Uggla, Upton are making history

sports@macon.comApril 8, 2014 

B.J. Upton is off to another slow start for the Braves. He’s hitting only .120 (3-for-25) with a .120 on base percentage. Put that with his horrid numbers from last season and Upton is hitting .180 in his 416 at bats in an Atlanta uniform.

We also know how bad second baseman Dan Uggla has been the last few seasons. He’s off to a more decent start this year, hitting .217 (5-for-23) in his first six games. That’s a 38-point improvement on his .179 batting average a year ago.

After hitting .263 in his five years with the Marlins, Uggla has hit only .213 in his four-plus seasons with the Braves. Upton hit .255 in his eight seasons in Tampa Bay, so he’s now 75 points down from what he did with his previous team.

Uggla (.179) and Upton (.184) were two Braves regulars last season that hit under .200. They were historically bad seasons. We decided to see how bad they were in the 48-plus years of Atlanta Braves history.

How many regulars – players that saw the most action at each position – have hit .220 or lower in Atlanta history? It’s happened 17 times, and here’s the list:

.220 – Dan Uggla – 2B – 2012

.218 – Rafael Ramirez – SS – 1981

.216 – Scott Thorman – 1B – 2007

.216 – Keith Lockhart – 2B – 2002

.216 – Terry Blocker – CF – 1988

.216 – Rick Cerone – C – 1985

.215 – Vic Correll – C – 1975

.213 – Andres Thomas – SS – 1989

.211 – Jeff Blauser – SS – 1995

.211 – Rafael Belliard – SS – 1992

.208 – Deron Johnson – 1B – 1968

.207 – Jim Wynn – LF – 1976

.191 – Luis Gomez – SS – 1980

.190 – Nate McLouth – CF – 2010

.184 – B.J. Upton – CF – 2013

.179 – Dan Uggla – 2B – 2013

.169 – Jody Davis – C – 1989

Some of the names on the list are not a surprise. You might have guessed that Rafael Belliard would have been one of the weaker hitters, but he did hit .223 in his eight-plus seasons with the Braves. His worst season was in 1996 when he hit only .169 as a reserve. Considering the defense Belliard provided, not many cared about his batting average.

Andres Thomas was another weak-hitting shortstop. But from 1985 through 1990, Thomas hit .234 in his major league career. Now for some names not on the list that still had pretty bad seasons or careers, or at least so we thought…

Remember how bad Reggie Sanders was in 2000 as the starting left fielder? He finished with a .232 batting average. From April 12 through September 9 of that season, Sanders was under .200. He had hit .271 in his eight years with the Reds and .285 in the previous season with the Padres, so his struggles were a big surprise. A .345 batting average in the final month of the 2000 season at least made his final batting average respectable.

You might have thought Mark Lemke would have been on the list, considering he was known as a player that was not great offensively in his career. But Lemke hit .248 in his 10 seasons with the Braves.

Walt Weiss hit .226 in 1999 as the starting shortstop. That has perhaps been the weakest position offensively for the Braves. Remember Darrell Chaney? He hit .226 in his four seasons with the Braves, all as a reserve. Pat Rockett was before Chaney. He hit .214 in his three years in Atlanta, but Rockett was never the main regular at any position.

I would have lost money on Pepe Frias being one of the worst hitters. He was the starting shortstop in 1979. But Frias hit .259 that season. His problem was in the field, however, as Frias had 32 errors.

One of the biggest disappointments in Atlanta’s history was Brad Komminsk, who Hank Aaron labeled as ‘the next Dale Murphy.’ Komminsk was a beast in the minor leagues, but with the Braves he hit only .217 in parts of four seasons – never as the main regular.

Ron Gant had a horrible 1989 season. That was when the Braves were moving him from second base to third base and then to the outfield. His season included a trip to the minor leagues, so he was not a regular at any of the positions. Gant hit .177 that season in 260 at bats, but the next year he settled in the outfield and had a tremendous season (a .303 batting average, with 32 home runs and 33 stolen bases).

Ernie Whitt would have been on the list, but he was replaced in his only year for the Braves. The 38-year-old favorite of Bobby Cox (who had managed him in Toronto) started the 1990 season as the starting catcher. He hit only .172 in 180 at bats but was soon replaced by Greg Olsen, who became an All-Star that season.

Those are all bad numbers, but Upton’s may be worse.

There have been some horrible seasons in Atlanta’s history, and looking at others does put Upton’s struggles in perspective. It’s also amazing that a player that had that much success with another franchise just cannot get it together with the Braves. Upton and Uggla will continue to get their chances to snap out of it, but the patience of Atlanta’s fan is wearing thin.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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