Are Uggla and Upton getting on track?

Macon TelegraphApril 19, 2014 

It’s a wonder Wolf Blitzer didn’t break in on CNN with the news. If not for the continuing search for a plane that is taking up all of their time on that network, he just might have.

Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are both over the Mendoza Line. Uggla is hitting .232, while Upton’s two hits Friday night pushed him all the way to .210.

Saturday is the first day Upton has been at or over .200 since September 3 of last year. That was the only day last season when Upton made it up to .200.

In fact, with his .210 average, it marks the first time in Upton’s tenure with Atlanta his batting average has been over .200.

This also means Saturday is the first day that as teammates Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are both hitting above the .200 mark.

That’s amazing, really. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Uggla’s been over .200 for four straight games now, and for nine games of the 16 the Braves have played. His on base percentage is still low at .267, which is because he’s only walked twice this season. That’s surprising considering Uggla was fifth in the NL last season with 77 walks and actually led the NL two years ago with 94 bases on balls.

This is progress. Uggla’s average is 53 points higher than it was at the end of last season. The last time Uggla was over .230 (not counting the first few games of each of the last two seasons) was July 3, 2012.

Upton has now reached base at least once in each of Atlanta’s last nine games. He’s 10-for-37 with five walks in that time. That’s an on base percentage of .357. Considering Upton had only three hits and no walks in his first six games, that’s a big improvement.

This, too, is progress. Sure, it’s a small sample size for both players. But considering how low both players’ numbers have been in the last year, the Braves will take anything they can get to give them some hope both Uggla and Upton can have productive seasons.

This offense is going to be inconsistent. The first 16 games not only tell us this, but also just the track record of many of the players in the lineup. There will be several two-day periods this season when they score only one run in two games. But there will also be days like Monday and even Friday night when they give the pitching staff plenty of runs to work with.

Friday was also the second three-hit game for Chris Johnson in the last three games. That’s a good sign considering the Braves had Johnson out of the starting lineup for two games earlier in the week. Johnson’s average is now up to .293.

Now the Braves have to get Jason Heyward going. He was given Friday night off, and manager Fredi Gonzalez used the “scheduled day off” excuse that was easy to provide. Sure, Gonzalez does give players scheduled days off, almost like they are working at a factory. But Heyward didn’t play Friday night because he’s been awful recently.

Since Heyward got three hits against the Mets on April 9, he’s 2-for his last-27.  He’s walked seven times, which is good for a leadoff man. But he’s struck out eight times in the last seven games with four against Cliff Lee on Wednesday night.

Take away that one three-hit stretch and Heyward is hitting only .089 this season. He has struck out in 10 of the 15 games he’s played in this season.

We’ll see if Heyward is back in the lineup Saturday, and if he’s hitting leadoff, as the Braves play game two of the series at Citi Field against the Mets. It certainly would be nice to see Heyward get hot and get over the .200 mark so that for the first time in a long time the Braves would have a lineup where no player was hitting under .200.

With the way this team is pitching, a consistent offense will only make the Braves a more dangerous team. And getting Uggla and Upton on track is definitely a step in the right direction.

 

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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