Upton Abbey: Episode 6 – I Can See Clearly Now?

upton abbey bannerYesterday, 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.”

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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.

rockies braves august 2013I have yet to see the Braves lose in Atlanta this season (a streak that will be put to the test again tonight), and this particular game was the most emphatic victory yet. Continue reading

Baseball Notes: Preview

baseball notesInvolving myself in this project meant developing a more intentional approach to sports observation, fandom, criticism, and so forth. Part of this was reorienting my daily and weekly routines in order to make myself more aware of important events happening in the sporting world, and to place myself in a position to be paying attention to those spaces in which something important to that world might be about to happen. My immersion has not been total, of course. (See, for example, this site’s golf coverage.) Some aspects have required greater degrees of adjustment. Others have felt much more natural, though, and baseball probably leads that group. Living within the terrestrial boundaries of the Detroit Tigers Radio Network (and Fox Sports Detroit) during the 2012 season meant keeping up with that team on a near-daily basis was as easy as passively listening to the radio at night after work. Baseball is a sport that, for the fans, is designed to seep into the mind over time, a multi-month titration of awareness appreciable only at some distance. Writing a serial feature on that team only made sense. Having an outlet for accumulated observations and possible trends, interesting stories about the team, and personal experiences was a way to process a 162-game season, memorialize those little thoughts, observations, and experiences, and generally gain that periodic distance from the game’s day-to-day that makes caring about the next game and the next series fun.

Listening and watching that much baseball– 2013 finds me tracking two teams in particular– is a great way to learn about the game, and I wanted to carve a space outside of those individual team features to write about some of baseball’s details and strategy. I would like this to be more about aspects of the sport that are hiding in plain sight: readily observable things that, when noticed, would enhance any fan’s enjoyment, rather than complex statistical analyses, although I do have some thoughts on the unavoidable topic of sabermetrics. My thought is that each post in the series would look at one isolated issue or nugget of information that, when I happened across it, felt like something I was really glad to know as a slightly more than casual baseball fan and something other, more casual fans might appreciate knowing too.

Here’s a brief, very simple example to kick things off:

Continue reading

Upton Abbey: Episode 3 – Hosting Royalty

upton abbey bannerI attended my first Atlanta Braves game last night, with the then-AL-Central-leading Kansas City Royals in town for the first of two games in thirty-six hours.

Getting to Turner Field via public transportation is easy, particularly considering Atlanta’s bad reputation for transit. The park itself is nice and clean, with three escalators ferrying us to the top level, where we were sitting. Originally constructed as part of the 1996 Olympic complex (it cannot in any way be overstated how much Atlanta loves the ’96 Games), it does not show its age, even if the third escalator broke down while we were on it, bringing to mind Mitch Hedberg’s bit. But let’s not dwell on the notion of being too lazy to take the stairs on one’s way to sitting and watching three hours of baseball. Instead, let’s note that Turner Field has roving Chick-fil-A vendors and a nice view of the downtown skyline.turner field 4-16-13With a seating capacity of roughly 50,000, it actually is bigger than Comerica Park, but even sitting in the top section, I felt closer to the game than one might at some technically smaller parks, and there didn’t look to be a bad seat in the house.

It was good that we were closer to the game, too, because Continue reading

The ends of their ropes?

The sports world finds itself with a couple of active streaks that are starting to reach lengths that make people a little antsy. New Patriots DL Albert Haynesworth hasn’t been in practice since last week, Titans running back Chris Johnson continues to hold out as part of a contract bargaining strategy, and, in more positive news, Braves infielder Dan Uggla extended his consecutive-game hitting streak to 31.

The question is, which run will be the first to end?

Register your vote by electronic entry, below.