When Chase Utley’s name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot, it will inspire debate among voters. Utley lacks the traditional milestones for enshrinement, advanced statistics have him ranked among baseball’s best. So should Chase Utley be enshrined in Cooperstown?
Chase Utley is not going to get 3000 hits. He currently sits at 1699. He’s not going to get 500 home runs. He has 240. His career batting average is .280. He’s driven in 945 runs, and scored 996. He appeared in six All-Star games and won four Silver Slugger Awards. This is a good resume, but is it really Cooperstown worthy? To really understand we need to look a little bit deeper.
The first thing to look at is Utley’s WAR. Over the course of his career Chase Utley has compiled 62.5 WAR. To put this in perspective, here’s how Utley stacks up against current Hall of Famers:
-Roberto Alomar – 63.5 WAR
-Joe Gordon – 60.6 WAR
-Craig Biggio – 65.8 WAR
-Johnny Evers – 49.0 WAR
-Jackie Robinson – 57.2 WAR
In his prime years 2005-2009 he put up 38.5 WAR. During that stretch he was one of the best and most consistent players in baseball. It was also during that stretch that he won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies and played in another one. He’s played above-average defense. And everyone knows the damage he’s done with the bat. He has a career wOBA of .363 and an OPS of .840. Roberto Alomar’s career numbers were .359 and .814 respectively. So it’s safe to say that Utley’s offensive numbers warrant a discussion at the least.
Utley’s excellence didn’t stop at the plate though. It also spreads to the base paths. He’s consistently been one of the best baserunners in baseball, known for running hard and being able to take that extra base. Sometimes he may run too hard. Last season he became Public Enemy #1 in New York after breaking Ruben Tejada’s leg on a slide into second base, but one bad slide shouldn’t define a career where he did almost everything else right. The bottomline is that Utley, in his prime, was the complete player. There was nothing he couldn’t do on a baseball field.
Apart from the traditional knocks against Utley’s campaign, will no doubt be the length of Utley’s career. He didn’t come crack the Phillies roster until age 24, and didn’t become their full-time starter until 2005 at the age of 26. But this was no fault of his own. It was apparent that Utley was the future of the team, but the Phillies elected to stick with Placido Polanco at second base. It’s not fair to blame Utley for something that he couldn’t control.
While Utley lost games as a result of Phillies management, he also lost time to injuries. In 2011, he only played 103 games, and in 2012, he played in just 83. It’s no secret that his knees are in bad shape.
Regardless, of the arguments against him, I believe that Chase Utley should end up in Cooperstown whenever he decides to end his career. I understand that he won’t reach any of the milestones of that voters seem to love, but I also don’t care. Those numbers don’t matter in determining that Chase Utley had a great career, and was, without a doubt, one of the league’s top players. The advanced statistics show that his numbers are right there. He’s played the game the right way. He didn’t have off the field issues. He led the Phillies to two consecutive World Series appearances. What more can you ask of a player? Ultimately, I think Chase Utley marks a unique player, that can’t be measured purely off traditional statistics. Voters need to evaluate him on what he has done, and what he has done is put together a career anybody would be proud of.
Stats Courtesy of FanGraphs