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Uggla, Benoit, Davis all face new challenge

The 2010 MLB offseason has just gotten going and the Stats and Information Group has some additional notes to review the notable moves of the past week.

Power Outage for Uggla?

Earlier this week, the Braves acquired second baseman Dan Uggla from the Marlins, a move that should bring more punch to the Braves lineup. However, there is one indicator that shows that Uggla’s streak of four straight 30-homer seasons may come to an end in Atlanta.

Dan Uggla

UgglaThe right-handed hitting Uggla is a pull power hitter, with all but three of his home runs in 2010 traveling to left field or left center. Since 2006, Uggla has hit 154 home runs, with 114 hit to left field or left center at an average distance of 392 feet, according to HitTrackerOnline.

Uggla’s average home run distance to left or left center dropped in 2010 to 385 feet.

Why is a seven-foot drop significant for Uggla?

Turner Field, Uggla's new home ballpark, is slightly less friendly to right-handed hitters than Sun Life Stadium (according to the Park Factors available in the Bill James Baseball Handbook).

Also, Turner had an average home run distance of 399 feet to left and left center in 2010, and 400 feet dating back to 2006.

This could suggest that Uggla will have “warning-track power” in Atlanta. Using data from Hittrackeronline.com, we can estimate that of Uggla's 13 home runs in Florida last season, only eight would have been home runs at Turner Field. Those still might turn out to be productive hits such as doubles or triples in 2011, but they just might not leave the ballpark.

Remember too that Uggla goes from no longer facing a team he dominated against (as well as two pitchers-- Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe) to now having to face one with some pretty stellar right-handed pitching (led by Josh Johnson), and 30 home runs might be a little more challenging tally to reach in 2010.

-- Derek Czenczelewski

Tough for Benoit to duplicate greatness

The Tigers signed relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit last week in an effort to bolster a bullpen that allowed the third-highest batting average in the AL and the third-highest percentage of inherited runners to score among relief pitchers.

Joaquin Benoit's Strand Rate

Last 4 Seasons

Benoit may seem the ideal pitcher to help improve those stats, as he led the AL in opponent batting average and allowed the second-lowest percentage of inherited runners to score. And it’s also been documented here that Benoit had one of the best relief pitcher seasons of this generation.

However, digging deeper into numbers behind his success reveals a few warning signs.

Benoit’s opponents Batting Average On Balls in Play (BABIP) was a tiny .201, tops in the majors among all pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched. He’s unlikely to repeat that success, based on a .291 career BABIP and that he’s never had a season with a BABIP below .260.

Benoit also stranded an incredible 95.1 percent of his baserunners, also an MLB-best. How unusual was that rate? Consider that the league average strand rate was 72.2 percent and never before had Benoit even registered a mark of 80 percent or above.

-- Katie Sharp

Blue Jays upgrade outfield defense with Davis

Jays Outfield Plus-Minus

Among Primary Fielders, Last 2 Seasons

Why would the Toronto Blue Jays be interested in Rajai Davis, whom they obtained from the Oakland Athletics? Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous is likely interested in the defensive upgrade he could represent.

Davis would be a noticeable upgrade defensively on any of the outfielders the Jays have used the last two seasons. Baseball Info Solutions tracks plus-minus, reflecting how much better or worse a player is than average at turning batted balls into outs. Davis rated a +14 over the last two seasons, significantly better than any of the other Jays outfield options.

-- Justin Havens