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Analyzing Utley’s Struggles

Lost in the talk about the Phils biggest fall to date is the struggles of Chase Utley. Michael Radano of the Courier Post had a quote from Charlie Manuel about his best hitter’s problems.

“That’s part of the game. Good hitters hit slumps … It’s noticed a lot, especially when you go two or three games and don’t get a hit. He’ll be OK. I’ll put my money on Utley.”

This is the second known time this season Utley has gone through a slump, but really, since early June he’s been in a wide-angle slide. Since June 3 his average has plummeted from .325 to a now season-low .287. His on-base percentage is at a season-low .370, and his slugging percentage is also at its worst, at .566.

Not that Utley is a big walker, but since June 4, Utley has walked just 13 times. He has struck out 29 times in that span.

Looking deeper, his current stats suggest he’s hitting more fly balls than ever (0.73 GB/FB ratio, compared to 0.89 career). His batting average of balls in play is .288, which is way down from his career .324 (and his 2007 .368). This suggests he’s just hitting balls right to fielders. He’s not hitting the ball on the barrel. His timing seems off.

Interestingly, this slide started at almost the same time the New York Times published a piece on Utley’s then-MVP season. A telling quote from stud Cincinnati pitcher Edinson Volquez undermined the piece:

“Utley, I think this is a little hole he’s got right now, changeups inside. He can hit fastball down and in. Fastball away, he’s going to kill you. I have a good changeup. I just use my changeup.”

Could it be that Volquez’ quote rang throughout baseball? That he’s getting more changeups inside? Or is it Utley’s problem, that he’s just a little lost, that he’ll balance back out into a .300 hitter?

Whatever it is, the Phillies desperately need Utley to perform much better if they’re going to have a shot down the stretch.

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