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Phillies Player Review: Chase Utley

Posted by Martin Shnayder, Sat, December 14, 2013 09:45 AM | Comments: 13
2013 Player Reviews, Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

(AP)

(AP)

From 2010 through 2012, Kashmir by Led Zeppelin was noticeably absent from the speakers at Citizens Bank Park for a good chunk of games.

Chase Utley had missed a combined 185 games in the three seasons prior to 2013. The majority of that time missed was due to chondromalacia patellae in his knees. Utley was diagnosed with a chronic knee problem that left him averaging just .263 from 2010-2012 with a combined 38 home runs.

To put that in perspective, Utley had a hitting average of .302 with a combined 86 home runs from 2007-2009. It looked like the man who tied Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a World Series in 2009, was nearing the end of his career as a star second baseman and face of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.

However, Utley had a resurgence of sorts in 2013. For the first time since 2010 Utley was the starting second baseman for the Phillies on opening day. After tweaking his offseason program Utley claimed his knee problems were a thing of the past and that he was healthy. He managed to prove that by playing 131 games in 2013 his most since 2009.

The total number of games played wasn’t the only thing up for Utley in 2013, as his batting average of .284 was his highest since 2008. Utley also put up his highest isolated power average since 2009 with .191. The Phillies offense struggled mightily in 2013 and Utley was one of the few players on the team who was able to create runs.

Utley’s wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created) was 126 which was the highest on the team and 26% above the league average. One could tell just by watching Utley play that he looked healthier and more effective. With that said, there is no denying that despite the improvement, Utley he was no longer the same all-star caliber second baseman that he’d been from 2005-2010, especially on defense.

The one part of Chase’s game that has rapidly declined is his defense. Utley’s 17 errors last season were his most since 2006. The 2013 season marked the first time in Utley’s career where he had a dWAR in the negatives, at -0.2. Prior to this past season Utley had never had a dWAR below 1.0 aside from 2003 when he played in his first 43 games as a pro. It’s going to be difficult for the Phillies to be successful moving forward with suspect defensive play from Utley. It remains to be seen if this is an area of Utley’s game that can be recovered.

On August 7th, Utley signed a two-year contract extension worth $27 million. However, the contract can max out at five years and $75 million due to certain vesting options. If Utley can stay healthy he will get paid. If he doesn’t, 2015 could be his last season in a Phillies uniform.

It’s clear the Phillies need Utley (and some others) to stay healthy to be a playoff team again. He may never put up all-star numbers again, but the Phillies offense can be successful if he puts up similar numbers to 2013.

It was clear that he was able to use his knees more to drive the ball when batting, always a great sign for an aging hitter. The power that had been painfully missing from him the previous few years seemed to return. Most importantly, Utley’s presence and work ethic in the clubhouse is something the Phillies front office and fans alike cherish. Utley can still produce, especially offensively at a position where getting offense is difficult.

Grade B+:
A lot of this grade has to do with Utley remaining healthy for the majority of the season. On top of that he was one of the few Phillies who were productive at the plate for an entire season. The questions that loom as we approach 2014 is if he can remain healthy and improve defensively. Those questions remain unanswered, however, Utley’s 2013 showed that he is back. Phillies fans would love to hear Kashmir blasting through the Citizens Bank Park speakers for all 81 home games in 2014.

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About Martin Shnayder

Martin Shnayder has written 14 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

    Well done article Martin. I had stated in the previous thread about Rollins slow decline in his play at SS, in how it affects the pitching with balls going through blah blah. Like Rollins, Chase should have been let go to be a FA. Personally I think Chase can still produce close to what he once was offensively but as you stated his errors was a concern. I don’t know if it was just a fluke or if it was a trend starting. He didn’t seem to be lacking in his lateral movement. And I don’t know if a majority of his errors were throwing. (it seemed like it) or if the first basemen’s lack of fielding was the cause.
    I say Chase should have been allowed to go the FA route simply cause we have a guy ready to play second in Cesar Hernandez. Is he a chase Utley? No! But if he can produce the numbers he put up in AAA he’ll be fine. The rebuilding has to start. I don’t think with all the health and aging issues that the Phillies will finish at best no higher than 3rd. There are simply too many question marks as there was last year.
    Chase is one of my all time favorite players. His approach and knowledge and just flat out heads up play, hustle and base running is a tribute of a special player. He would be missed. But it’s time to move on. We could trade him to a contender mid season when we’re out of it and get something of value but I don’t know if Rubes the guy to handle this. We have replacement players coming up. Let them play as these other core guys got the chance. Did we know the core guys were going to become the player they did? Not really but they got the chance. Carlos is another one. Love the guy but hey! It’s time to rebuild. You don’t do that with signing aging players who will not get any better, only worse.

     
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    If Howard falters, then I would put Utley at first base. Highly touted Hernandez could play second base. I hope health is NOT an issue once the season starts

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      In that case I would rather have Ruf and Utley in the lineup than Hernandez and Utley.

       
      • Posts: 0 wbramh

        Schmenk, Point well taken – plus Ruf’s power output. No contest.
        Of course, both perform best in the infield but that’s another issue.

        Hernandez:
        vs. Left .295 .286 .581
        vs. Right .368 . 354 .722

        Ruf:
        vs. Left .309 .348 .657
        vs. Right .363 .500 .863

         
  • Posts: 0 schmenkman

    Martin, you started by referring to Fangraphs stats with wRC+ (rightly, as that’s the best single hitting metric), but for some reason switched to baseball reference for fielding stats.

    Sticking to FG and UZR, which I think is the better fielding metric, shows that Utley was still above average in 2013. In fact, out of 19 qualifying second basemen, Utley had the 8th best UZR/150 (UZR per 150 games).

     
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    If I believed in miracles, Utley’s return to form would be at the top of my list of probables, his higher error rate, notwithstanding.

    Chase was one of the few bright spots on this team.

    OTHER BRIGHT BLESSINGS OF JOY FOR THE NEW YEAR…

    Another bright spot (IMO) was Jake Diekman and at the very moment it appeared nothing good would come out of the bullpen no matter how many arms were paraded through it..

    It’s hard not to include Dom Brown on that positive list even though I still have misgivings as a future multi-tool player. Still, not many players can have the 1/3rd season he enjoyed (with two interruptive injuries) and still finish with 27 home runs and a team-leading 83 RBIs.

    I’d also be remiss by not acknowledging Ben Revere’s improved performance before his unfortunate foot injury – although I’m still waiting for him to hit a ball to the wall on a dribbler – or throw the ball to the infield on a dribbler.

    Kudos go to Darin Ruf for trying his darndest to improve in a position he’s not naturally suited for – and for just being a survivor despite management’s apparent indifference to his continued existence. Like Revere the kid is likable and trying.

    And kudos to MiniMart for playing on a professional baseball team, a profession he’s not naturally suited for. A shoutout to the Pittsburgh Pirates is also due here.

    I’d also be remiss if I didn’t congratulate every fan in this city for being lucky enough to have called Roy Halladay a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Okay, those are my saccharine comments for the month. Any more and you’ll all go into diabetic shock.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled bitchfest.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      It’s very refreshing to read something positive on this site. Personally, I don’t give a hoot if all the usual nay-sayers DO go into diabetic shock.

       
      • Posts: 0 wbramh

        Thanks George,

        Often guilty of being one of those naysayers myself, an occasional reality check is needed to reestablish the facts and maybe cleanse the soul a bit – but remember above all else, why I’m a baseball fan.

         
  • [...] Phillies Nation -¬†Phillies Player Review: Chase Utley [...]

     
  • Posts: 0 Hogey's Role

    Chase utley is one of my all time favorite players, love watching him play the game with his hard-nosed all out style…

    One of the all time greats

     
  • Posts: 0 Fat Joe

    Too generous grade. Considering Utley abysmal defense, B- or C would be more accurate.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      If by “abysmal” you mean above average, and by “too generous” you mean about right, than I agree.

      He was the 2nd best second baseman in the NL (behind only Carpenter). B+ isn’t generous at all.

       
    • Posts: 0 wbramh

      Other than errors, Utley was among the top 10 second basemen in baseball in pretty much every important category and I believe the errors were an anomaly based on still not recovering full motion post knee injuries. He had a long haul just to walk normally again yet alone run. I’d give him a D- on errors (I can’t give him an F because the errors were not from lack of talent), but he gets an A for his bat work and base-running smarts and an A+++ for pure unadulterated guts.
      Weighted final score: B++

      The man never ceases to amaze me.
      He doesn’t even flinch when he gets hit in the back by a 95 mph fastball.
      Unbelievable that he’s not playing from a wheelchair considering his knee issues.
      He’s just… well… unbelievable!

       
 
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