Raising Questions

Checking in on Chase Utley’s Hall of Fame chances



Chase-utley-world-pThe Phillies have a long and treasured history spanning more than 130 years. Thousands of players have worn the uniform but no player has arguably better emulated the city’s passion and grit more than Chase Utley, especially when he uttered those three infamous words during his championship-parade speech.

When Utley returned to Citizens Bank Park last season for the first time after getting traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he received perhaps the longest standing ovation for an opposing player. While he will forever be seen as one of the most beloved Phillies, is he a hall of famer?

In one week, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce the results of voting in 2017 Hall of Fame balloting. This time of year always brings heated arguments and intense lobbying. Utley’s case will be debated when it comes up. So let’s get ahead of it now.

In 14 seasons – 12 and a half with the Phillies – Utley has hit 250 home runs, drove in 977 runs, and slashed .361/.472/.833. He’s a five-time all-star and finished in the top-20 of MVP voting five times.

Utley was part of the core that led the Phillies during the most successful period in their history and to a championship. He may not have hit 58 home runs or stole more than 40 bases in a season like Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins, but he was arguably the most valuable part of that team. Utley is worth 63 career WAR, the highest among 2007-2011 Phillies not named Roy Halladay (65.6). In comparison, Rollins is the next highest at 49.4.

WAR isn’t the be-all and end-all and definitely won’t be the only deciding factor with the old-school BBWAA, but it’s a useful indicator when evaluating a player like Utley. He isn’t a stereotypical power hitter and he isn’t a Gold Glove winner, but in his prime, he did virtually everything above-average.

Does above-average get him in the hall?

Let’s take a look at yet another advanced stat that the majority of the BBWAA will probably scoff at but points to Utley getting the call. JAWS measures a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by averaging his career WAR with his seven-year peak WAR. Utley ranks 11th on the list of second basemen with 64.4. Every player ahead of him is a hall of famer with the exception of Bobby Grich.

With that being said, it will be a tough campaign for Utley. The biggest detriments to Utley’s case are his late start and his relatively short prime. Utley didn’t break into the majors until he was 24 and didn’t see regular playing time until he was 26. To put that into perspective, Maikel Franco is entering his fourth season in the majors at just 23 years old.

On top of Utley’s late arrival, he wasn’t able to sustain his prime past five seasons. While he was virtually unstoppable from 2005-2009, hitting .301/.388/.535 with 146 home runs and 507 RBI, his nagging knee injuries kept him from sustaining that success.

Now, that’s not to say his career was over in 2009. Utley was certainly still one of the league’s top second basemen and a key contributor for the Phillies for a few years afterward, but he no longer put up the numbers necessarily associated with a hall of famer.

Utley may still have some playing time left, which should help his case, but he has yet to find a home for the 2017 season. If this is the end for him, he will be eligible for voting in 2022 and can stay on the ballot for 10 years. The probability isn’t high, but Utley has certainly made an interesting case.

If he gets the call, though, I’m already looking forward to his speech. Hall *Bleeping” famer?

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