Occasionally on baseball blogs with an analytical slant, it’s necessary to dive into the mundane and boring and, as luck would have it, the Phillies employ one of the most boring players in the sport. I’ll try to make this as quick and painless as possible, but it’s time to acknowledge the tediously dull performance of the Phillies freshly anointed closer, Ken Giles.
The Phillies made a couple of unheralded Rule 5 picks during the off-season, selecting pitcher Andy Oliver from the Pittsburgh Pirates and outfielder Odubel Herrera from the Rangers. Oliver showed some good swing-and-miss stuff, but faltered with his control and the Phillies wanted to send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley rather than keep him on the major league roster. As was his right, Oliver elected to attempt to find work elsewhere, a decision that drew the ire of GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. and made headlines. Herrera was mostly forgotten about.
In early March, not knowing too much about the guy, I suggested Herrera could be “dynamic” for the Phillies. It didn’t appear that would be the case, as Herrera ended May with a .249 average and a .635 OPS while looking uncomfortable in center field.
There have been a handful of incidents this season in which fans have been hurt by foul balls and broken bat shards, leading some — including Detroit Tigers players Anthony Gose, Justin Verlander, Nick Castellanos, and Alex Avila — to stump in favor of expanding protective netting at the ballpark. Major League Baseball has been dragging its feet on the issue and doesn’t expect to have a league-wide mandate before the end of the season.
The Phillies are going out on their own, and will wait for MLB to catch up.
Recently, a little debate stirred on the ol’ Internets when ESPN’s Keith Law cited Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur‘s negative WAR in response to a piece of trivia which painted the veteran in a positive light. Law isn’t wrong about Frenchy’s poor on-field value: Baseball Reference lists him with -0.3 WAR while FanGraphs has him at -0.2. That’s in line with his production over the previous two seasons, albeit in smaller sample sizes.
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I’m going to take a close look at Chase Utley‘s minor league career and rookie season(s), much like I did with Jimmy Rollins when he was traded to The Dodgers. When I wrote about the franchise-best shortstop last winter, I called James Calvin Rollins “the rarest of the rare”. Damned if we didn’t have two gems surrounding the Keystone Sack in the Keystone State for more than a decade. This is how we got from the draft to a big-league superstar named Chase Cameron Utley. Continue reading…
In a lot of ways, the 2012 season was the beginning of the end for the Phillies’ short-lived “dynasty.” In the aftermath of a 102-win season, the Phillies limped into 2012 – so to speak – without Ryan Howard, Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibanez or Ryan Madson, and the downturns of players like Roy Halladay were only a breath away. What’s more, they were christening the start of another season without Chase Utley, whose knees were once more betraying him.
The start was an inauspicious as could be predicted: the Phils found themselves at 36-40 and in fourth in the NL East, dangling over the precipice of last place by a thread just half-a-game thick. It wasn’t pretty, and the outlook wasn’t exactly gleaming. And yet, on June 27, Utley made his return, and it felt like the hope of contention was nearly back within the Phils’ grasp. How could it not? Utley, who had battled patellar tendonitis and Chondromalacia patella at least as far back as 2010, stood to deliver more than the ragtag quadruped of Freddy Galvis, Michael Martinez, Pete Orr and Mike Fontenot had provided to that point.
In Chase Utley’s major league career, he has recorded an assist by throwing the ball to first base 3,474 times. Add in his minor league career, amateur career, and thirty years of practice sessions and he has made that throw to first base thousands upon thousands of times. Chase Utley fields a ball and throws it to first base as naturally as he breathes. It’s what he’s been training to do for nearly his entire life. And yet, the greatest play of Chase Utley’s career was the time he fielded the ball and never completed the throw to first.
Over the next few days, we’ll be looking back on the most memorable moments of Chase Utley’s career with the Phillies. You can conveniently find everything that’s written about the subject under the category “Utley Retrospective” above.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me send out a tweet with the hashtag “#TheMan“. Early on, I limited its use for when Chase Utley did something great, like hit a home run or knock in a run late in the game for the Phillies. As the injuries limited his playing time and effectiveness on the field, my standards waned a bit as I was simply anxious to use it. Thus, even a meager second-inning double has merited the hashtag in recent times.
For those who don’t share my affinity for Utley, Twitter, or hashtags, here’s the genesis of “The Man”.
As Adam Dembowitz wrote about earlier, the Phillies traded second baseman Chase Utley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two as yet unnamed minor league players. He will likely be the last veteran player the Phillies trade this season and joins Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ben Revere, and Jonathan Papelbon as players to be flipped in a trade. Utley will reunite with long-time double play partner Jimmy Rollins at Chavez Ravine.