Is Chase Utley Really Declining? – Phillies Nation
Analysis

Is Chase Utley Really Declining?

Spurred by Bill Baer’s Wednesday post on Baseball Analytics discussing Ryan Howard’s apparent decline, I started thinking about whether Chase Utley may be facing the same fate already.

The harsh reality of an aging core is one no front office or fanbase ever really wants to deal with, but that time has arrived for the Phillies. Assuming Domonic Brown starts the year in right field as Jayson Werth’s replacement, and no other changes are made to the starting eight position players, Brown will be the only starter under 30 on Opening Day 2011. Raul Ibanez will turn 39 in June. Placido Polanco is 35. Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz will be 32, and joining them will be Utley, following a season in which Chase added “surgically-repaired thumb” to his list of ailments.

Is age necessarily a forebear for poor performance? Not really. One hundred thirty-six players have hit at least 100 homers after turning 32, and a guy with a skill set like Utley’s – compact swing, good discipline – is likely to age pretty well, assuming good health.

What’s got me curious, however, is the notion that Utley is on the decline. Did he have a good postseason? No, I’m not sure anyone will argue that for very long. His defense was a little shaky and he hit just .212/.325/.333 in his 40 playoff plate appearances, but people seem to forget that Utley’s September/early October was much better over a bigger stretch of PAs. Chase hit .306/.420/.491 with five homers and 10 extra-base hits in 131 PAs in the season’s final month-plus.

Let’s take a look at Utley the same way Mr. Baer did in his article, by utilizing the ever-wonderful tools provided by the folks at Baseball Analytics. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see some data that supports either side of the decline argument. To start, the following three graphics are maps of Utley’s SLG against “hard” pitches – basically any pitch around 85 MPH or faster – from 2008, 2009 and 2010.

On the top row, we see 2008 and 2009’s slugging heat maps, with 2010 nestled below. It seems that, while Chase still handles hard pitches down and in, his overall plate coverage seems to have diminished. Pitches on the outer half weren’t driven for nearly as many extra-base hits in 2010.

Let’s put this concretely: in 2008, Utley slugged .768 with a 24.2 percent line drive rate on those hard pitches on the outer half. In 2009, he slugged .855, but with a greatly decreased 16.5 percent line drive rate. What really gets interesting is that, in 2010, Utley’s slugging dropped to “just” .554, but his line drive rate soared to 23.3 percent despite that.

We could simply be dealing with a sample disparity. Through all three seasons, there were no great fluctuations between Utley’s swing rate and contact rate for those hard, outer-half pitches. He did put more of those pitches in play in 2010, but the increase in line drive rate dilutes the argument for weaker contact made, somewhat.

It appears the answer isn’t in Utley’s success against hard pitches, but soft pitches, especially changeups and sliders. In 2008, Utley slugged .511 against the change. In 2009, he had a .404 SLG, and in 2010, that number dropped to .344, far below what’s expected of Chase. A large part of that could be due to a decrease in BABIP with those pitches (.364 to .358 to .250), especially since Utley is, again, still hitting line drives.

As for sliders, it seems Utley’s kryptonite is a slider from…a righty? Chase hit just .188/.325/.406, with a .316 BABIP, against sliders from righties. Compare that to 2009 (.298/.377/.511, .467 BABIP) and we have our biggest drop-off of any pitch’s stats from 2009 to 2010. Again, part of that could be BABIP fueled and could reverse in 2011 with no extra adjustment from Utley, though he did strike out more than 30 percent of the time against sliders in both years. This is the closest I’ve come to evidence supporting some sort of dramatic decline.

Graphically, though, Utley seems to be handling RHP sliders where they’re pitched the most.

The sliders that catch the plate are handled rather easily, and those that miss outside the zone aren’t often put in play (as expected). The sliders that do dive down and in on the black, however, do seem to pose a bit of an issue. The lack of color on the in play map tells us that Utley either takes those pitches or doesn’t make good contact, but only 25 pitches found that red/yellow spot on the inside black, not nearly enough to be truly problematic (Utley saw 154 total sliders from righties in 2010, so only 16 percent of the sliders Utley saw hit that spot).

The conclusion here is unclear. The numbers clash and conflict across the board, and there’s no clear pattern like the one Mr. Baer found with Howard. Hard stuff doesn’t really do the trick, changeup struggles seem BABIP fueled and without any particular major flaw on Utley’s part, and the closest thing we have to a definitive answer (the slider) doesn’t really feel definitive enough to shoulder the full weight of this argument.

I’m wondering if I’m dealing with a red herring. For all we know, these numbers could simply be year-to-year fluctuation based on luck. Unfortunately, the data runs out in 2008, so expanded samples aren’t possible. What are we left with, then? It’s tough to say. Every point of data seems counterbalanced, and there’s no true lean in any direction.

All this really tells me is that Utley may simply be susceptible to the effect of aging, with hip and thumb surgeries certainly not helping the cause. So, perhaps he is declining, but that decline certainly isn’t dramatic or alarming. Every player with decline at some point in their careers, and Chase Utley is no exception, but there doesn’t seem to be any imminent collapse around the corner for Utley, at least as far as these numbers go, and I would expect him to have another Chase-esque year in 2011.

66 Comments

66 Comments

  1. Bart Shart

    November 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I love Chase Utley. Injuries have, in my opinion, expedited his decline. Hip and thumb injuries are critical. They take a long time to heal. Chase comes back quickly from them. They must take their toll. I think the Phils should consider Chase in left field, find a decent second baseman or third baseman and possibly move Polanco to second base. Just one man’s opinion. Also, Chase may come back stronger than ever in 2011 when all these injuries heal. I certainly hope so.

  2. Bart Shart

    November 11, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Orlando Hudson is available as a second baseman. He is gold-glove caliber and a decent hitter. Is Ibanez worth his contract next year? I personally saw a very slow bat in the playoffs against the Giants. At this point he is a very expensive utility player. I think that putting Chase in left field will prolong the playing time of a great player.

  3. Paul Boye

    November 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Chase isn’t moving to left field.

  4. Bart Shart

    November 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Paul, your article was well-researched for sure. Well written and I thought that it did point to Chase Utley’s aging based on his declining ability to handle hard outside pitches. However, that could be due to injury factors, and injuries do indeed add to the aging factor in any athlete, especially extremely vital areas like hips and thumbs, especially in professional baseball players where hands are so important to success. In 2009 we did see a slight decline that was small, but that declline was larger in 2010. I do not know how long Chase will be outstanding at second base based on a pitiful defensive performance at second base. It could be an oddity, but I really do not think so.

  5. The Dipsy

    November 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Paul – Yes he will. I’ll make you a little wager that Chase will be the starting Phils’ LFer on Opening Day 2012.

    The Dipsy

  6. Bart Shart

    November 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    When I say “pitiful performance” at second base, I am citing Chase’s showing in the playoffs. I think Utley is a great player. I hope I am wrong about his decline. But I am very concerned and believe that a change in position might help him.

  7. jeff of Nova

    November 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Let’s be realistic here, Chase has shown great flashes and great plays at 2nd but…. he has not been consistent there. Many have said he is Gold glove type 2nd basemen… wel we are at the point in his career where he is not an up and coming player he is in his prime. He is what he is.

  8. Phylan

    November 11, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Chase has been consistently excellent at 2B since 2005. I don’t mean to be a jerk but I think you’re allowing a few high profile bad throws to cloud your perception

  9. Paul Boye

    November 11, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I watched a metric ton of baseball this year, and when he was healthy, there was no one better in the field at second in the NL than Chase Utley. People watch 9 playoff games and think the guy is a wreck because more people care about the playoffs. I get that.

    But to watch Chase Utley play defense at 2B is a luxury. Not only does the guy hit, he’s got an excellent, excellent glove with supreme range. He gets to more balls in play than just about any other fielder.

    Moving him to the outfield is a waste, premature and the absolute wrong move to make for this team.

  10. jeff of Nova

    November 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    He has been good not an excellent fielder. He has been an execellent hitter since 2005 minus most of 2010.

  11. jeff of Nova

    November 11, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I hate to put emphasis on awards cause we would all agree that they are not always correct. Chase has not been a gold glover in any year. He does make a lot of plays, but he does lack consistency over time, which is what shows a top notch fielder, such as Fielding percentage.

    Chase is one of my favorite players, I still think he has way more in the tank, not sure a move to Outfield needs to ever happen. I think he is the best overall 2B in the game but not the best fielder. He has some dynamic plays to his credit though. They throw home in the WS 08 is Historic!

  12. jt

    November 11, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Ryan howard just had a down year i mean i was the year of the pitcher,but chase on the other hand could be on a down slide i mean whens the last time he had a full season without an injury?it’s been awhile i think a move to the of in the future will be better for utley.

  13. Phylan

    November 11, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    No, he has been excellent. He’s topped +/- ratings among all second baseman consistently since 2005, and his career UZR there is 13.7. All the metrics agree, he is an elite second baseman.

    And don’t cite Gold Gloves, don’t even bother. Go look up how they’re voted on.

  14. bacardipr05

    November 11, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Left field belongs to Oswalt. The 2012 season Oswalt will be both a long relief reliever and also play left field.

  15. Kate

    November 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I’m not sure we should be talking about Chutley declining right now. As rough as I’ve been on him for the bad throws to first base in August and September and the fielding in the postseason, he spent a significant amount of time on the DL this year. Let’s wait and see what he does in 2011.

  16. bacardipr05

    November 11, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I agree with Kate if he has another bad year then we can should open the discussion about Chase declining. Im hoping he stays healthy this year.

  17. JAY-AKA-PHILLYBOY

    November 11, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    JUST STOP…………….

  18. Bill Baer

    November 11, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I’m like 99% sure Chase consistently plays hurt. I wish he’d just admit to not being healthy and take days off.

    He had almost no power on the inside part of the plate in 2010, definitely odd for him.

    http://crashburnalley.com/2010/10/21/chase-utleys-power-outage/

  19. Ryan H.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I simply cannot see how anybody can say Ryan Howard has declined in any way. If you take out the MVP year where his numbers were simply off the charts, he’s been one of the most consistent players in all of baseball with his numbers.

    Chase I am worried about though. he just can’t stay healthy. he’s banged up.

  20. Chuck

    November 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    I guess we need to listen to Geoff…

    In the 11/10 thread “Odd and Ends: Samuel, Sandberg and Lee”…. Geoff is quooted as saying…

    “Chase Utley is the epitome of the lazy all talent no heart professional athlete – total stereotype. He cannot play second base all that great anymore, might as well see if anyone will ask for him.”

    I mean….Geoff said it….must be true.

    And while we’re at it we might as well try to move Howard, Rollins, Ruiz…oh, and Roy Halladay, too because they all have some sort of flaws and they’re over 30. They can’t play. They’re washed up. Basically, anybody on the Phillies over 30 flat-out sucks..

    Geoff more or less said it…so it has to be true…

  21. Phylan

    November 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Howard and Utley are both coming off of their lowest OPS season since 2004. Yes, it’s too early to say either of them are declining, but I don’t see any reason to be any more worried about Chase than you would be about Howard.

  22. Ted Bell

    November 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Chuck – There’s a big difference between saying a player is “in decline” and saying that a player is “washed up”. There’s a lot of area in between.

    I really haven’t seen many people here saying that Utley is finished, just that there are obvious signs that his best years are behind him. The same can be said about most of the Phillies roster at this point. That’s not to say that they aren’t productive players. It’s only saying that we’ve seen the best they have to offer and there’s a good chance that they don’t reach those heights again. Sadly, the Phillies don’t have a roster of guys that can defy the laws of nature.

    I’m Ted Bell.

  23. Andrew from waldorf

    November 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    It takes alot out of you playing 2b and playing at that level.
    i hope hes not done.
    2011 is a huge year. It will show if hes in a decline or not.
    This guy was on pace to maybe be the best 2b ever.
    He is no longer on that pace.

    I feel its 50/50 almost. If hes on the decline move him while he has value. And yea hes one of my favorite players ever.

  24. Andrew from waldorf

    November 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Ryan Howard is in the same boat as utley. Only he is alot scarier because he makes 25 million this year.

    The Howard lovers better strap in. Even an MVP this year is irrelevant if he gets 0 rbi again in the playoffs.
    Maybe not fair but thats how hes seen.

  25. Andrew from waldorf

    November 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    If the Yankees would take Howards contract (which they wont) personaly id send him over.
    Hes all ours and 2011 is for him a huge year also.

  26. Andrew from waldorf

    November 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    He is not going to left.
    Dipsy you are funny

    you trade him before you move him to left in 1 year.

    its about value for the franchise and hed offer more that way then playing left

  27. karen

    November 11, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I would guess that Chase will be fine next year. Beyond just him, I am not confident in this team. Somehow I see Amaro getting rid of key pieces and not replacing them. We can all talk about bloated contracts but the rest of the league and our division will be improving upon 2010 team. We need some new and young-ish talent

  28. mike

    November 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    i love chase utley….love him.
    he’s in my top 3 favorites athletes ever…(all my athletes are philly, obviously)

    and you know who chase reminds me of?
    Allen Iverson.

    hear me out…

    sure, AI hated to practice, hated coaches, said some dumb things…

    but..when he played…he poured his heart out EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. 48 minutes a game…82 games a year….every year..
    even when he dislocated his shoulder, he came back only after like 4 games…

    thats why we love AI….he gave us everything…
    and…it cost him….it wore him down.

    and thats what is happening to chase utley.
    he goes hard 9 innings every night…27 outs…162 games a year…

    and its breaking him down.

  29. brooks

    November 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Well, Andrew and others are right. This year is really big. If Utley, Howard and Rollins don’t come back this year will be a mess. Without Jayson Werth in the lineup and as beat up and average as our core group has played – 2011 could be a .500 or sub .500 year. Not included but vital to this puzzle is Vic & Poly.

    Huge questions – will Brown amount to anything? Can Rube bolster the lineup with a RH power hitter? What will be the fate of the BP? To many questions to get a warm cozy out of this, especially as pathetic as the offense played this past year – taking Jayson out of that mix, ugh!

    Ted, I hope you are dead wrong.

  30. jeff

    November 12, 2010 at 12:15 am

    chase is not playing left. get real. first off his arm is bad.

  31. Andrew from waldorf

    November 12, 2010 at 12:40 am

    @ Brooks havent been around for awhile. Was a tense time there in the playoffs. Hope all is well with you and look forward to next season.

    Like I said to me Utley is 50/50 a straight toss up.
    If he stinks hes declining. I also wont be suprised if hes leagues MVP next year.

    I will say this if I can get him round 3 of fantasy baseball I am taking him.

    The moving him to left stuff is just nonsense. I suppose if you want to entertain it you can. I wont anymore.

  32. Andrew from waldorf

    November 12, 2010 at 12:46 am

    And like I said I think the situations for Howard and Utley are similar.
    So if they are both 50/50 that means most likely one will have a monster year next year and one will struggle (continue to decline).
    As Phillie fans probably would like to see Howard be dominant. Hes ours for a long long time.
    I guess there is chance both might bounce back.
    Then there is chance both continue to decline.
    This is why this is the greatest sport in the world and I can barely follow the others.

  33. Geoff

    November 12, 2010 at 1:14 am

    I have soured on Utley, yes, but he is NOT done. I happen to think he still has great value and can be a great player at left field. Guys like him need new challenges as well to humble and motivate them, this would fit the bill. They just need to move Raul…see the other thread about Gordon Beckham…thats the ticket to get Chase in LF.

  34. Phylan

    November 12, 2010 at 1:58 am

    WHAT

  35. Ryan H.

    November 12, 2010 at 3:55 am

    it absolutely astonished me how anybody can think that Ryan Howard is in decline. where do you get that stuff from? If he didn’t get hurt this year he would have been at his usual numbers. 45 homers and 140 rbi. I just have no idea where that theory is coming from.

    utley I can understand where its coming from because ever since that year when he got pegged in the wrist when he was the leading candidate for the MVP in August, he simply hasn’t been anything close to that good since then and that was several years ago now.

  36. brooks

    November 12, 2010 at 6:08 am

    Ryan, no way he was on the same path to get the hallowed numbers you speak of. Yes, his average was up until his injury but his power numbers were definitely down. I am not convinced that these guys are on a decline, to me early 30’s is still prime and I also think the best of Utley is ahead of him (hope, hope, hope..). But, like a bunch of these guys are saying – see what happens this year.

  37. Bob D.

    November 12, 2010 at 6:33 am

    This talk of decline is premature. When they hit 34+ then we can talk about it. When they all got hurt they didn’t come right back and mash it, it took a bit to get the timing etc… I expect Howard, Rollins, Utley, and Polanco all to come back this year and produce again. They all had atleast slightly down years. Howard was going strong when he got hurt and not only missed a month but he was off for several weeks when he returned. If he didn’t get hurt he would have likely have hit 40+Hrs.
    These guys are all in thier primes still. In 2 years we can all get together and talk decline. 28-32 years are the typical prime years, with decline years usually start showing at 35+. So the Phils are looking good for the next 2 years

  38. The Dipsy

    November 12, 2010 at 7:14 am

    AFW@ – Its your opinion that he is much more valuable as a second baseman and that’s true. Lets pretend we’re NOT playing fantasy baseball here. If his body is in fact breaking down a bit, then maybe it would be a good idea to take him out of the pivot and the possibility of getting taken out three or four times by runners. 2B is just a tougher position to play and you wanna keep his bat in the lineup. Lest we not forget that after this season the Phillies will not have a LFer either, hence another reason for a possible move. If you wanna keep Utley, than he will play more games for you if he is in LF. If you wanna trade him, fine. Then he will have a lot more value in fantasy at 2B. I hope he has a healthy and productive 2011 and stays at 2B.

    The Dipsy

  39. brooks

    November 12, 2010 at 7:36 am

    @Bob, the premature talk of decline is not based on fiction, but as I posted previously there are players that are average or below and players that stand out (such as our All-star cast). The players that stand out will hopefully play longer and still have productive seasons. My bet is that Utley has an outstanding year or so ahead of him.
    Truthfully, if the cast will perform to average across the board, this team will dominate. Average being a huge increase in power numbers from Utley, Howard & Rollins.

  40. Ted Bell

    November 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

    There are two parts to this analysis, and I suggest you read both. There are no methods of analysis that point to a player still being in his “prime” years after age 30. There just isn’t. Nobody is saying that these guys are going to fall off a cliff. Nobody is saying that these guys are no longer productive players. We are saying that a gradual decline has begun, and it gets faster after 35.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/how-do-baseball-players-age-part-1/

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/how-do-baseball-players-age-part-2/

    I’m Ted Bell.

  41. Manny

    November 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Whoever is saying that Chase should or will move to the OF is just CRAZY. CRAZY. Or, at the very least, way overreacting.

  42. brooks

    November 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I just read an article about Robby Alomar, possibly the best 2nd baseman I have seen in my 45 (+) years of watching baseball – he had tremendous seasons prior to 30 years old and then continued on with 4 more years of baseball greatness. He started to slow down, or I should say hit like the rest of the league (a .266 BA) when he reached 34 (or you could blame this on the Muts factor, it was his first year with them). At 33, he played in his 12th consecutive AS game, had his 10th GG out of 11 seasons, hit .336 (a career best), had a triple double (hrs, 3b, 2b), scored 113 runs and knocked in 100 for only the second time in his career.

    Would you rate Chase Utley as highly as Robby Alomar? Defensively, I’d give it to Robby, offensively, I think Chase has it as well as the key ingredient, grit. We’ll see what happens but my money is on a few more great seasons from our beloved Chase.

  43. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I’ve said this a million times… you have to put this slump in the context of baseball – it was the year of the pitcher and a ton of hitters had down years. If Utley, Howard, Rollins, Vic, Ibanez, Werth and Polly didn’t live up to expectations, how did we win 97 games? I think that Chase will be fine but we all have to come to the harsh realization that we might not see Chase hit 30 HR again and that’s not Chase Utley’s fault – I think that baseball is heading into a pitcher driven era. You’ve got some phenomenal young pitchers and a couple of top notch veterans that are controlling the game. Think of how many guys will be on the Cy Young watch list in 2011- Felix, Lincecum, Lee, Halladay, Sabathia, Weaver, Lester, Buchholz, Hamels, Johnson, Wainwright, Carpenter, Cain, Hudson, Santana… there are a lot of really good pitchers out there, right now.

    He needs to focus on hitting for average… period. I will measure Chase Utley’s success in terms of doubles and average in 2011… if he’s hitting +.280 with 40 doubles, he’s going to grade well even if he only hits 20 HR.

    As for shifting Utley into the outfield; the only weakness in his defense is his arm, which is not particularly strong. I don’t think his skillset would translate to success in the outfield.

    As other mentioned- Utley needs to slow down and get healthy. Take time to mend his wounds completely. I don’t know if he’s capable of that and that is really scary but hopefully it will work out for Chase- he has the opportunity to finish his career as the greatest second baseman of all time and that’s why I think moving on is not an option -ever. You don’t let guys like Chase Utley walk away.

  44. Chuck

    November 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Roberto Alomar is the best second baseman I ever saw play. Period.

  45. bfo_33

    November 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Everything I’ve ever read or seen from Robbie Alomar indicates he is a first class pr1ck, but he is also the best all around second baseman of my lifetime, after Joe Morgan (Sandberg a distant 3rd). Chase has an edge on power, BA is close, Alomar an edge on D, but Alomar has the years (he was a full time starter at 20, gives him a 7 year head start over Utley, who only has 4 years starting more than 140 games, Alomar had 13 – Chase won’t get there). Alomar should have been a first ballot hall of famer, should get it this year (accompanied by a harem of women with lawyers).

  46. brooks

    November 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    OCP – generally accepted that this was the year of the pitcher. Ask “why” though. In the late 60’s, the pitching mound was raised to 15″. As a result, a very few AL hitters actually topped the .290 batting average, Yaz won the AL triple crown with a .301 batting average. Bob Gibson had 13 shutouts and an ERA barely above 1 run per game. Denny McLain became the first pitcher to win 30 games since the 1930’s.

    The next year the mound was lowered, the strike zone shrunk and whammo, the hits and hrs started pouring in, again. And, more people attended games.

    But the question remains, why was this the year of the pitcher? The highly rated talent in DC nary finished a week of baseball, basically the same players were here last year as this and yet hits, hrs, averages all were down accross the board. I read somewhere that there was a question on tinkering with the bats? MLB said that was not the case. An improvement on defense? Not buying that one either. Any ideas?

    Anyone heard anything interesting?

  47. psujoe

    November 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Chase is our second baseman. However, if you can upgrade 3b with a high quality RH that is much better than the RH you can upgarde the OF with I have no problem moving him to OF. If you could land Adrian Beltre for 3 years, $42 million(unlikely), why not move Polanco to second and Chase to LF. Rube has his work cut out for him this off season.

  48. Bob in Bucks

    November 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Brooks – Just guessing but perhaps, just perhaps MLB crackdown on steroids and other drugs might be having an effect?

  49. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Alomar was great… baseball purists and writers hate him but he was a player in every sense of the word. The allure with Utley over any other second baseman that has ever played is that he possesses all 5 tools… Alomar and Morgan never had the power. Utley, in his prime, is a better all around player than both. Alomar and Morgan were both 2 hole hitters – Utley is a 3 hole hitter and rightfully so. He can drive in a run or get on base, depending on the situation and he can pop one out at any time against any pitcher. Utley plays good defense… maybe not as smooth as Morgan or Alomar but his range is probably just as good as both of those guys (his glove/arm aren’t quite as good but I’ll take the other things that he brings to the table). He’s got Jeff Kent’s bat and he’s Alomar/Morgan Light in the field and on the bases.

  50. jim

    November 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    i’m a big fan of utley, but that is some joe morgan blasphemy right there.

    check out the dude’s prime and remember the era.

  51. jim

    November 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    also, if you don’t see a decline in howard’s numbers, you are looking at the wrong numbers. simple as that. unlikely he ever replicates the 06-07 level production, which was the only time he was actually worth 25 million. it’d be better to have given 60% of that money to werth.

  52. brooks

    November 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    @Bob – that was one of the theories I read also. Bautista and Albert defy roids then? I dont know…

    OCP, I got to see Robby play in Baltimore after he (and Molitor) wreaked havoc on the Phils in the 93 WS. Purist have the problem, Robby had a following. He was loved and appreciated where ever he played.

  53. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Why are pitchers dominating?

    Cracking down on steroids is part of it… you’ve got less guys on steroids which means that there are less guys in your lineup that have an advantage over the pitcher – less guys on base and fewer home runs means less pressure on the pitcher and more confidence in his ability to get through a lineup.

    Bats… maple bats are a problem. The ball hops off maple bats better but they shatter easier – just ask Tyler Colvin and his nearly collapsed lung how dangerous that is. It was my understanding that MLB focused its efforts on the manufacturers- making sure that the bats were manufactured at a high standard. Could that have had an impact? I would assume it could.

    Other impacts: the change up. For a while, pitchers were getting away with a hard fastball and a good curve. The change up was an afterthought… pitchers have realized that the change up can be devastating. It will take hitters a while to adjust to the change up- that’s kind of how it works… hitters adjust, pitchers (and pitching coaches adjust), hitter re-adjust… it’s cyclical.

  54. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Joe Morgan blasphemy… I don’t think so. Morgan had 3-4 seasons where he had some pop. Other than that, he wasn’t didn’t hit for power and that’s not a knock on Joe- it’s just not what he was about. Utley has one less all star appearance in 8 seasons that Morgan did over 22. 4 silver sluggers to Joe’s one.

    Look back at my posts – I didn’t say that Chase Utley is better than Morgan or Alomar. The allure has always been that Chase can hit 30-45 HR… Morgan/Alomar couldn’t. But if you wrap that around my original post when I said that I think that Utley is going to have to start thinking in terms of doubles and batting average, you’ll see that I think he’s going to end up more like Morgan or Alomar than he is unlike them. He’s not a HR hitter – he’s just not built that way. People have to realize that in order for Utley to generate the most production over the next 5-10 years, he’s probably going to have to redefine himself at some point. Coupled with the pitching dominance… I think that now is that time.

  55. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Re-reading my last post… I’m not suggesting that Utley is better than Morgan but I do think that it’s fair to use their names in the same sentence.

  56. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Jim – If you could be guaranteed that Howard would finish top 5 in HR and RBI every season, would you feel more comfortable paying him that money and less likely to proclaim that he’s not worth the money he’s going to get?

  57. jim

    November 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    he led the league in HR and RBI in 08 and wasn’t worth 25 million then… so no. there’s more to offense (and baseball).

    can you lead the league in these numbers while stinking up the joint? possible but not likely. can you be in the top 5 consistently while not being one of the best players in the game. much easier to imagine. especially when he’s getting more RBI opportunities than anybody else.

  58. The Original Chuck P

    November 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    More RBI opportunities than anybody else…

    How do you explain this year where everyone had a down year yet still ended up top 5 in RBI? He would have easily ended up top 5 in HR if he didn’t spend time on the DL.

    It’s not production… you have a problem because he can do things that other players can’t without breaking a sweat. Anyone can hit for average – there are few players in the game that can hit 30 HR per season consistently because it takes more than talent… Placido Polanco could work as hard as he want and he could never do what Howard does. Why? He doesn’t have the build or the God given strength to hit home runs. Home runs aren’t everything; you’ve gotta be able to do whatever it takes to drive in a guy standing on second or third and Howard has certainly done that. Why do I say that? He’s consistently been at the top of the RBI leaderboard since he came into this league. And his defense was pretty good this year because he worked hard to make it better.

    So there’s more to baseball but I pay Ryan Howard $25 million because he’s one of the few players in the game that you can bank on for having +30 HR and +120 RBI.

  59. jim

    November 12, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    even with the time missed he was #7 in the NL in runners on base for his plate appearances. drove in the same percentage of runners on base as literally dozens of other guys. if you look over the years he consistently has the most opportunity, and his most pronounced skill is power. so of course when you look at HR and RBI they skew toward his skill and his situation.

    the basic reality is this. when you total up all the ways that a guy can provide value for your team, he is not going to be a top 5 1B over the length of the extension, or a top 20 player overall. there are about 2 dozen players who will be more valuable when you consider he doesn’t play a tough position and plays it average at best, doesn’t draw walks like many elite players, and is increasingly vulnerable to LHP as we saw in the playoffs.

  60. psujoe

    November 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Don’t forget the crackdown on Amphetamines. Doesn’t seem like much, but these players get dog tired with all the travel.

  61. JAY-AKA-PHILLYBOY

    November 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I FOR ONE AM VERY HAPPY THAT MORE THEN LIKELY RYAN HOWARD WILL BE A PHILLIE FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!

  62. Phylan

    November 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    It’s hilarious how deluded Philadelphia is about this contract. He’s not even a top 5 1B right now, or last year, and he’s getting paid like he is top 3.

  63. Phylan

    November 12, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    And I’m not saying Howard is bad, but he’s not $25 million good. There’s like a billion ways to demonstrate this

  64. jim

    November 12, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    phylan,

    obviously i agree. it will come into clearer focus after next season, when we can make our best possible guess at what he would have commanded on the open market – specifically which teams would have even been available as suitors. it likely won’t be more than 1 or 2 others, and it won’t include teams that have a shot at outspending philly.

    then we will see how much money was wasted on a straight up market misevaluation. and after that, the real dicey part begins.

    rodriguez and howard will a two horse race for biggest albatross (whoa mixed metaphors). difference is the rodriguez contract doesn’t affect yankees’ spending ability as much. we are seeing that is not true of the phillies.

  65. The Original Chuck P

    November 15, 2010 at 10:11 am

    There’s like a billion ways to demonstrate this…

    Like, go for it. Please, demonstrate your genius.

    If he’s #7 in runners on base for his plate appearances and he’s top 4 in RBI, I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job of knocking guys in.

    You think that he’ll decline because…

    I think that he won’t because he works hard, he’s been one of the most consistent run producers in baseball since he came into this league and he wants to be great. He’s a wonderful ambassador for this city and this team, he’s one of the most feared hitters in baseball and yet people on here have a problem with how much money he’s making. He’s a great player – he’s probably the biggest reason why we’ll be hanging another NLE banner at CBP this April. If he doesn’t get injured, our season might have ended different.

    If he’s hitting for average, people are mad that he’s not hitting home runs. If he’s walking, people are mad that he’s not swinging the bat. If he’s hitting home runs, people are mad that he’s not hitting for average. He’s the fastest player to 200 HR in baseball history. He’s going to be 2nd on the franchise all-time HR list by the end of next season. Is $25 million too much? Maybe but a lot can happen between now and 2017- player salaries keep going up and guys like Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez are going to re-set the bar. We bought out his arbitration years and gave him a 5 year deal… it’s not like A-Rod’s 10 year deal. I’m glad that I don’t have to watch him play for anyone else.

  66. jim

    November 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    part of demonstrating it is this exercise:

    look through all the guys with similar skills – namely guys with a ton of power who strike out a decent amount (don’t hit .300) and don’t walk a ton (less than 90 BB a season over the last 3). then see how many of them were among the best in the game from their 32-36 season. sure he works hard, but father time gets us all. willie stargell is a pretty good example of the best case scenario. but he is the exception, not the rule. people constantly complain that mo vaughn and david ortiz are bad comps for howard. who is a GOOD one that inspires hope? nobody can predict the future, but the odds are heavily against him being one of the best players in the league for any of the extension years.

    nothing in your “i think he won’t” paragraph actually addresses why he won’t decline. with a lefty on the mound, he is far from feared.

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