Although the 2015 season for the Philadelphia Union technically starts on March...
Is Chase Utley a Hall of Famer?
Chase Utley has long been considered one of the best 2nd basemen and players of his generation. His work ethic, attitude, drive and knack for timely hitting have made him one of the most beloved athletes in Philadelphia. Under the leadership of Utley and other players such as Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins; as well as manager Charlie Manuel, the Phillies saw 5 division titles, 2 National League Championship series, and a World Series in 2008. He also is tied with Billy Martin for most homeruns by a 2nd baseman in a World Series career, something Utley did in 9 games compared to Martin’s 27. Since the finalists for the Hall of Fame ballot were just announced it made me curious which current Phillies would make the Hall of Fame? Specifically I thought about Chase Utley, a player, who despite all his injuries and missed time is still arguably one of the best second basemen ever and certainly of his era. So does Chase Utley deserve to be in the hall of fame? The answer is yes.
Statistically speaking, Utley is one of the best 2nd basemen in the modern era. In Utley’s 7 best years he compiled a WAR7 (Wins Above Replacement over a player’s 7 best years) of 49.1, that’s a number that puts Utley ahead of Hall of Famers and all-time greats such as Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and Bill Mazerowski, just to name a few. In regular WAR Chase ranks 16th once again ahead of players like Mazerowski, Jeff Kent, and Nellie Fox. Utley is also 12th all-time home runs by a 2nd basemen with 217. With 8 more this season he will hold sole possession of the 10th spot and he should climb to about 7th or 8th by the time his career is all over. He also ranks 5th all-time in both OPS and Slugging %.
The issue with Utley has never been his ability on the diamond but rather his ability to stay on it. Ever since 2009 when Chase played in 156 games and made his 5th consecutive all-star appearance, he has played in 433 out of 648 possible games. Without a doubt durability has been the issue with Utley. However if you take Utley’s career stats and project them out of the course of a 162 game season he averages 27 homeruns, 99 RBIS, 16 stolen bases, and a slash line of .287/.373/.498. Those are hall of fame type numbers. All of which are better than the 162 game averages of Ryne Sandberg, and all but OBP are better than hall of famer Joe Morgan’s career numbers. His home run projections are equal to Jeff Kent who is the positions all-time leader in home runs. While projections are just that, projections, they still show how effective Utley is when he is in the lineup, especially when compared to hall of fame player such as Sandberg, Morgan, Mazerowski, and others.
When all is said and done the biggest knocks against Utley’s career will be his durability and lack of individual awards to compliment his incredible statics, Utley has no MVPs or Gold Gloves despite his 5 all-star appearances, and 4 silver sluggers. While they take Utley from a sure fire Hall of Famer to a borderline, my determining factors were this: Was Utley the best second basemen of his era? And can you tell the story of baseball and of 2nd basemen without talking about Chase Utley? As for being the best 2nd basemen of his era I have to say he was absolutely. His prime years from 2005-2010 were some of the greatest years for a second basemen in the modern era. From 2005-2010 he averaged 27 homeruns, 95 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .298/.388/.523 slash line, numbers that are just unprecedented from the position. Also when you look at who else has played second base over this era of baseball is there anyone you would really rather have than Utley when you look at the entire body of work? In recent years it would be easier to say Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox or Robinson Cano, who is currently a free agent, but when looking at the bulk of a career Utley is clearly the better option and his best seasons are better than the best seasons of just about anyone else. Jeff Kent is another popular answer. When it comes to power hitting second basemen Kent and Utley are two of the best all time without a doubt. However, Utley was better at getting on base and when he got on base Utley was much more productive in on the basepaths. While Utley and Kent will never be mistaken for Omar Vizquel out in the field, Utley’s career fielding percentage of .982 edges out Kent’s .978 and all around Utley seems to avoid some of the mental lapses Kent used to have in the field. As to my second question I just can’t talk about the history of the sport in the modern era or the position without talking about Utley, during his prime years he was just that dominant. Utley had a great bounce back season this year where he was able to mostly stay on the field and was very productive. Even now Chase Utley gets my vote for the Hall of Fame based upon his dominance at the position and past precedent. However, if Chase can have a few more seasons like he did in 2013, Chase Utley may be impossible to keep out of
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