Dual spotlights: Dan Uggla and Ty Wigginton

Take a look at the following two stat lines and tell me which you would rather have on your fantasy team:

image
Much-heralded slugger Dan Uggla at the 2008 Home Run Derby (Icon/SMI)

+--------+-----+-----+------+----+----+
| PLAYER | POS | AB  | AVG  | HR | SB |
+--------+-----+-----+------+----+----+
| A      | 2B  | 500 | .222 | 22 | 5  |
| B      | 2B  | 500 | .274 | 26 | 5  |
+--------+-----+-----+------+----+----+

Pretty obviously, you’d take Player B. And judging by the the title (and the big picture to the left), I’m sure you can guess who these lines belong to: Dan Uggla and Ty Wigginton. But which is which, and what are they actually measuring?

To answer the first question, Player A is Uggla, and Player B is Wigginton.

These are their expected 2008 lines scaled to 500 at-bats. When I say expected, I refer to True Home Runs and True Batting Average (which I’ll explain in a minute if you aren’t yet familiar with these stats) as opposed to their actual 2008 numbers, which would look like this when scaled:

+-----------+-----+-----+------+----+----+
| PLAYER    | POS | AB  | AVG  | HR | SB |
+-----------+-----+-----+------+----+----+
| Wigginton | 2B  | 500 | .285 | 30 | 5  |
| Uggla     | 2B  | 500 | .260 | 30 | 5  |
+-----------+-----+-----+------+----+----+

Even here, Wigginton is clearly superior. The only reason Uggla is considered the better player is because he received 531 at-bats this year while Wigginton had just 386, keeping his raw totals down.

Let’s examine each player individually and see why—when we use the expected numbers from above—Wigginton looks great and Uggla doesn’t.

Power skills

Dan Uggla

+------+---------+-----+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| YEAR | TEAM    | AGE | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
+------+---------+-----+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| 2006 | Marlins |  26 | 611 | 27 |  28 |  14.1 |   14.6 |   14.6 | 4.2 |     39 |
| 2007 | Marlins |  27 | 632 | 31 |  31 |  14.4 |   14.4 |   13.0 | 2.8 |     46 |
| 2008 | Marlins |  28 | 531 | 32 |  23 |  20.0 |   14.4 |   14.4 | 0.6 |     44 |
+------+---------+-----+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+

If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus, True Home Runs is a stat I developed this past season which uses HitTracker data (which tracks the trajectory of hits and adjusts for ballpark and weather conditions) to calculate how many home runs a player should have been expected to hit. Here’s a quick explanation of the stats:

True Home Runs (tHR or tHR/FB) measures how many home runs a player should have hit assuming a 50/50 split in home/away playing time.

Neutralized Home Runs or Neutralized Power (nHR and nHR/FB) is the number of home runs that would be hit in a league average park with neutral weather.

Raw Power (RAW) is a measure of a hitter’s, well, raw power independent of the number of fly balls hit or direction it is hit. It is simply a count of the number of balls hit past 420 feet (roughly the league average distance for No Doubt home runs) in 70-degree weather with no wind per 100 fly balls.

As we can clearly see, Uggla’s power hasn’t actually changed much at all since data started being collected in 2006. His tHR/FB has remained almost exactly the same from year-to-year despite a six point rise in actual HR/FB this season. We would be well-advised to expect a big regression in 2009, though his very high outfield fly percentage should continue to allow him to hit a good deal of home runs—just not as many as most will expect.

Ty Wigginton

+------+--------+-----+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+------+-------+
| YEAR | TEAM   | AGE | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
+------+--------+-----+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+------+-------+
| 2006 | Rays   |  28 | 444 | 24 |  15 |  20.5 |   12.8 |   13.7 | 2.6 |     33 |
| 2007 | Rays   |  29 | 378 | 16 |  17 |  14.6 |   15.5 |   15.0 | 1.8 |     35 |
| 2007 | Astros |  29 | 169 |  6 |   7 |  11.5 |   13.5 |   10.0 | 0.0 |     40 |
| 2008 | Astros |  30 | 386 | 23 |  20 |  21.1 |   18.4 |   18.4 | 0.0 |     34 |
+------+--------+-----+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+------+-------+

Wigginton also saw a big increase in his HR/FB this year, however, it came with a corresponding rise in tHR/FB. Considering that this is a three-year high for Wigginton, we should expect some regression next year, but it’s clear his power is legitimate. The big difference between him and Uggla is that Uggla hits far more flyballs. Wigginton saw an increase in 2007 but wasn’t able to sustain it this year; Uggla saw a similar increase but did sustain it.

Overall, Uggla probably has a bit of a power edge on Wigginton because of the fly balls, but not by much.

Contact skills

Dan Uggla

+------+---------+-----+-----+-------+-------+-------+-------+--------+-------+-------+--------+
| YEAR | TEAM    | AGE | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT%   | BABIP | mBABIP | LD%   | AB_HR | AB_tHR |
+------+---------+-----+-----+-------+-------+-------+-------+--------+-------+-------+--------+
| 2006 | Marlins |  26 | 611 | 0.282 | 0.285 | 79.87 | 0.315 |  0.317 | 16.80 | 22.63 |  21.82 |
| 2007 | Marlins |  27 | 632 | 0.245 | 0.257 | 73.58 | 0.286 |  0.303 | 15.64 | 20.39 |  20.39 |
| 2008 | Marlins |  28 | 531 | 0.260 | 0.222 | 67.80 | 0.323 |  0.289 | 15.75 | 16.59 |  23.09 |
+------+---------+-----+-----+-------+-------+-------+-------+--------+-------+-------+--------+

I first introduced True Batting Average in this article, and here’s a quick explanation:

mBABIP stands for Marcels BABIP, and tBA stands for True Batting Average. mBABIP is the BABIP Marcels projects from this point until the end of the season (for previous seasons, it was what Marcels predicted after the season was complete).

tBA uses the player’s actual contact rate, mBABIP, and tHR to calculate what we should expect his batting average to be. I talked about how these three stats interact in this article.

We see that Uggla’s tBA has been on a three-year decline and sat at an ugly .222 at the end of the 2008 season. This can be directly attributed to a declining contact rate and mBABIP. Let’s check out his Plate Discipline stats (explained in the linked article) to see why his contact rate has plummeted.

+------+---------+-----+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | TEAM    | AGE | AB  | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+---------+-----+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 | Marlins |  26 | 611 |  80 |         91 | 0.34 |          84 |       44 |
| 2007 | Marlins |  27 | 632 |  74 |         95 | 0.39 |          81 |       41 |
| 2008 | Marlins |  28 | 531 |  68 |         92 | 0.33 |          80 |       43 |
+------+---------+-----+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Overall, there aren’t any dramatic changes in approach. The loss of Bat Control (the most important of these stats) over the past two years looks like the primary culprit. Uggla was able to keep the contact rate at 74 percent in 2007 because his Judgment improved, but when that regressed in 2008 and the Bat Control didn’t bounce back, his contact rate fell even further.

This leaves Uggla’s True Batting Average looking terrible. A career high BABIP and the aforementioned lucky home run rate kept his actual average at a respectable .260 this year, but tBA says it should have been closer to .222. His owners are in for a rude awakening next year.

Ty Wigginton

+------+--------+-----+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+-------+--------+
| YEAR | TEAM   | AGE | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | AB/HR | AB/tHR |
+------+--------+-----+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+-------+--------+
| 2006 | Rays   |  28 | 444 | 0.275 | 0.249 |  78 | 0.303 |  0.296 |  19 |    19 |     30 |
| 2007 | Rays   |  29 | 378 | 0.275 | 0.280 |  81 | 0.304 |  0.307 |  19 |    24 |     22 |
| 2007 | Astros |  29 | 169 | 0.284 | 0.265 |  76 | 0.341 |  0.307 |  14 |    28 |     24 |
| 2008 | Astros |  30 | 386 | 0.285 | 0.274 |  82 | 0.296 |  0.292 |  16 |    17 |     19 |
+------+--------+-----+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+-------+--------+

Wigginton’s batting averages aren’t great, but they are respectable enough for someone with his power. He’s outperformed his tBA two years in a row, but even if he hadn’t he’d still be far superior to Uggla. His contact rate has been bouncing all over the place, so let’s see if we can figure out why this has happened using the Plate Discipline stats.

+------+--------+-----+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | TEAM   | AGE | AB  | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+--------+-----+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 | Rays   |  28 | 444 |  78 |        104 | 0.50 |          85 |       49 |
| 2007 | Rays   |  29 | 378 |  81 |        104 | 0.56 |          86 |       52 |
| 2007 | Astros |  29 | 169 |  76 |        102 | 0.72 |          84 |       51 |
| 2008 | Astros |  30 | 386 |  82 |        101 | 0.94 |          86 |       49 |
+------+--------+-----+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Wigginton’s contact rate was best during the first half of 2007 with the Rays and this year with the Astros (81 and 82 percent, respectively). It dropped off (to 76 percent) at the end of 2007 with the Astros, but came back this year due in large part to an increase in Aggressiveness. His Judgment worsened a bit this year, but when he made mistakes, they were swinging mistakes far more frequently than in years past. He took a lot fewer called strikes, which led to less strikeouts. He also saw a small increase in Bat Control.

Overall, I wouldn’t bank on him sustaining the 82 contact percent rate (Aggressiveness/Passitivity has the lowest year-to-year correlation, meaning it’s the most likely to be influenced by unexplained variation) but an 80 percent contact rate would be quite doable.

The winner of this battle is clear. Wigginton takes the victory for contact skills.

Playing time

Wigginton only received 386 at-bats this year, but part of that was due to injury. He had a slow first half, though, and if he gets off to another slow start in 2009, the Astros could platoon or bench him. It would be a mistake, but the Astros aren’t the most efficiently run team. He doesn’t really have anyone behind him who is worthy of regular at-bats, though, so if he can stay healthy, Wigginton should be okay.

Uggla is essentially guaranteed regular at-bats next year, but what would Florida do if Uggla comes out hitting .220, or worse, gets unlucky with BABIP and hits .200 or below? Would he see a decrease in playing time, or would the homers and walks allow him to keep playing? I’d imagine they’d ride it out, but this is of slight concern.

Market value

Remember that we don’t have a lot of rankings to refer to yet, so we’re definitely looking at a small sample and some year end data that may not actually be measuring what we’re looking for. These caveats aside, let’s try to decipher the market values for these two players.

Dan Uggla
RotoHog Value: 4th 2B
Yahoo! Big Board: 6th 2B
CBS Sportsline: 6th 2B (58th Overall)
CBS Sportsline Mock Draft #1: 6th 2B (R5)
Mock Draft #1: 7th 2B (R7)
ProTrade Value: 8th 2B
There’s pretty much a consensus here. Dan Uggla comes shortly after the obvious Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, and Brian Roberts. Even as the 7th second bagger off the board in my first mock draft, he was still taken in the 7th round, and he went in the 5th round in the CBS mock.

Ty Wigginton
Mock Draft #1: 10th 2B/15th 3B (R13… but I drafted him)
CBS Sportsline: 26th 3B (198th Overall)
RotoHog Value: 28th 3B
ProTrade Value: 23rd 2B/29th 3B
Yahoo! Big Board: Not On Board
CBS Sportsline Mock Draft #1: Still in progress, hasn’t been taken through 12 3B (R12)

As a third baseman, Wigginton is seen as late-round material at best. As a second baseman, he really isn’t a whole lot better.

Concluding thoughts

Unfortunately, Wigginton will not be eligible at second base in 2009. Still, for such a small gap in talent (with playing time and a good spot in the order, an argument could actually be made that Wigginton is superior), the gap in market value shouldn’t be anywhere near this large. Because of the increase in middle infield talent over the last couple of years, the positional adjustments for second base and third base really aren’t too far removed from each other.

Granted, there will likely be better third basemen than Wigginton out there on draft day, but as a corner infielder or bench player in the end game, Wigginton should make a very solid pick. Uggla, on the other hand, looks like a bust if taken anywhere inside the first 10 or 12 rounds, which he surely will be.

If you feel differently or have any questions, feel free to comment or send me an e-mail.

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