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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Philadelphia Magazine was right... 

I was paging through Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly” issue ( … Dear Editors: why not a “Best Sports Blog” category? …) and I smiled at their “best reason” to troop down to Citizens Bank Ballpark: Chase Utley.

I hesitate to write again about Chase’s brilliance, because I know it is a topic (along with David Bell’s foibles at the plate) that I rehash and rehash and rehash. But let’s face it: Chase is the best thing that the Phillies have going for them. Bobby Abreu is in a slump. Pat Burrell has cooled off. The Phillies pitchers continue to surrender homers by the bushel. The team is struggling to stay in the playoff hunt.

Things aren’t good. Luckily Chase is there to make us all smile. He’s surpassed Bobby Abreu as the Phillies MVP and might just make himself into a viable MVP candidate in the future. Let’s go to the numbers (not including last night’s game):

GPA: .306
ISO: .221
OBP: .385
SLG: .529
Runs Created: 66
RC/27: 7.31
BB/PA: .103

If you are curious about where that ranks him amongst the Phillies, he’s second behind Abreu in OBP (.410), first in slugging percentage (beating Pat Burrell’s .501), first in ISO (beating Burrell’s .220 and Abreu’s .207), and second in RC/27 (to Abreu’s 7.83). He’s contributing more to the Phillies offense than Abreu because, despite the fact that the team leads the NL in OBP, they aren’t scoring runs because nobody is really hitting the ball with any authority.

I was sort of curious how Chase compares with other 2B’s. Bear in mind what I am going to say next has some caveats, namely, second basemen are typically not sluggers: after Jeff Kent, Chase Utley is the best hitting second baseman in the NL. I’ll make the argument that he’s the best overall 2B later. First, scope out the numbers:

VORP: Value over Replacement Player*
Kent (LA): 45.1
Utley (PHI): 38.7
Marcus Giles (ATL): 35.0
Craig Biggio (HOU): 29.1
Ryan Freel (CIN): 25.1

* I define all stats below, but I have no real definition for VORP aside from this: it is a complicated stat that measures how much a player contributes to his team over a “replacement” (i.e., average, run-of-the-mill) player.

Win Shares:
Kent: 21
Utley: 17
Giles: 17

That’s tremendous. I predict that Chase will leapfrog Kent by the end of the year and lead the NL in VORP and Win Shares, but let’s move on.

OBP: 2nd, behind the Marlins Luis Castillo (.410)
SLG: 2nd behind Kent (.535)
GPA: 2nd behind Kent (.319)
ISO: 2nd behind Kent (.230)
RC/27: 1st, 0.36 ahead of Kent
BA/RISP: 2nd (.329), behind Kent (.409)

That’s pretty good stuff. But hitting is just one part of a 2B’s job. He also has to be a pretty darn good fielder because he sees a lot of balls hit to him and is an integral part of any double play. This is where Chase shows that he’s the best all-around 2B:

Chase has tremendous range and ability:

Zone Rating (ZR):
Grudz. (STL): .880
Utley (PHI: .861
Counsell (ARZ): .851
Castillo (FLA): .834
Kent (LA): .803

ZR is my preferred all-around stat because it looks at how often a player gets to the ball and makes a play. Okay, a little subjective, but it is an interesting measure of a ballplayer. Even factoring in fielding percentage, a much more flawed stat, Utley is the better fielder:

Chase: .983
Kent: .976

I think the case of calling Chase the NL’s best 2B is very strong. He’s the Phillies MVP clearly and I don’t think there is a better man at the pivot in the entire NL.

Philly Magazine is right, Chase: you are the past part of a night at the ballpark.

On another note, I'd just like to extend my condolences to David Bell and his family: his cousin was recently killed in Iraq.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
Runs Created: A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula ESPN (where I get it from) uses: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times (Total bases + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF)
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
BA/RISP: Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (second or third base).
ZR (Zone Rating): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Fielding Percentage: (Putouts + Assists) / (Putouts + Assists + Errors). How often the player successfully handled the ball.

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