|Chase Utley continues adding to his Hall of Fame resume|
In the bottom of the 8th inning on Friday night at Dodgers Stadium, Chase Utley added yet another milestone to his growing Baseball Hall of Fame resume.
Utley drove a 91 mph fastball from Kansas City Royals reliever Neftali Feliz off the base of the center field wall. As Utley hustled to second base with a double, Joc Pederson rounded third and scored a run to put the Dodgers on top by a 3-1 score.
As Pederson crossed the plate, Utley officially reached a milestone. He became the ninth active player in Major League Baseball to reach the 1,000 career RBI mark.
Utley is now 38 years old and appearing in his 15th season in the big leagues. In 13 of those seasons he became a legend with the Philadelphia Phillies.
His first career hit was a grand slam homer at Veteran’s Stadium. The first runner to cross the plate with Utley’s first career RBI on that blast was none other than Jim Thome.
Now as Utley winds down his career in Los Angeles, his career statistics and reputation continue to pile up, adding to what should one day be a relatively easy decision for Hall of Fame voters.
THE UTLEY STATISTICAL CASE
Utley is a six-time National League All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner. He has finished in the top ten of NL Most Valuable Player voting three times.
With 255 career long balls, Utley is now 7th on the all-time MLB list of home runs by players who were primarily second basemen during their career. Six of the seven are in the Hall of Fame.
Utley ranks 6th all-time in National League home runs by a second baseman. He is 3rd in OPS, 7th in RBI, 9th in Doubles, 11th in Runs, and 14th in Hits.
Those are all-time rankings. More than 800 players have appeared in at least one game at second base in their careers. There have been 90 players with at least 1,000 career games at the position.
With a career WAR mark of 64.6 he ranks 94th among all players to ever appear in Major League Baseball. Utley recently passed Hall of Fame legends Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey, Dave Winfield, and the Phillies own Richie Ashburn for career WAR. He is now hot on the heels of a second baseman just elected to the Hall, Craig Biggio.
Though he has never swiped more than 23 bases in any one campaign, Utley is well-known as one of the best base runners of recent years. His 87.57 career Stolen Base Percentage is the second-best mark in MLB history. He was famously nicknamed “The Man” by legendary Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas after just such a play in the 2006 season.
UTLEY’S UNDERRATED DEFENSE
Utley has not only been an offensive force at the Keystone position, but he has also been a far greater defensive player than often given credit.
His remarkable play in the 7th inning of the 2008 World Series is one of the two greatest defensive plays in the 134-years of Phillies history. What became known as “Utley’s Deke” kept that Fall Classic game tied late. The Phils would then score themselves, and clinch the crown two innings later.
In three different seasons, Utley led all MLB second basemen in Range Factor/Game. He finished second two other times, and has eight seasons in the Top 10 at the position. His 4.68 career mark is currently sixth among all active players at second base.
His 52 Total Zone runs rank him 22nd all-time at the position. While Utley has never won a Gold Glove Award, the fact remains that any attempt to paint him as one-dimensional is simply ignorant.
JAWS measurements for Hall of Fame worthiness also reveal that Utley has a strong case. The average Hall of Fame second basemen have a 56.9 JAWS mark, 69.4 WAR, and a 7-year peak WAR of 44.5. Utley’s totals are 56.8, 64.6, and 49.1 respectively.
UTLEY WITH THE DYNASTIC PHILLIES
During his peak years, Utley was clearly the top second baseman in the game. He was a key member of five consecutive Phillies division winners, two NL pennant winners, and the 2008 World Series champions.
Two of Utley’s teammates, Ryan Howard in 2006 and Jimmy Rollins in 2007, won NL MVP Awards during that time. Cole Hamels was the MVP of both the 2008 NLCS and World Series. Howard was the 2009 NLCS Most Valuable Player.
But everyone who followed the Phillies will tell you that no player was more valuable to the sustained success of that team over the entire half-dozen or so years in which they were contenders than was Utley.
UTLEY IN THE POSTSEASON
Utley came up big in the postseason as well. He memorably crushed five home runs in the Phillies six-game defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. Utley has 10 career home runs, 27 RBI, and 40 runs scored in his postseason career.
Utley has already made his mark in Philadelphia. He is the single most popular Phillies player of the last three decades. He will continue to be celebrated at Citizens Bank Park for decades. One day not long after his retirement, he will be enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
No, Utley is not Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, or Mike Schmidt. Yes, there are other players for whom an argument can be made belong in the Hall of Fame, but who have not yet been elected. Those statements have nothing at all to do with Utley’s worthiness.
Chase Utley belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Voters will get their first shot at electing him at some point in the early-mid 2020’s. Considering past votes on players such as Utley, I doubt that he makes it on the first ballot.
But at some point, let’s hope those voters get it right. At some point before those 2020’s are out, Phillies (and Dodgers) fans should be able to travel to Cooperstown, New York and admire a plaque describing Utley’s Hall of Fame career.