Posted by Brady
This is the first in a series of posts that will examine the modern greats. Those who are on the fast track for the Hall of Fame. Those who aren’t locks. Yet. You won’t hear any talk about Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, or Alex Rodriguez. These are elite players who could easily have a plaque in Cooperstown after they retire, if they keep doing what they’ve done the last few years. We’re going to start the conversation with Philadelphia Phillies second sacker, Chase Utley.
You always hear about a player having all 5 tools. Speed, the ability to hit for average, the ability to hit for power, throwing, and defending. And personally, I can’t think of a finer example of a 5 tool player than Chase Utley. The coolest thing about Utley? How accurate his batting average is. He rarely relies on luck. There is a 21 point difference between his BABIP and the batting average that appears on the back of his baseball card. He’s a .293 career hitter with a .314 BABIP. It’s nice to see a hitter who relies on skill as opposed to luck.
How does his power stack up? He’s never had a full season where he hit less than 20 home runs. Even advanced statistics would consider Chase Utley a legitimate power threat. His current SLG% is .518. Which puts him above four members of the 500 home run club. Which ones? Eddie Matthews, Harmon Killibrew, Willie McCovey, Reggie Jackson, and Gary Sheffield. And while SLG% may be a flawed statistic, since it includes your singles, ISO (isolated power) subtracts your batting average from your SLG%, to give you a truer numerical representation of a batters power. Utley is at .223. Jackson is at .228, Killibrew is at .252, McCovey is at .245, Sheffield is at .222, and Matthews is at .238. What do these numbers tell us? They tell us that while Utley may not be on the same level as Killibrew, McCovey, and Matthews in the power department, he is there with Mr. October and Gary Sheffield. Not bad company. Especially for a second baseman.
Second base, which we all know is a defense first position, is where Utley plays. But, how does he play it? Very well. According to every possible metric. You traditionalists may look at his career .981 fielding percentage, and be very impressed. Then when you look at his UZR, you can see he’s played at an elite level. He’s posted an ultimate zone rating of 78.8 in his career. 78.8! Guess how many Gold Gloves he has? None.
Utley can hit for average, hit for power, play great defense, and he can run! He’s stolen 89 bases in 101 attempts. That’s a 75% success rate. He stole 23 in 2009, and was not caught. That was also his 20-20 year.
A lot of people say that Joe Morgan was the best hitting (and worst announcing) second baseman ever. A lot of people say that Bill Mazeroski is the greatest defensive second baseman ever. By the time he’s done, Utley could easily be the greatest second baseman ever. All he has to do is play 2 more years, at a similar pace, and this zero time MVP, 5 time All-Star, second baseman who has contributed 42.7 WAR (more than 6 for 5 years straight), will be a lock for immortality in Cooperstown.