Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Uribe Buys In to the Patience at the Plate Approach

(photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Two years of this guy has been a nightmare. I have a hard time believing that McGwire can turn him around.”

Those were my words about Juan Uribe on November 25, 2012 in the comments section at the ThinkBlueLA.com blog.  I had enough, and I wasn’t the only one that felt this way.  I wasn't through either.  I suggested that bringing up a minor leaguer would be preferable and that eating $6 million plus would be well worth the money lost, because dropping Uribe would be an addition by subtraction equation.

I know he’s only had 43 plate appearances, but Juan Uribe’s approach at the plate is reflecting a miraculous transformation.  How else can you explain it than the fact that Mark McGwire is now his hitting coach and he’s reached him and got him to buy in to his hitting approach?

We are talking about a player that has averaged a .297 lifetime on base percentage.  A player that in his best year had an OBP of .326.  He couldn’t buy a walk before.  He couldn’t take a pitch if his life depended on it.  Now you can count on Uribe working a full count in a high proportion of his at bats.  First ball swinging?  Not very often anymore.  His approach is a complete 180 degree turn from what he has done his entire career.

I know I’m getting giddy over an extremely small sample size, but I saw enough of Uribe in spring training too and this transformation is now a few months in the making.  What is perplexing is how McGwire can reach a player like Uribe but he’s unable to do the same with Luis Cruz who is flailing away at first pitches and popping up at an extraordinary rate. I think it all comes down to reaching rock bottom.  Cruz certainly is close to being there now, for Uribe he’s been there a while now.

Coming off consecutive seasons with the Dodgers of on base % of .264 and .258 and a complete power depletion of 6 homers over 470 plate appearances, there wasn’t any other option for Uribe if he wanted his career to continue.  He needed to change and adjust or perish.  Many of us were calling for his outright release for months now.  I have no quotes from Juan but I have to assume that he completely bought in to McGwire’s program.  And though he’s not a world beater when it comes to batting average, he’s a master when it comes to getting on base, reaching at a .397 clip.  

One thing that you have to give Uribe credit for is his attitude.  Many a player in his situation would have sulked their way to that hefty paycheck he receives.  They wouldn’t have adjusted.  They would have been a team cancer.  But Juan has been a consummate team player.  He’s been professional for his entire painful ordeal.  Relegated to being a cheerleader for most of the second half last year, Don Mattingly raved about his attitude.  He came and did his work.  He never complained.

It has taken two years.  Maybe, just maybe, Juan Uribe will finally contribute to the Dodgers in a positive way.

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