Is Chase Utley a Hall of Famer?


An examination of the former Phillies‘ hall of fame chances. 

The Philadelphia Phillies officially ended an era when they sent Chase Utley to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for two minor league prospects, a move made official Wednesday evening. Utley agreed to the deal because he thought it was time to move on—in terms of both his career and Philadelphia’s future.

While in Philadelphia, Utley was a catalyst, leading the Phillies to the World Series title in 2008 and launching a record-tying five home runs in their 2009 World Series appearance. He didn’t just perform in the fall classic, either. Utley represented the Phillies in six All-Star games, too. As a role model for teammates and fans, Utley hustled and threw his body all over the field. Despite some injury woes, Utley is one of the best to ever lace up a pair of cleats in Philadelphia, meaning there will be a lot of debate on whether or not he ends up in Cooperstown.

The first hit in Utley’s career summed up his time in Philadelphia—a grand slam. Utley played in 1,551 games as a Philadelphia Phillie. In that time, Utley posted a .282/.366/.481 slash line with 233 home runs and 916 RBI. The .847 OPS for Utley is the eighth greatest by a second-baseman in Major League history. Along with that, Utley’s 233 home runs are the tenth most by a second-baseman in Major League history. His 916 RBI rank in the top-20, coming in at 19th. Basically, Chase Utley was pretty good in terms of back-of-the-card numbers.

In comparison to other Hall of Fame second-baseman, Utley’s OPS would rank fifth-highest among second baseman. His OPS is greater than noteable Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, Joe Morgan and Roberto Alomar. Each of those Hall of Famers fell into the “no doubt about it” category of guys who were locks to get into the hall of fame at some point.

Related Read: Chase Utley’s Top Five Moments in Philadelphia

If we move to advanced statistics, Utley ranks out well in those. Baseball-Reference lists 18 Hall of Fame second-baseman—of which Utley would rank 11th in Wins above Replacement, trailing Jackie Robinson by 0.2-WAR. If Utley plays well the next two-to-three years, he could catch Craig Biggio at 65.1-WAR. Some people are not fans of Wins Above Replacement, but we cannot deny that it consistently lists the best players in the game, so it is a useful tool for Hall of Fame evaluation.

Of players with at least 1,200 games played, Chase Utley owns a 122 OPS+, which ranks 12th among second-baseman. OPS+ is adjusted to a players’ ballpark. If we use wRC+ on FanGraphs, we can see that Utley’s 124 wRC+ is tied with Charlie Gehringer for 11th by a second-baseman with at least 3,000 plate appearances. So far, Utley has ranked well in all-time ranks. Utley hit for power as noted above, but his .199 ISO, which is a players’ slugging percentage minus batting average, ranks fifth all-time in that same sample.

Chase Utley was a unique second-baseman while in Philadelphia. Utley was patient at the plate with a short, quick swing and the hustle that Philadelphia embraced. None of those skills can be underrated. One skill for Utley that was underrated was his defense. In 12,722.2 innings in the field, Chase Utley saved 132 runs at second base, according to FanGraphs defensive runs saved. That is tied for highest cumulative total from 2002-2015. In that time, Utley did not win a Gold Glove, which is criminal.

Jun 26, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (26) stands by the batting cage during batting practice prior to a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

During his career, Utley collected four Silver Slugger Awards and three top-10 Most Valuable Player Award finishes. Despite being second in all of baseball in Wins above Replacement between 2007-2011, Utley never took home a MVP award. But we can’t crush him for that with Albert Pujols, who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, leading the league in WAR during that period.

Utley’s peak was Hall of Fame worthy, posting 49.1-WAR in his seven greatest seasons. The average Hall of Fame second-baseman averaged 44.4-WAR. Check one for Utley. His career 61.7-WAR falls short of the average Hall of Famer, which is 69.3-WAR. Utley could still get there as that is a cumulative number. Utley’s JAWS score, which is a Hall of Fame evaluation tool developed by Jay Jaffe, ranks Utley just short of the Hall of Fame at 55.4-JAWS. The average Hall of Fame second-baseman has a 56.9-JAWS score. There is no doubt that Utley could help his WAR and JAWS totals if he is productive in Los Angeles and beyond.

It is never easy to evaluate whether or not a player is a Hall of Famer. There is a lot of criteria that must go into the analysis. Chase Utley was a dominant second-baseman during his peak, but ran into injury troubles. If Utley had not missed as much time as he did, I think he would have had some better totals overall and would be more of a shoe-in. His back-of-the-card numbers and advanced numbers both say that Utley is one of the top-15 second-baseman of all-time.

Chase Utley has the numbers to back up his Hall of Fame candidacy, but he’s going to be difficult to evaluate when he reaches the ballot. His peak was simply amazing, but the injuries caused some problems along the way. Utley has his Hall of Fame moments—from a grand slam as his first hit, to the deke in the 2008 World Series where he threw out the go-ahead run at the plate.

He won’t be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee, but I think that Chase Utley will eventually end up in Cooperstown. I would vote for Utley because of his peak, and overall what he did for Philadelphia. It comes with a slight bias, but we all have one. Deep down, I would love to see Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins inducted into Cooperstown in the same year. That would be something very, very special.

Next: Chase Utley Featured on Back of Thursday's Philadelphia Daily News

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