Phillies Player Review: Chase Utley

Posted by Corey Seidman, Wed, November 07, 2012 10:30 AM | Comments: 28
2012 Player Reviews

Chase Utley's 2012 on-base percentage was 89 points higher than his replacements.

How does Chase Utley do it?

For the second straight year in 2012, chronic knee pain kept him out for much of the first half of the season. But just like 2011, once Utley returned, he was good to go every day.

Utley returned in the Phillies 77th game, homered in his very first at-bat and proceeded to play 83 of the remaining 86 games, including 71 of the final 72.

He played at a high level, too. Utley hit .256, his lowest batting average since his rookie season, but had as many walks (43) as strikeouts. The result was a .365 on-base percentage. More impressive was the return of his power. Utley hit 11 homers to equal his 2011 total, but he did it in 92 fewer plate appearances.

Utley was obviously a huge upgrade over his first-half replacements. Freddy Galvis, Michael Martinez, Mike Fontenot and Pete Orr combined for a .670 OPS. Utley was at .793. Utley’s OBP was 89 points higher.

Among second basemen with at least 350 plate appearances, Utley led the NL in OBP. The only 2B in the league with a higher slugging percentage was Aaron Hill.

Defensively, Utley saved eight runs in 720.1 innings. Only second basemen Darwin Barney, Robinson Cano and Jamey Carroll saved runs at a higher rate.

On the basepaths, Utley was 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts to boost his career success rate to 89.6 percent, the highest in major-league history.

Utley is fielding grounders regularly this offseason and will try different methods to be better prepared for the start of next season. Based on how effective he was in the second half last year, there is a semblance of hope that he can re-capture the offensive magic he had from 2005-09

And even if he can’t, Utley has proven that the watered-down, 33-year-old version of himself is still one of the top second basemen in all of baseball.


Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 579 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    The prescription is: more Utley.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H.

    you’ve got to be kidding me. this guy is an absolute shell of himself. how can phils fans continue to trash ryan howard, despite his numerous (and way more serious than utley’s) injuries, yet give utley a pass over and over?

    I don’t mean to kill chase utley, I’m just sick of the hypocrisy in phils fans between the way we treat utley and the way we treat howard.

  • Posts: 0 George

    I couldn’t give a guy such a high grade for playing in as few games as Utley did.

    He’s fine when he plays, but that doesn’t mean he’s the great player he once was. He may be better than most even with bad knees, but he’s not that big of an aid when he’s on the DL so much.

    I just hope he can play at this year’s level for an entire season. Then he would deserve that high mark.

    • Posts: 0 Jaron B

      I agree, George. The grade is WAY too high for a guy who missed so much time. I’d give him a C+/B-. Great season once he came back, no doubt. I hope he misses 0 time at the beginning of next year. If he has the same season OVER a year… THEN you give him the A-.

      One thing I;d like to add is that I think Manuel should have rested him 1-3 more times during the second half.

      Here’s to things looking up!

  • Posts: 0 davehist

    Why do these fans want to trash Chase Utley so much? Last spring they kept inferring that somehow Utley had damaged his knees as some sort of trick on the team and its fans. What I saw when he returned was a guy who played at full speed all the time, just as he always has, and a guy who did whatever he could for his team. Sure, he’s older, but I’m still very happy to have Chase Utley as our second baseman.

  • Posts: 0 phil

    Utley is a much better player than Howard that’s why

    • Posts: 0 Ryan H.

      you see! this is exactly what I’m talking about. because what you have just said is COMPLETELY UNTRUE! Howard has put up all time great numbers. hall of fame type numbers. Howard has produced at levels not seen by people not named Ruth or Bonds . to say that utley is a better player is like saying Mitt Romney won the election last night. its living in an alternate universe that is devoid of the facts.

      • Posts: 817 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        Phil’s right, actually.

        Utley went from being one of the best 2 or 3 players in all of baseball in 2005-09, and arguably the best second baseman this side of Joe Morgan in the last 50 years, to “only” being one of the 2 or 3 best at his position (granted, as others have said, when he’s on the field).

        Howard has gone from being one of the 2 or 3 best at his position, to… well, to be fair to him, I think it’s best to see exactly what he has left next year when hopefully he’ll be fully healed. I don’t believe, unlike many others, that he actually declined much in 2008-2011, but he will be 33 (as of Nov 17), so some decline is probably inevitable.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

    The obvious problem here is that Utley is only “one of the top second basemen in all of baseball” when he actually plays. He hasn’t played a full season since 2009, and there’s not much reason to believe that he will in 2013.

  • Posts: 0 Betasigmadeltashag

    Would have to disagree that there is little hope for Chase to play 120 + games in 2013. First his limited action and a few extra weeks off with no playoffs may be a great benifit for next year. I think if be is ready in spring training Charlie should still give him a day or two off every ten days in April may and June. If he does and ChAse plays 130 games he will be a 23 hr 90 RBI guy

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    Utley is a mere shadow of his old self. I still love his heart, but his bat just is not the same. I hope he has a better year in 2013,but I honestly have my doubts. Next year will likely be his last year as a Phil. He is our greatest second baseman of all time. My fingers are crossed for him.

  • Posts: 0 phil

    Utley even at half a season was our 3rd best position player. And as for Howard he’s a joke. He had one season that was the kind of season a hall of famer wouldhhave. Utley from 05-09 was the best player in baseball not named Albert pujols. Even now Utley is still leaps and bounds better than Howard. You’re not taking position into account at all or elite defensive play at a premium position. The other thing nobody is taking into account is that offense is down all around baseball. Utley has declined but it isn’t as bad as some are suggesting. His decline from 09 to now is more about an overall decline since then in the sport than his health or age. They can be attributed but not as much as everyone is suggesting.

  • Posts: 0 George

    As I said earlier, I couldn’t give Utley such a high grade because of limited playing time.

    But I also can’t go along with the trash comments about him. He may be a shadow, but it’s still a pretty darned big one, blotting out many of the other second basemen in the game.

    I also can’t go along with trashing Howard. He’s driven in tons of runs and hit lots of homers. I know sabermetrics guys don’t count those things highly, but 40/140 is a gigantic help to any offense. This year, on 1 1/2 legs, with no real training period, he still managed to be productive. So what if he doesn’t play a premium position. There have been loads of great players who haven’t. David Ortiz never gets complaints about that “premium position” crap, and he plays no defensive position at all.

  • Posts: 4649 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    When healthy, I like them both. I’m not sure I understand why it has to be one or the other. Whatever. Nice write up Corey.

  • Posts: 0 phil

    David Ortiz is an excellent hitter and doesn’t add negative value on defense granted he would if he played in the field. Ryan Howard is just straight up a had player. He posted a negative war this year and barely any positive in offensive war. Chase Utley now and for his entire career has been a lot better and it really isn’t even close. Comparing Utley to Howard aside from 06 is like comparing Howard to Nick punto and I’m not even really exaggerating.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Who’s comparing? Certainly not me. I was only pointing out that Howard is far more valuable than haters like yourself seem to think.

    You seem to expect an injured player to be at 250%.

    I can’t stand trash talkers like you, and will no longer read any of your sh**.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    For the time that chase played he played really well. I’m just learning these stats, but he had the 5th best wOBP for 2nd baseman and as Corey said, the 2nd best OBP for NL 2nd basemen. He also had the 3rd highest WAR/Game for 2nd basemen with over 80 games and 9th overall for second baseman. I’d give him a B+/A- for the time he played. Everyone will have there own weighting based on games played, but it’s a C+/B- IMO if you deduct for time played.

  • Posts: 0 phil

    The thing is though Utley approached a 4 war in half a season. That is at least a B with missed time included. You will be hard pressed to find many players in baseball that are that valuable over a full season. And as for the person crying who said I’m a Howard hater I’m not. I am just saying he isn’t that good of a player anymore and only had one truly great season in 06. In 07-09 he was still a very good player but he isn’t even a decent player anymore he’s just bad. I hope he rebounds to at least be decent. I like him as a player and a person. I’m just saying he isn’t good anymore.

  • Posts: 0 Bill

    I don’t think you can count on Utley for more than 120 games. Although I do expect that he will be more productive at the plate, I think it is overly optimistic to think he will be a .300 hitter 30 homerun guy again. I think he is more a .280 15-20 guy.


  • Posts: 0 phil

    Batting average isn’t nearly as important as on base and Utley still gets on base well above league average. Even if he only plays 120 games and still puts up a 5 war I would still rather have him than a 2B that plays 160 games and puts up a 2 war. His replacement in those other 40 games would have to put up a -3 war to make his time missed a wash and most players aren’t that bad not even mini mart

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    Still love him but he ain’t what he was. 250 ain’t .280 or even 300. He plays hard, etc but he is not the threat he was. I would like to see him leadoff. Your #3 hole hitter is supposed to be your best. If 250 is our best we are cooked.

    • Posts: 0 Phillies fan from Germany

      Have you even read Phils statement? Batting avg is one of the most flawd stats in baseball. It is about getting on base and hitting for power. Of course, Utley is in decline compared to his peak, but he is still providing good ofensive value while handling a demanding defensive position (compared to 1B and corner OF) very well.

      I really hope we can 40-50 additional games out of Chase next year since that alone would be worth 1-2 additional wins.

  • Posts: 0 hk

    To me, the most interesting stat about Utley’s season was that he played 71 of the last 72 games. When combined with the fact that Utley apparently claimed that he felt better last year than he did at any time in 2011, that stat gives me hope that maybe he can play a significant number of games next year. It also makes me ask why didn’t Charlie rest him more?

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    His on-base percentage was the second lowest mark of his career and anyone who watched the Phillies this year knows that the opposing teams employed a different strategic approach this year… pitching around Utley to get to Howard… so you would expect his OBP to be higher in light of that.

    In my opinion, an A- is a very generous grade. I think that you have to factor in the time that he spent not contributing to the team at all (on the DL). And the difference between Howard and Utley is that Utley was expected to start the season with the big league club… we relied on him to contribute as a starter (as there were no indications that would not be the case) and that did not manifest itself. If I would have told you that Utley was going to post the numbers he posted prior to the start of this season, would you have been happy with those numbers? Would you have said, “Well, that sounds like an A- season to me…” I don’t think so. He gets a C+ in my book… he grades higher than Howard because, relative to his position (second base in the NL is extremely weak), he was probably one of the best out there whereas Howard was one of the worst but relative to our expectations for Utley as our 3-hole hitter – the guy that was going to carry us while Howard was on the mend – I’d say he did not live up to my expectations.

  • Posts: 0 phil

    His on base percentage declined with the rest of the league. If obp is down throughout all of baseball one can expect every player’s OBP to drop including Utleys

  • Posts: 0 schmenkman

    Things we can all agree to:

    1. Utley is not the player he used to be
    2. Utley is not helping the team when he’s hurt

    Things we should be able to agree to, because the facts are pretty clear:

    1. When he’s on the field, Utley is still a very (very) good baseball player. He played at a 6-WAR pace this year. There were only 16 players in all MLB (including 2 pitchers) who compiled 6 WAR.
    2. Unless you replace him with Cano, who would be a modest improvement, there is really no way for the Phillies to improve at second base if Utley plays anything close to a full season.
    3. Even if Utley only plays half a season, he still provides more value than all but a handful of MLB second basemen.

    • Posts: 4649 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Agreed. But I don’t think we have to worry about number 3. I think he finally learned what he had to do to get on the field and stay there while in Arizona working with whoever helped him there.
      Try typing with your fingers crossed some day, it’s not easy but I just did it.

  • Posts: 0 smitty

    Schmenkman you nailed it.

    Utley at something less than his prime is still an elite player. He is 33, he is slowing down, and the wear and tear of the position is showing. That said, he is still an extraordinarily valuable player for all of the sabermetric reasons cited above.

    My sense is that Utley fights with Charley about being taken out – and Charley gives in. I agree, 71 out of 72 games is amusing but actually he began to wear down in the last 8 games or so as his production dropped precipitously. His approach with taking pitches and working counts are invaluable to the rest of the lineup. He remains one of the most tactically intelligent on-field baseball players to ever play the game – check all the highlights. Even at 75% of the prime Chase he is still a vital part of the team.

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