Weekend Positivity: Utley’s Strong Start

Utley’s early defense and base running flashes have Ian hopeful that his knees can withstand the 162 game season. Photo: Matt Rourke, AP

One of the defining moments of my transformation from youth into adolescent was the moment I “got” Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley. Senator Al Franken’s over-the-top Smalley character was a perfect knock-off of the self-help fad of the late 80’s and early 90’s. His pleasantness and his belief that he was “good enough, smart enough” and that “people liked (him)” made his character an easy target for guests, including Philly favorite Charles Barkley. Today marks the launch of a new weekly column at Phillies Nation – “Weekend Positivity”, launched in part for my affinity for Daily Affirmations but in part because the Phillies are off to a poor start but there has been a number of highlights thus far. One of the standouts thus far has been second baseman Chase Utley.

In four games, Utley has posted a .467/.471/.933 line with a pair of doubles, a triple, and a homer. But more so than his hitting, it has been has base running and fielding that have me optimistic for maintained success through 2013. Yesterday afternoon, Utley was one of the lone bright spots in what was a major disappointment. The way Utley changed directions on the Alcides Escobar‘s first inning ground out that deflected off of Kendrick’s glove let us forget for a moment that Utley’s knees may have made a seemingly routine play into an early season accomplishment. Then in the third, Utley stole third off of one of the strongest throwing catchers in baseball Salvador Perez.

Utley’s steal of third was smart on a number of levels. First, Utley’s recognition of whether he was held on or not, or to the extent he was held on rather, was spot on. In the slight shift the Royals employed with Utley on second and Ryan Howard hitting, Utley recognized that he could extend his lead a bit more and likely recognized that Mike Moustakas was playing much closer to second base than he normally would if anyone but Howard was up. The steal put Utley at 33 of his last 34 steal attempts and helped extend his lead among all active MLB players in SB% to 89.71%.

These columns won’t always be long – sometimes they won’t even be this long. But the weekend is time to relax from work and enjoy some baseball. Hopefully Utley’s early successes will make tonight’s game that much more enjoyable.

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