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Utley’s Subpar 2011 Raises Questions About Future

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, December 11, 2011 09:43 AM | Comments: 52
2011 Player Review, Posts

Utley's season started off on a bad leg.

We continue on with the final player review for 2011. Today, Chase Utley.

From the moment I stepped foot into Bright House Field in Clearwater back in early March, it became all about Chase Utley. His every move would be scrutinized, his every step analyzed to see if the end was drawing near for the perennial All Star second baseman. A serious knee injury is just about the only thing that could put a damper on the Spring Training festivities mixed with the low-80′s temperatures.

The 2011 season was supposed to begin in sunny Florida with hope, promise, and eternal optimism – after all, the Phillies were the odds on favorite to win the World Series, having added Cliff Lee in the offseason. Instead, it was about Utley and his balky knee.

After a 2010 that limited Utley to just 115 games with injuries, the ’11 season all started with a lengthy stay on the DL as well. It was a guessing game as information on Utley’s knee injury was widely unavailable. The Phillies and Utley only spoke when necessary or when a certain plateau had been reached. As you’re well aware, Utley communicates very little and shows no emotion when doing so, so there was never a way to figure out how his knee was progressing at any point during his rehabilitation.

On May 23, Utley finally made his return to the Phillies lineup against the Cincinnati Reds. It had been two months since he spoke during Spring Training and announced that he would miss an extended period of time. As Utley does, he worked his ass off and made it back in good time. However, it was a struggle for most of the season.

Utley’s season began with an 0-for-5 against the Reds and it took him a while to get his sea legs back, so to speak.

Utley and the Phillies mentioned several times during the season that the knee injury took away some of his power; he was just trying to get back into everyday-playing-shape, so the ability to completely strengthen the leg like in previous years wasn’t really the goal. To play pain free for an extended period was, and although he remaining healthy for the better part of the year, his bat never truly caught up.

Looking at his final numbers, Utley had an OK season. They’re numbers we aren’t accustomed to seeing with Chase, but a serious knee ailment will do that to you.

Utley finished with a .259 average, 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in. His stats across the board mostly consisted of career-lows. His .769 OPS was over 200 points lower than his career high in that category. However, his 3.9 WAR placed him seventh among all second basemen, ahead of names like Weeks and Espinosa. Even with back-to-back disappointing season, Utley’s 17.6 WAR places him second at his position behind only Ben Zobrist of Tampa Bay.

Defensively, Utley gave it his all as usual, posting an 8.4 UZR in 2011. And although he has missed some time and dealt with myriad ailments recently, his 29.9 UZR from 2009-2011 has him seventh among ALL position players.

So, on the surface, it looks like Utley is slipping. That is true for his power numbers, but overall, he’s still producing at a fairly healthy clip, even if he isn’t…healthy that is.

Next season will be telling for Utley. Will he finally regain the power stroke he once possessed? It will be necessary as Ryan Howard will miss some time and the middle of the order will be hurting for some homers.

GRADE: 6.6/10 – It wasn’t vintage Utley, but it wasn’t awful, either.

UTLEY DURING SPRING TRAINING:

UTLEY FOLLOWING FIRST GAME:

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1714 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Posts: 5366 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Charlie sounded positive about Chase returning to form this season, and for many seasons, on MLB Network.

    My questions are many, but we’ll start with these- Is he doing something differently this offseason than previous ones? Is he working with an expert on how best to keep his knees able to play? What does Charlie’s optimism stem from, other than his usual blind optimism?

    Budding star, Brandon Roy just retired from basketball, (I know much harder on the knees) at the ripe old age of 27 after only 5 years in the league with knee problems. I mention that only because Utley is older, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one day soon he just gets tired of the daily grind with a bad knee. Yet Charlie tells us everything is fine.

     
  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    2011 was a very pedestrian year for Utley. Fact is, he deserves about a 5. He deserves credit for playing hurt but the team needs more from him in 2012

     
  • Posts: 0 Chris

    Utley should at least be able to strengthen his legs a little this offseason. Something he wasn’t able to do last year.

     
  • Posts: 58 LCMRSalazar85

    Avatar of LCMRSalazar85

    This is Utley’s make or break year as far as what happens next. If he continues to have the numbers he’s had post injury (this past one), I think the Phils start looking at what’s in the pipeline sooner vs. later, and the word ‘retirement’ starts showing up in conversations more about him. If he gets close to being what everyone expects, then we’ve got 2 more years before anything has to considered.

     
  • Posts: 0 aladou

    3.9 WAR translates to 6.0 for a full season.

    In fact he had more WAR per game than Cano.

    Are you rating 6.6/10 just for the missed time?

     
  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    WAR this. Even if Utley doesn’t get his power stroke back, he would mak a helluva two hole hitter because of his ability to play hit and run, hit to the the left side, and walk. He is also an opportunistic base stealer as well as a great baserunner. Just gimme 18/85/.285 and I will be content while he plays his contract out. Unless you can get value for him.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Bob Myers

    Watched Chase’s pre-game stretching and was impressed with just how incredibly methodical he had to be to get ready for a game. He has lost his power stroke, and Amaro mentioned Chase could not work out with leg weights the way he used to anymore. They have to find a way for Chase to regain power and still keep his knees. This is a bigger issue than anyone is willing to let on in my opinion.

    At this stage, if Chase keeps on last years’ stats, that’s acceptable.

     
  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    *hit to the right side.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    @aladou…. So you’re saying that if Utley played a whole season and got a 6.0 WAR then you’d rather have him as your 2B than Robinson Cano?? Just want to make sure that’s correct. Cause, if that’s the case, then you’re nuts. That’s why this whole WAR thing doesn’t make sense half the time.

     
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      Ok, forget WAR. You don’t need WAR to make the case that Utley was about as good as Cano in 2011.

      1) Hitting: Cano was the better hitter.
      - Cano had the higher batting average, but Utley walked more, so they got on base about the same (Cano .349, Utley .344). Getting on base is the most important thing for a hitter.
      - Cano’s advantage was from his higher slugging, .533 to .425
      - the comprehensive hitting stat wOBA had Cano ahead, .375 to .344
      - Cano’s .375 was 2nd among MLB 2nd-basemen
      - Utley’s .344 was 8th among MLB 2nd-basemen, and 3rd in the NL

      2) Fielding: both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference agree that Utley was the much better fielder in 2011

      Overall, not a lot of difference between them.

       
      • Posts: 5366 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        No not a lot of difference. Just that Chase is older, makes twice as much, has lost his power base, and may be on his last legs. Sorry friend, you made a good argument, I like advanced metrics, but this one’s not even close.

        Ask yourself this- If you were the Yankees would you trade them straight up? Of course not.

         
      • Posts: 0 Chris

        In aladou’s defense I don’t think he’s saying that Cano is bad or even that Utley is better. Nor did he say that Cano’s present and future value is not greater than Utley’s. Of course no team is going to swap Cano for Utley, Cano has a much longer future ahead. Even players that are worse and younger would not be traded by teams. For example, Doc Halladay is way better than Felix Hernandez. That’s undisputable fact. However the Mariners would never trade Hernandez for him straight up.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        Agreed – Cano has a better future.

        The point was that despite a subpar year, Utley was still as good as Cano in 2011.

         
      • Posts: 5366 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I thought the point was to respond to Chuck’s comment-

        “So you’re saying that if Utley played a whole season and got a 6.0 WAR then you’d rather have him as your 2B than Robinson Cano??” I took that to mean- “going forward”. I was wrong there, I see that.

        However, given the choice of a .375wOBA vs. a .344 wOBA and considering this team’s offensive needs and lack of power. My answer is still no.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        “offensive needs” — from the time Utley returned in May, the Philles had the highest-scoring offense in the league.

        Still, I wouldn’t mind some more offense, but with the great starters, I’m not sure Iwould give up defense to get it.

         
      • Posts: 5366 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I think we can go on like this, or simply agree to disagree.
        Your choice- but I’m not convinced, probably never will be.
        How about some subjective stuff, what the majority of BBWAA thinks.
        Cano-
        2011 -AS,MVP-6,SS
        2010 -AS,MVP-3,SS, GG-
        Utley
        2011-
        2010- AS

        I know these awards are subjective, but that’s still one more than GG than Utley has ever won, Cano’s defense is really not that bad.
        You throw around a 5 point difference in OBP to your side, then a 31 point difference in wOBA and 108 point difference in SLG both of which go against your argument.
        Have a good day aladou, I’ve enjoyed the conversation.

         
      • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

        aladou – The Phillies offense wasn’t as good as you seem to think. They scored three runs or less in almost 50% of their games, which tells you how inconsistent it was. We’ve talked about this in other threads – total runs scored is a misleading metric. The Phillies have a classic “all or nothing” offense – and the games where it’s nothing are becoming more and more prevalent.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        No problem. The 5-point OBP advantage is Cano’s, as I said, and that and the slugging is all included in the wOBA.

        What offsets it is Uley’s defense, GG notwithstanding.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        Jeff, from the time Utley returned they had among the fewest 3-or-less games in the league. From what I recall, the range wa 38% to 60%. And the Phillies were at 43%.

         
      • Posts: 548 Brian Sr. of CO

        Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

        The world is falling again about how horrible the Offense was in 2011, not looking what happened between mid July and the end of the regular season. News Flash, the offense was not as bad as you think in 2011. Was it great? No, but fact of the matter, (and I know some do not like fact) the team as a whole was still good enough to win 102 games. The pitching failed us more than the offense in the post season. The wins and losses matter. If you have a team that averages 6 runs a game compared to a team that averages 4.5 (roughly where the phillies were, who will win more games? Uh, you can’t answer that without looking at Pitching. Not to mention, lets think about your comment “They scored three runs or less in almost 50% of their games”. That tells me they scored 4 runs or more in almost, if not more than 50% of their games. LOL. Clueless dude, simply clueless.

         
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    At times he seem like the old Chase. Then at times he seemed like he was defeated. He is such an important piece on this team. Chase only plays one way and that is hard. If you propped him up on the field in a cast he still try his best to play his style of baseball and try to slide into you cast and all. There was a few times i saw some awkward slides or landings and i cringed every time. I also dont think he should be doing that slide and jump up thing he does every once in a while. That has to take a toll on his knees. Every time he attempts a slide of some sort i keep thinking its going to be his last one.

     
  • Posts: 0 illrjyme

    Chase is a notorious injury concealer. I think chase is a guy who doesnt complain about…anything, which is a good thing for the team at most times. But one problem of that is he doesnt say nothing about his physical status, or even apparently lie about it. I understand how utley wanted to contribute to the team ASAP. I, however, really wanna see 100% healthy chase. Maybe, he was healthy and I just dont wanna admit he is just declining as he ages. Please come out strong and prove me wrong next season.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chris

    I’m somewhat optimistic that Chase will have a small power resurgence this upcoming year and I think he’s due for a better year than last year. Long term though I’m not sure how much more Chase will be able to play. I doubt that he’ll be playing much after 2013 and I doubt the Phillies are the ones to commit to him especially long term. Let’s just enjoy the ride of what we have left of Chase. He’s a special ball player injuries or no.

     
  • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I love Chase Utley….he’s the ultimate hard-nosed baseball player. I have his jersey. He has a hot wife.

    BUT…..

    I will take Robinson Cano on my team any day of the week.

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Yeah Cano is a beast… i dont follow him i thought after a few years they will figure him out. I think he;ll be a Yankee until he retires…

     
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      Cano is a very good hitter.

      Overall, he finally caught up to Utley and they were comparable in 2011.

       
      • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        I don’t think they were comparable at all. Yes, Utley was injured and started off slowly once he came back. But, aside from that, I would STILL take Cano over him LAST YEAR.

        And don’t get me wrong….I love Chase and am glad he’s a Phillie. Hopefully, we get out of him what Dipsy suggests….285/18/85. That would be great.

         
      • Posts: 548 Brian Sr. of CO

        Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

        Please tell me that is a joke! Utley is one of my favorite players, but still “finally caught up to Utley and theye were comparable in 2011″? Easy to say until you look at stats. Look at Cano and Utley throughout their careers since 2005 (Utley became a regular everyday starter in 2005). Utely sadly has been in decline since at least 2008 with a lowering AVG and SLG. Even at that 2006 and 2007 were his best seasons, and only season hitting .300. Cano had a “down year” in 2011 with a .302 average, but still his SLG is still over .500 (some of that is the joke of a ballpark they call Yankees Stadium). Cano has only had an Average under .300 twice and has been over .315 3 out of 7 years. Utley has been over .300 twice in the same span and over .315 once. Power has also declined. 16 homers in 2010 with 511 AB’s and 11 with 398 AB’s. Cano had 29 Homers in 2010 with 626 AB’s and 28 in 2011 with 623 AB’s. The closest Cano and Utley have been to comparable was 2008 and 2009, but Utley has been in decline since 2008, Cano has not. Dipsy and Chuck are correct if we get .285/18/85, I will also be very happy.

        Even defensively, they were comparable in 2008 and 2009. Utley has also been in decline since then, and Cano has not.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        Ok – let’s go through it.

        Hitting:

        We need to look at both getting on base and slugging, as you pointed out. OPS is a decent way to combine them, but it weighs OBP and slugging equally, which isn’t exactly right — OBP should be weighed about twice as much, and the stat that does this called wOBA.

        One explanation of wOBA and how it’s calculated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WOBA

        Here are their wOBAs since 2005:

        2005 Utley .392, Cano .332 (Utley +60)
        2006 Utley .389, Cano .377 (Utley +12)
        2007 Utley .420, Cano .358 (Utley +62)
        2008 Utley .391, Cano .307 (Utley +84)
        2009 Utley .402, Cano .370 (Utley +32)
        2010 Utley .373, Cano .389 (Cano +16)
        2011 Utley .344, Cano .375 (Cano +31)

        Fielding:

        This is based on runs saved, as calculated by Ultimate Zone Rating, an advanced fielding stat, and represents the number of runs saved compared to a replacement level player (think MiniMart). As it says here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UZR), this can fluctuate from year to year but is reliable over several years.

        2005 Utley 17.5, Cano -21.5 (Utley +39.0)
        2006 Utley 7.6, Cano -8.3 (Utley +15.9)
        2007 Utley 12.6, Cano 7.5 (Utley +5.1)
        2008 Utley 19.4, Cano -11.2 (Utley +30.6)
        2009 Utley 11.2, Cano -2.8 (Utley +14.0)
        2010 Utley 10.3, Cano -0.6 (Utley +10.9)
        2011 Utley 8.4, Cano -3.0 (Utley +11.4)

        So Utley was a better hitter every year through 2009, and Cano has been the better hitter the past two years.

        In 2010, Utley’s defensive advantage was bigger than Cano’s offensive one, and Utley was still the better player overall.

        In 2011, they were about equal.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        To clarify something, each player’s wOBA would first be converted to runs, and then combined with the fielding runs saved to get the overall performance.

        There’s a lot of math involved, but that’s probably what they said when someone first thought up slugging percentage of on-base percentage.

         
      • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        You know what, aladou…..you did a nice job compiling and comparing all those stats. Very impressive. But I would STILL rather have Cano on my team RIGHT NOW based on where they both are in their careers. And Chase Utley can play like crazy for the next 5 years but, unless he wins a couple of MVPs or batting titles AND gets about 1000 more hits, he not gonna get into the HOF.

         
      • Posts: 0 aladou

        Well, first, I actually agree with you that for 2012 and onwards, Cano is younger and healthier and I would also pick him.

        But it does bug me that some fans have been down on Utley the last year or two. The problem is they knew he was very good and a “gamer”, but didn’t appreciate just how good he was.

        About the HoF, five years ago I couldn’t have imagined that a starter with only 16 wins (Greinke) would win the Cy Young over several pitchers with 19, only to be topped the following year by a starter with a 13-12 record being voted past two 19-game winners and a 21-game winner.

        The times they are a-changing, my friend, and in ten years or so when Utley is eligible I would not be surprised if writers and announcers are throwing around WAR stats.

         
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Too think he was traded then rejected by the other team. Then they tried to trade him again. He was rejected for a player that i think played one game…lol

     
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      If he plays another 4 or 5 years, even at 2011 levels, he can put that sttory in his HoF induction speech. By then (10 yrs) there wii be enough acceptance of advanced stats amon the voters that he may get en support to get in.

       
      • Posts: 548 Brian Sr. of CO

        Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

        I doubt it. Most of these “advanced stats” are dying off quick then they came on the scene by most experts. Those numbers are arbitrary and truly impossible to calculate with validity as you can with Average, OPS OBP…Real stats.

         
  • Posts: 2002 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    Looking at past accomplishments is tough. Chase Utley, “The Man” was aptly named by Harry himself. Who did not love Chase Utley? If he faintly returns to his old self (power, average, overall moxy) – watch out NL. Of course we all like to dream.

     
  • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    aladou…..please….HOF??? C’mon, dude. There is no way that Chase Utley gets in to the Hall of Fame.

     
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      Based on advanced stats, he’s been one of the 4-5 best players since coming up. Those advanced stats are gaining acceptance, and by the time he’s eligible I think there will be even greater appreciation for what he’s done.

      Check out fangraphs, go to leaders. There is a way to look at the top player for the entire period of 2004-11.

       
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      Back at a computer now, so here is the link for that:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=400&type=8&season=2011&month=0&season1=2005&ind=0&team=0&players=0

      Top 10 since 2005:

      1. Pujols 55.7 WAR
      2. Utley 48.6
      3. ARod 41.7
      4. MCabrera 39.7
      5. Holiday 38.3
      6. Wright 36.8
      7. Mauer 34.4
      8. Teixeira 33.6
      9. CJones 32.3
      10. Beltran 32.2
      (11. Rollins 31.1)

       
  • Posts: 0 phil

    I expect Utley to return to being the 7 war player he is capable of being…even if he doesn’t I still expect him to be a top 3 2b(all around because defense matters too) in all of baseball behind only cano and peedee

     
  • Posts: 2002 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    The only way Chase Utley could make the HOF is by earning the MVP award, twice. Once would not do it. That, is a very long shot.

     
  • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I agree, Brooks. He just doesn’t have enough stats and awards at this point in his career and time is running out. And I don’t think advanced stats will make one bit of difference……. this is the Baseball Hall of Fame we’re talking about…..they don’t really take that into consideration.

     
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      Just as they are starting to for annual awards (Greinke, Felix), they will for the HoF as well.

       
  • Posts: 2893 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    aladou….he can have all the WAR he wants. But he needs OTHER stats to amass before he’s even close. Hell, he only has 1198 hits…at the age of 32. Joe Morgan had 1652 at age 32, Ryne Sandberg 1939 at age 32, Roberto Alomar 2196. All three of those guys finished with hits in the mid-2000′s. Chase is gonna need AT LEAST 2000 hits to even sniff the HOF….and that’s probably not even enough. I just don’t see it. Sorry, bro.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    It’s premature to talk about the ifs of HOF for Utley, especially given his injuries.

    He’s had great numbers so far, but he’s been slipping a bit the past few years. It’s not just his knee, either; I think he’s compensated for hand injuries, because from what I see, he no longer has that really quick wrist snap that he once had and has inadvertently lengthened his swing in an attempt to generate the power now lacking in his hands.

    He’s still an above average player, but I think 18/85 may be optimistic. He’ll be more of a “get on-base” guy (still very valuable) and I think the Phils will have to adjust the lineup accordingly.

    I hope I’m wrong; I really enjoy watching him drive balls hard into the gap with a last minute flip of the wrists.

     
    • Posts: 0 aladou

      Yes – it’s premature. He will get serious consideration if:

      - he plays another 4-5 years at 2011 levels, AND
      - acceptance of advanced stats continues to grow as it has in recent years

       
  • Posts: 0 phil

    Aladou is extemely accurate in his claim. He has the peak he just needs the playing time which will bring the stats you all speak of.

     
  • Posts: 0 Sandy

    INSIDE SOURCE says Utley has been working hard with an athletic trainer to build up his legs and the hip that he had surgery on. When he returned last year he was not driving the ball for distance as he did in the past. Here is hoping he gets back healthy and leads the Phils to a world series win

     
  • Posts: 0 phil

    Advanced stats are real stats and are just as valid you moron…

     
  • Posts: 0 phil

    You have to be the most uninformed and dumb posters on this site. Utley demolished cano in every stat from 05-09 besides average and any intelligent person knows obp is a lot more important than avg. And on what universe has cano ever been as good in a single season defensively as Utley? Utley is one of the best defensive 2b of all time. Cano is mediocre at best…

     
  • Posts: 0 phil

    Once again aladou is right and nobody but me is smart enough to agree. I wish i had time to elaborate further but it is finals week and nobody would believe me anyway.

     
  • Posts: 0 Dave P

    I think his inside the park homer showed he still has speed. His injury may have affected his bat, but his running was fine.

     
 
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