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MVP voting confirms Utley as most underrated

Nov 25, 2009, 12:51 PM EST

During his amazing playoff run last month I penned a lengthy article about Chase Utley being the most underrated player in baseball, writing: “Many media members and fans seem to think of him as merely a very good player rather than a truly great one.”
Part of my evidence for Utley being significantly underrated was his poor showings in past MVP balloting and with the latest votes revealed yesterday we now know that this season was no different.
Utley finished eighth overall while receiving just five top-five votes and was completely absent on 14 of 32 ballots. In other words, 27 of the 32 voters didn’t think Utley was among the five best players in the league this season and 14 of the 32 voters didn’t even think he was among the 10 best.
All of which is baffling considering that Utley hit .282/.397/.508 with 31 homers, 63 total extra-base hits, 88 walks, 93 RBIs, and 112 runs in 156 games while going a perfect 23-for-23 swiping bases and also played Gold Glove-caliber defense at an up-the-middle position.
He had a remarkable all-around season and not surprisingly Fan Graphs pegged Utley as being worth 77 runs more than a replacement-level player based on his offensive and defensive contributions. That total ranked second in the entire league behind only Albert Pujols at 84 runs, yet Utley received no second-place votes, only a handful of voters recognized him as a top-five player, and nearly half the ballots failed to even include his name. And the amazing thing is that this is nothing new.
Based on runs above replacement level Utley also ranked as the league’s second-best player in both 2007 and 2008, yet finished No. 8 and No. 14 in the MVP balloting. And in both 2005 and 2006 he ranked as the league’s fourth-best player while finishing No. 13 and No. 7 in the voting. In his five full seasons Utley has been second, second, second, fourth, and fourth among all NL position players in runs above replacement level, yet he’s never finished higher than seventh in the MVP balloting.
What makes the lack of respect shown to Utley particularly confusing is that he’s a hugely popular player on a tremendously successful large-market team. He’s not thriving in obscurity for some last-place, low-budget team, he’s putting up huge numbers for the back-to-back NL champs in the country’s sixth-largest city. Heck, two different Phillies have won MVPs with Utley as a teammate, so clearly a lack of attention for the team isn’t to blame.
MVP ballots were sent in long before Utley’s playoff heroics, so perhaps his big October this season will lead to more support from voters in 2010. In the meantime, Utley retains his title as the most underrated player in baseball for at least another year.

  1. Phrontiersman - Nov 25, 2009 at 1:01 PM

    I’ve said for a while now that Utley gets underrated mainly because of those two MVP teammates you mention. Howard has an incredible amount of power and drives Utley in a lot. Rollins plays very good defense with speed, and both have outgoing personalities that often land them on bulletin boards with quotes to the media.
    Utley, meanwhile, is stone stoic while going about his business. He never claps or pumps a fist or admires a home run (save for one this year during the WS). He never points to anyone. He doesn’t even really smile on the field. This doesn’t mean he’s a jerk, but it sure makes him less interesting to the media than the two charismatic guys who also do things well on a baseball field.
    It may never change.

  2. Chipmaker - Nov 25, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    Maybe Sandberg, Alomar, Biggio, and Pedroia have spoiled the writers on how amazing a great second baseman can be?
    Though only Pedroia has been doing anything notable on the diamonds lately… Ryne’s already in the Hall, Robbie gets his first bid this winter, and Bidge is only a few years away from the final prize. It takes some long memory to really remember how good they were.

  3. Bryz - Nov 25, 2009 at 1:33 PM

    But Utley’s numbers are better than Pedroia’s! How does he “spoil the writers”?

  4. Mark Runsvold - Nov 25, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    I don’t think any of those guys at their best were much better than Utley at his best, if they were better at all. Perusing Rally’s awesome historical database of Wins Above Replacement, I only see Biggio’s ’97 as being markedly more impressive than what Utley’s doing.
    You can see for yourself.
    http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/top500.htm

  5. Phrontiersman - Nov 25, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    Pedroia also has a .140 career difference in OPS between home and road games. Fenway helps him a ton.
    Utley’s split is just .049; CBP has helped him some, but not in the way most people perceive that park to influence numbers.

  6. Bill!@TDS - Nov 25, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    Utley started way too late to have the Sandberg/Biggio/Alomar kind of career, but what he’s done for the past five seasons is better than anything any of those guys did.

  7. Old Gator - Nov 25, 2009 at 2:50 PM

    As long as Utley keeps eating those horrible horsemeat and velveeta hoagies they’re so proud of in Feely, and clogging his arteries and depositing neural plaque on his dendrites therefrom, he’s always going to come up a bit short. Now if he changed to agedofu and melted soy cheese on a multigrain roll (who’d know except him and his cardiologist?), he’d be next year’s MVP hands down.

  8. Mark Runsvold - Nov 25, 2009 at 2:59 PM

    I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but that seems like it could even be smaller than a normal home/road split. Which would make some sense. The short porch at CBP is in left, and Utley hits all of his homers to right.

  9. american screen printing - Feb 8, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    Hey guys I’m a T-shirt printer trying to figure out what cool designs I can throw on my shirts for the Super Bowl 2010 what do you guys think about a tribal design with world champions (the Saints logo) and 2010 in the background.

  10. watch tv and movies - Mar 8, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    This was awesome

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