Phillies

Why Chase Utley's Hall of Fame case comes up just short

Why Chase Utley's Hall of Fame case comes up just short

The Phillies' golden era has been over for quite some time but this month sure felt like the final chapter, with Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley all announcing their retirements.

Utley will play out the rest of this season, but the conversation quickly shifts to his Hall of Fame candidacy. 

I'm assuming a good number of Phillies fans will disagree, but in my opinion, Utley's résumé falls just short. His peak just wasn't long enough.

From 2005-10, Utley was an incredible all-around baseball player. He hit for average, hit for power, took his walks, was the sport's most savvy and efficient base runner, and he had above average range at second base.

That six-year peak can be put up against the peak of any second baseman in baseball history. The postseason successes and Utley's legendary work ethic only add to it.

But you can't be selective about these things. When acknowledging Utley's magnificent peak, you must also account for the mediocre second half of his career.

From 2011-14, Utley's last full season as a Phillie, he hit .269/.347/.433 and missed 176 games. Decent numbers, but not Utley at his peak. From 2015-18, he's hit .235/.310/.377 as a part-time player.

All in all, Utley's OPS has been league average over his last 3,500 plate appearances. You just can't dismiss that.

I brought this up Friday on Twitter and one of the replies was that a five-year run was good enough for Sandy Koufax to make it. But Koufax had maybe the best five-year run of any starting pitcher ever, going 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA and 0.93 WHIP and three Cy Young awards in his final five seasons. 

If Utley had a bonkers run like that with a couple MVP awards, this is a different conversation.

One determinant I like to use with the Hall of Fame is "Can the story of baseball be told without this player?" Because of his peak, the Phillies' 2008 World Series and his record-setting '09 World Series, the story of baseball cannot be told without Utley.

And yet it still feels like he'll fall just short.

Longtime statistician Bill James has a formula called the Hall of Fame Monitor, which weighs different career stats to measure a player's likelihood of making the HOF. A score of 100 is seen as a likely Hall of Famer. Utley is at 94. 

That feels about right. Very, very, very good career, and one that means more to Philadelphians than it does to anybody anywhere else.

Utley just wasn't that same dynamic player over a long enough portion of his career. The serious knee injuries were the major reason why. Without them, we might be talking about a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

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Phillies 28-man roster: Kyle Garlick, Enyel De Los Santos optioned to Lehigh Valley

Phillies 28-man roster: Kyle Garlick, Enyel De Los Santos optioned to Lehigh Valley

To trim their roster from 30 to 28 ahead of Thursday's deadline, the Phillies optioned outfielder Kyle Garlick and right-handed reliever Enyel De Los Santos to their satellite site at Lehigh Valley.

MLB rosters will stay at 28 the rest of the regular season and postseason. Initially, rosters were set to be cut to 26 two weeks from now but MLB has revised that rule amid so many game postponements already related to COVID-19.

The Phillies now have 13 position players and 15 pitchers, a.k.a a four-man bench and 10-man bullpen. Garlick was the likeliest bench candidate to go given that he has options remaining. The Phillies didn't need to remove Garlick, or De Los Santos for that matter, from their 40-man roster to remove them from the active roster.

Garlick's ability to hit lefties for power was why the Phillies carried him on their opening day roster. He went 0 for 2 in the Phillies' first six games, both at-bats coming in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader started by Yankees lefty J.A. Happ. 

De Los Santos had not pitched yet this season. He pitched 30 innings for the Phillies across 2018 and 2019 with a 5.70 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Still, there was a belief he could help in this bullpen which lacks right-handed threats beyond closer Hector Neris and right-handed velocity overall.

It appeared that Austin Davis, a fringe reliever, might be the bullpen casualty after he allowed four runs to the Yankees while recording one out, but the Phillies opted to keep the extra lefty over the extra righty.

This is their bullpen, which has a 9.18 ERA and .338 opponents' batting average this season with no magic potions in sight:

Hector Neris
Tommy Hunter
Adam Morgan (LHP)
Jose Alvarez (LHP)
Deolis Guerra
Trevor Kelley
Nick Pivetta
Ramon Rosso
Cole Irvin (LHP)
Austin Davis (LHP)

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Bryce Harper has company in the J.T. Realmuto Fan Club with Zack Wheeler

Bryce Harper has company in the J.T. Realmuto Fan Club with Zack Wheeler

If Bryce Harper is president of the J.T. Realmuto Fan Club, Zack Wheeler is vice president.

Wheeler notched his second win in as many starts with the Phillies in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Yankees on Wednesday. The right-hander pitched six innings of three-run ball and was supported by homers from Harper and Realmuto.

In recent weeks, Harper has been outspoken in his desire to see the Phillies extend Realmuto's contract.

Wheeler chimed in with his own subtle endorsement of the All-Star catcher after Wednesday's game.

"Playing against him all these years, I was wishing he was my catcher and now he is," Wheeler said. "That was part of me coming over here, and I love throwing to him."

Wheeler, a former New York Met, signed a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. The Chicago White Sox actually offered Wheeler more money but staying on the East Coast and in the National League East appealed to the pitcher. And now we know that joining Realmuto was a factor in his decision, as well.

Wheeler has pitched 13 innings and allowed just four runs over two starts with his new club, both with Realmuto behind the plate.

"Against a lineup like the Yankees, you have to make pitches," Wheeler said after Wednesday's game. "Me and J.T. were on the same page all day. He can call a game and that's what you need back there.

"And he's a great receiver, one of the best in the game at that. And when guys get on base, you don't have that thought in the back of your head about being slow to the plate because he'll make up for it with his arm. And, of course, he can swing it."

Realmuto will become a free agent at season's end. The Phillies hope to sign him to an extension. Time will tell if that happens.

In the meantime, you can bet that Realmuto's agent will save Wheeler's endorsement for his client's free-agent dossier.

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