Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Dan Uggla, Braves second baseman, would be placed on the disabled list in order for him to undergo Lasik eye surgery:
In the midst of the worst season of his career, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla will have Lasik eye surgery that will keep him out of the lineup for at least the next two weeks.
Uggla was placed on the 15-day disabled list and Tyler Pastornicky was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and will start Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies at Turner Field.
Uggla will have surgery in two or three days, and the Braves think he’ll be able to recover quickly, play in a few minor league games and return to the active roster in 15 days or shortly thereafter.
“It was a mutual decision,” said Uggla, who ranks second among Braves with 21 home runs and leads the team with 62 walks, but has the lowest average (.186) among major league qualifiers and most strikeouts (146) in the National League. “Obviously I don’t want to go on the DL whatsoever, but at the same time you’ve got to do what’s best for the team right now.
“I’ve been struggling pretty bad and battling with the contacts and grinding with those things day in and day out. I think the best thing to do is just go ahead and do it now.”
The full story is available here. Uggla can be a lightning rod for criticism, and the fact that his home runs and walks are up at the same time he has baseball’s worst batting average (supplanting teammate B.J. Upton) and is leading the National League in strikeouts sounds to me like a very Uggla season. With the team continuing to be beset by seemingly critical injuries (and succeeding in spite of that), the question is whether Lasik– which sounds a bit dog-ate-my-homework-esque– can help Uggla.
The idea here is that Uggla’s having trouble hitting the ball because he’s having trouble seeing the ball, and that having corrective eye surgery would improve his ability to see, and therefore hit, the ball. That AJC story includes an apparent testimonial from Uggla’s teammate, catcher Brian McCann, who battled vision problems and is having a great season at the plate this year.
But a 2005 study found “no statistically significant or practically significant difference . . . between the presurgery and postsurgery means on either on-base percentage, batting average, slugging percentage, or on-base plus slugging of any major league baseball players.”
Fangraphs’ Chad Young thinks there’s good reason to believe that study is flawed, however. His article raises three primary issues with the study: 1) it fails to account for player age; 2) it does not place player output in historical context; and 3) it utilizes rigid, narrow sample windows.
Young attempted to crunch the numbers himself in a way that addressed the flaws he saw in the study’s methodology, leading to a number of conclusions, including: a) offensive contribution increased significantly in the year following surgery, and b) players in Uggla’s age range saw an increase in offensive contribution, while older players saw a decrease, something Young attributes to age independent of eye surgery. In other words, “when we account for age and league context, the picture gets quite a bit rosier. Maybe the way I am looking at the data suggests I need the surgery more than Uggla does, but I am not ruling out the possibility that we will see noticeable gains once Uggla can see.”
Uggla may be having trouble seeing the game right now, but we certainly did not, as our last trip to Turner Field found us in what may be the best seats I’ve ever had for a baseball game.