MLB Network recently aired an episode (likely a re-run) of Prime 9 where they looked at the best players at each position during the 1980’s. The usual candidates were mentioned: Gary Carter at catcher, Don Mattingly at first base, Ryne Sandberg at second, Cal Ripken at shortstop, Mike Schmidt at third — just to name a few. Since I have been beating the “Utley is super duper awesome” drum so loudly for a while, I was interested to see where the present-day second baseman ranks among his peers in Phillies franchise history.
In chart form:
Utley, over the course of his career, has been three times as valuable to the Phillies as the franchise’s second-best second baseman, Tony Taylor. He also has the five best single seasons (and six of the top-ten) by a Phillies second baseman.
Prorating WAR to 700 PA, Utley ranks sixth among all Major League second baseman dating back to 1901.
While the above is simply overkill on a dead horse that has been beaten thoroughly, it does lead to an interesting question: who are the Phillies’ best players all-time by position? I sped to Baseball Reference’s Play Index to find out.
Darren Daulton: 21.9 WAR
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 4.2 WAR
Ryan Howard: 20.9 WAR
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 1.2 WAR
Mike Schmidt: 108.3 WAR
- Dick Allen: 37.1 WAR (2nd)
- Scott Rolen: 28.3 WAR (3rd)
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 71.2 WAR
Jimmy Rollins: 30.3 WAR
- Larry Bowa: 17.1 WAR (2nd)
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 13.2 WAR
Sherry Magee: 47.6 WAR
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 15.9 WAR
Richie Ashburn: 52.3 WAR
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 22.5
Bobby Abreu: 46.6 WAR
- Johnny Callison: 35.0 WAR (2nd)
- Chuck Klein: 30.9 WAR (3rd)
- Jayson Werth: 15.4 WAR (6th, with between one-third and one-half the PA of other qualifiers; trails only Abreu on a per-700 PA basis)
Range between 1st and 2nd place: 11.6 WAR
- Robin Roberts: 67.8 WAR
- Steve Carlton: 63.5 WAR
- Pete (Grover Cleveland) Alexander: 54.6 WAR
- Chris Short: 36.0 WAR
- Curt Schilling: 34.6 WAR
The big takeaway from this is that the Phillies’ best first baseman, second baseman, and shortstop since 1901 (about 110 years) played in the 2007-2010 “post-season era”. All three were home-grown, to boot. Throw in Werth, arguably the franchise’s second-best right fielder, some historically-great base running, consistently-elite defense, and solid pitching, and you have a tasty recipe for playoff success.