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Chase Utley is a five-alarm fire right now

Apr 13, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

Chase Utley Chase Utley

Since 2010, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been anything but dependable. From 2005-09, Utley was by far the best at his position in baseball, but tore a ligament in his thumb in 2010, requiring surgery. He then developed patellar tendinitis in his right knee in 2011, and patellar chondromalacia in his left knee in 2012. Last season, he strained his oblique and had to go on the disabled list for a fourth consecutive season.

No one doubted Chase’s talent, but they did doubt his ability to stay healthy, his ability to avoid the effects of Father Time, and his ability to avoid the toll his previous injuries had taken on him. Through the Phillies’ first 12 games, Utley has put any skepticism to rest. In Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins, Utley went 3-for-4, breaking a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth with a no-doubt home run off of lefty reliever Mike Dunn, his third home run of the season. Utley now has a 15-game hitting streak dating back to last season, and has multiple hits in each of his last four games (and in seven out of his 10 games total). His slash line sits at a cool .500/.565/.875 in 46 plate appearances.

The Sabermetrics paint an even better picture. Through this afternoon’s games, Utley leads the league in weighted on-base average at .609, ahead of Freddie Freeman‘s .558. Last year’s average for a second baseman in the National League was .311. Utley has drawn walks in 11 percent of his plate appearances and struck out in only four percent of them. His .375 isolated power (which is just slugging percentage minus batting average) shows Chris Davisian power — Davis finished at .348 encapsulating all of last season.

Obviously, Utley is going to come back down to earth at some point but the Phillies, who signed him to a two-year extension with three vesting options through 2018 last August, will take any surplus production they can get from him. Utley, by the way, is also padding his Hall of Fame case.

  1. cjb5671 - Apr 13, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    Would love to see Chase make a run for mvp. I really thought it would happen in that ’06-’09 run, but to do it now after all the injuries would be unbelievable.

    • dillongeeescapeplan - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      Good case could have been made for Utley some of those years (especially ’08). He was a phenomenal player from 05-09. And though he’s struggled with injuries, he’s still been a very good player when on the field.

    • cohnjusack - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:19 PM

      He was certainly the best Philly in 2007, yet finished 3rd on the team.

      He had a great 08, but it happened to coincide with probably the best season of Pujols’ career. He also finished 3rd on his own team that season despite being the best player on the team.

      Now that I look at it:

      2005: Lead team in WAR, 3 Phillies ranked ahead of him in MVP voting
      2006: Lead team in WAR, 2nd on team in MVP voting (though that Howard guy had a pretty good year)
      2007: Lead team in WAR, 3rd on team in MVP voting
      2008: Lead team in WAR, 3rd on team in MVP voting
      2009: Lead team in WAR, 2nd on team in MVP voting

      How is that even possible?

      • cktai - Apr 14, 2014 at 7:38 AM

        It’s because advanced fielding metrics absolutely love Utley’s fielding and baserunning. From 2005 to 2011 he led all of baseball in UZR and DRS. He was 4th in UZR/150 trailing only Longoria, Crisp and Andruw Jones. Managers, scouts, and journalists are not so high on his defense which is reflected in the fact that he was never in the running for a Gold Glove award. Meanwhile also led baseball in BsR, but when was the last time you saw anyone use good baserunning as an argument in the MVP awards?

        Over his career 17 of his total 56 fWAR has come from his underrated fielding and the hidden aspect of baserunning. That is how you miss out on awards, by quietly being brilliant in all aspects of the game, instead of just getting hits and home runs.

      • ochospantalones - Apr 14, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        2007 was Utley’s best year, and I think there is a good chance he actually would have won the MVP (.332 batting average helps with the voters) had he not broken his hand on a hit by pitch and missed 30 games. But injuries like that are a risk for someone with his playing style. He is top 20 all time in HBP, and most of the guys ahead of him have a lot more plate appearances. Jeter has been hit 8 more times in over twice as many plate appearances. So you take the good with the bad.

        One note on Ultey’s greatness- you don’t really need advanced stats to tell you he’s a great base runner. He’s the career leader in stolen base percentage, at 88.4% That’s slightly better than Mike Trout’s career rate, and he’s done it over 10 years as a starter.

  2. greymares - Apr 13, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    with this guy it’s all about health when healthy he’s had H.O.F. career. when not healthy you will still get more desire than anybody else in the game. makes up for talent weakness with work and want to.

    • dillongeeescapeplan - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:10 PM

      55+ WAR (fangraphs has him rated at 55.9, bb-ref has him at 58.9) through with less than 6000 PA? Easy HOFer if you ask me.

  3. jimmywho14 - Apr 13, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    He is unconscious right now. He’s producing at a 2006-07 pace when he had a shot at MVP.

  4. DelawarePhilliesFan - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    Bill – on a totally unrelated note, have you heard any explanation of why the umps felt the block of the plate in the 6th was legal? Granted, like all baseball fans I am still unsure of what is allowed and what is not, and I realize it is a judgement call. But it sure as heck looked like a clear cut case of what is supposed to be banned.

    Either way – I think flushing that out would be a great post. Tie game, and that was the potential go-ahead run, and it was reviewed.

  5. eagles512 - Apr 13, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    Good question Delaware. Not a big fan of the rule but I think it was obvious that according to the new rule, Gwynn should have been ruled safe. Perhaps that part of it isn’t reviewable? More likely, the umps didn’t want to admit their mistake.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:30 AM

      The manager can not challenge it, but it is reviewable – sort of like what HR’s used to be. A manager can ask, but he ump can still say they are not going to look. However, in this case the ump did look and upheld it.

      As I said, this is new to all of us (including the umps), so maybe that is legal. But they say you can not block the plate until you have the ball, and this wasn’t even close. So why was he allowed to stand in that spot?

      Come on HBT – sort it out for us!!!

  6. slaugin - Apr 13, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    Should I sell high on Chase before injury in my Fantasy Baseball league ? Or does he out it together for a great year?

    • gmfw7 - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      you should hold onto him….he missed time last year for an oblique injury, but he still had a .280+ BA and was on pace for 24-25 HR and 80-90 RBIs. he hasn’t had a single issue with his knees in over a year and everyone around the team seems to believe that won’t be an issue anymore. don’t sell him. no shot he stays this hot, but when your swing is as short and pretty as his, major slumps are very hard to come by. he’ll be in the running for mvp this year.

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