At one point in time the Phillies' Chase Utley was the best second baseman in fantasy baseball. From 2005-08 Utley batted .305 with a .385 OBP an a .541 OPS. From 2005-09 Utley averaged 29 homers a season. Utley scored at least 100 runs 4-straight years (2006-09). Utley drove in at least 100 RBIs in 4-straight years (2005-08). From 2005-09 Utley averaged 15 thefts a year. As I said, Utley was the best second baseman in fantasy baseball and on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Then disaster struck.
Utley's body broke down.
He appeared in 115 games in 2010.
In 2011 that number dipped to 103.
He sunk further in 2012 to 83 games played.
He looked like a combination of Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Entering 2013 everyone was looking past Utley. He rewarded those that had faith in him with his best season since 2009 as he appeared in 131 games. Utley went out there last season and hit .284 with 18 homers, 69 RBIs, 73 runs scored and eight steals. That effort was nowhere near his peak efforts, but it was still a very solid season. Here is how Utley ranked among second basemen last season.
Utley hit .284. That's the same mark as Jason Kipnis.
Utley was 4th at the second base position with 18 homers. That's one more than Kipnis.
Utley drove in 69 runs. That was six more then Jedd Gyorko.
Utley scored 73 times. That was two more than Martin Prado.
Utley stole eight bags. That was one more than Robinson Cano.
I'm not saying Utley was who he used to be last season, but the point is that the 34 year old Utley was pretty good in 2013 (he turned 35 in December). Better than you thought he would be for sure, and possibly better than you thought he did when the 2013 season was complete.
Let's explore further.
Utley is a career .287 batter who hit .284 last season after two years of failing to reach .260. A bit of oddness there. Utley had an 8.5 percent walk rate, his lowest mark since 2007, in 2013. Utley had a 14.9 percent K-rate, his highest total in four years. Utley also had a 19.5 percent line drive rate, 0.7 points under his career mark. All of that suggests that a repeat of that .284 batting average is a bit dubious given that after 3-straight years of seeing his BABIP under .290 that the mark rose to .305 last season. Not impossible that he repeats the batting average, but not a certainty.
What about the power? The last time Utley hit 20 homers was 2009. That also happens to be the last time he accrued 500 at-bats. Coincidence? I'm no Fox Mulder, but I think I can smell out a conspiracy when I come across one. The fact is that the reason that Utley no longer hits 20 homers has more to do with his lack if playing time than a loss of skill. Just take a look at three key measures for Utley from 2013 compared to his career levels.
2013: 0.89 GB/FB, 42.5 FB-rate, 10.6 HR/FB
career: 0.90 GB/FB, 42.1 FB-rate, 12.5 HR/FB
All of those differences are well within the realm of the expected. It should be noted, I would be remiss if I didn't point it out, that while Utley's power bat hasn't vanished, he hasn't recorded a 12.5 percent HR/FB ratio since 2009. Still, in three of his last four seasons he's had marks of 11.2, 11.6 and 10.5 percent. He's lost a bit of oomph from his heyday, but it's not drastic.
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