It was August 9, 2006. The Phillies were making a second half run, but were trailing the Braves by one in the top of the seventh inning. The bases were loaded when the hard-nosed second baseman stepped up to the plate. His short, quick stroke sent a double to left center field. It emptied the bases and gave his team the lead. He stood on second base, awaiting the team’s RBI machine to drive him in. A weak Baltimore chop headed towards first base, appearing to be nothing but an out. The runner had a different mind set. The runner hustled and safely slid into home plate. Enter Harry Kalas: “Chase Utley, you are the man!”
The legendary call still sticks with Utley. And why not? He’s established himself as today’s best second baseman in baseball. He is the man.
In the 2008 off-season, it was announced that Utley needed hip surgery, and the recovery time was 4-6 months. At the time, it was feared that Utley would not return until June. Being the competitor that he is, Utley wasn’t going to let that happen. His hard work ethic got him prepared for Opening Day. By May, his injury was forgotten.
Surprisingly, Utley had a down year — for being Chase Utley. His “down year” was still an All Star season, and good enough for another Silve Slugger Award. Hitting .282 with 31 home runs and a .905 on-base plus slugging percentage was a little out of the norm for Chase, but that just shows his caliber. Utley batted .313 in the first half of the season, but his .204 average in September was the main reason for his drop in production.
Utley made up for his September slump in the postseason. He hit .296 with six home runs in the playoffs. His five home runs in the World Series tied Reggie Jackson’s record.
Utley’s hitting is feared throughout the league, but his other tools make him a dangerous player. Utley’s fielding continues to improve. Utley was arguably snubbed of a Gold Glove, as he had a 10.8 ultimate zone rating, which was first among all second basemen in the National League. In addition, Utley’s one of the smartest baserunners in the league.
It’ll be interesting to see what amazing things Utley does on the field in 2010. Harry couldn’t have put it any better: “Chase Utley, you are the man!”
2009 stats: 156 G, .282 AVG, 31 HR, 112 R, 93 RBI, 23 SB, .905 OPS
Grade: 9.6/10 – He had a “down year,” but still put up All Star numbers. He’s currently the best second baseman in baseball. If not for a poor September, Chase would have gotten a perfect ten.