 HR in 2004 for the Detroit Tigers). In that one "magical" season, Infante also reached his career high in RBI, with 55.

Considering that so many people were talking about Infante in 2010 when he "earned" his first All-Star appearance, he only finished the season with eight home runs and 47 RBI. Uggla had reached those numbers by the All-Star Break.

Yes, Infante hit a career-high .321 this past season, but that lofty batting average only raised his career mark to .274. Prior to the 2010 season, Infante's career batting average was .264, or one point higher than Uggla's .263 career average. Also, Infante has never met a pitch he wouldn't swing at, as evidenced by his career .319 on-base percentage.

Before the 2010 season, Infante's career OBP was .310, a number that should be familiar to both Mets fans and Braves fans, for that is the same career on-base percentage of a Mr. Jeffrey Braden Francoeur.

So clearly, Infante is an inferior offensive player when compared to Dan Uggla. That must mean the other player in the trade, Mike Dunn, must be a stud pitcher, right? Not quite.

Most people reporting the deal made note of the fact that the left-handed Dunn was 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 25 games for the Braves. He also struck out 27 batters in 19 innings. When you look at those numbers, he looks like a promising young pitcher. But there's one thing they neglected to mention.

Mike Dunn makes Oliver Perez look like a master of control.

In those same 19 innings, Dunn walked 17 batters. In four innings with the Yankees in 2009, Dunn walked five batters in four innings. Therefore, in his brief major league career, Dunn has walked 22 batters in 23 innings, which averages out to 8.6 walks per nine innings. That's actually worse than Oliver Perez's walks per nine inning ratio over the past two seasons (7.9 BB/9 innings in 2009 and 8.2 BB/9 innings in 2010).

In fact, Dunn looks like he's getting worse as he gets older. His control was actually very good in the minor leagues in 2007. He walked 45 batters in 144.2 innings playing A-ball for the Charleston River Dogs (a Yankees affiliate). His average of 2.8 walks per nine innings would be an excellent ratio in the major leagues. However, from season to season, that number has gone up at an alarming speed.

In 2008, Dunn pitched 18.1 fewer innings than in 2007, but walked 14 more batters (4.2 BB/9 innings). In 2009, he pitched in Double-A, Triple-A and briefly in the major leagues with the Yankees. Combining his minor league and major league numbers, he pitched 77.1 innings and walked 51 batters (5.9 BB/9 innings). Then came his 2010 season, where we walked almost a batter per inning for the Atlanta Braves.

So basically, this is what the trade boils down to. The Atlanta Braves are trading away a player who gets on base at a Jeff Francoeur rate with similar power numbers to Jason Bay's 2010 season, along with a pitcher that has studied and graduated with honors from the Oliver Perez Pitching Academy. In return they get the only second baseman in major league history to hit at least 30 HR in four consecutive seasons, who is coming off his best season in the majors, with career-highs in batting average (.287), home runs (33) and RBI (105). This is also a player who has always performed well at his new home ballpark, Turner Field.

Why am I making such a big deal about this? Because the Mets still have Luis Castillo as their second baseman.

Neither Uggla nor Castillo are great defensive second basemen, although Castillo used to be. But surely, the run-production contributed by Uggla more than makes up for his Hole-In-The-Glove caliber defense he provides. What can Castillo contribute offensively? He gets hit by pitches occasionally.

In 2007 and 2008, the Marlins put the final nails in the Mets' coffins. The Mets nailed their own coffins throughout the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons. Now it looks like the Marlins are doing it to the Mets again, this time in the off-season, by sending one of the best offensive second basemen in recent history to their division rivals for Jeff Francoeur and Oliver Perez clones.

The Marlins traded away Luis Castillo to the Minnesota Twins after the 2005 season to make room for Dan Uggla. It's too bad the Mets couldn't think to do the same in 2010.


Anonymous said...

Why couldn't the Mets have made this deal????
Phil Groh

Ed Leyro (and Joey) said...

Because the Mets aren't supposed to make the smart deal. They're supposed to make the head-scratching moves. And if I have to say, they're becoming experts at those deals.

Anonymous said...

Anyone playing middle infield better know how to catch and throw the ball. Dan Uggla is a DH playing second base and any smart GM worth his salt would stay away from a player like that. His offense is great, but in building a team I would shoot for strong up the middle defense. Even with his diminishing health, Castillo is a much better fielder than Uggla. His career on base percentage also happens to be .368 and as recently as 2009 had a .387 OBP. While Castillo can't stay healthy and has aged quickly, 2b was certainly not the reason The Mets have struggled of late.