Sunday, April 15, 2012

When Chase was on

Chase Utley says he shall return, but I have my doubts. Even if he does return, I fear he will no longer be Chase Utley. And that is a shame.

I'm not sure fans in Philadelphia really appreciate what they had in Chase Utley. Sure, Harry Kalas called him "The Man," but it seems to me that while Utley was certainly popular, he wasn't beloved or truly recognized for his prowess. For five seasons, though, Utley was remarkable.

From 2005 through 2009, Utley was arguably the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols.

He probably should have won at least one MVP award, if not more. But he never finished higher than seventh in the voting, suggesting he was underappreciated in more places than Philly. According to Fangraphs' WAR calculations, Utley's best season was 2008 -- and he was 14th in the MVP voting.

Utley's NL rank by WAR each year was 3rd in 2005, 3rd in 2006, 3rd in 2007, 2nd in 2008 and 2nd in 2009. For those five years, Utley averaged .301, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 111 runs and 15 SB while playing sterling defense.

Oh yeah, he also made one of the best defensive plays in World Series history that no one seems to talk about, either. (Not to mention a memorable effing speech following the victory parade.)

Using cumulative WAR for 2005 through 2011, Utley trailed only Pujols in all of MLB. Alex Rodriguez was third. That's even after his offensive production began to drop a little bit in 2010.

According to Fangraphs' adjusted weighted runs created stat (wRC+), Utley is tied with Rod Carew as the sixth-best offensive second baseman since 1900, behind Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Joe Morgan and Jackie Robinson.

I don't believe WAR or wRC+ to be the definitive words on a player's career, but they do provide some context. And it says here Chase Utley was The Man. Hopefully, he can be The Man again.

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