Chase Utley: currently the NL's best second baseman

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Utley has arguably been the best second baseman of his lifetime. But what's important tonight is that he's also the NL's best at his position right now.

Chase Utley has been the best at his position for at least the last decade, and possibly over his entire lifetime. The great Joe Morgan's peak ebbed in the late 1970s, and Utley was born in 1979. Since then, there have been second basemen inducted into the Hall of Fame (Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar), and others who are bound to be sooner or later (Craig Biggio), and still others who may not get in soon but have a strong case (Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph).

But quite arguably none of them were better than Chase Cameron Utley. A great way to see that is in Wins Above Replacement, where Utley is climbing into the group listed above, despite having played in far fewer games:

Player rWAR G WAR/162G
Lou Whitaker 74.9 2,390 5.1
Ryne Sandberg 67.5 2,164 5.1
Roberto Alomar 66.8 2,379 4.5
Willie Randolph 65.5 2,202 4.8
Craig Biggio 65.1 2,850 3.7
Chase Utley 60.9 1,414 7.0

The topic of this post however isn't what Utley has accomplished in a great career and how that compares, but where he ranks among the NL's best second basemen today.

Utley will be starting at second for the NL in tonight's All-Star game. He was voted in by a comfortable margin after getting off to a hot start. We see this all the time in All-star voting: a player's early success is visible to voters from the start, and even if that's his only good month of the season, it takes a while for their cumulative stats to decline, and by then they've gotten noticed and get substantial voter support.

David S. Cohen has rightly pointed out that Utley has been very streaky this year, alternating periods when he's been dominant, with weeks or more when he's looked lost at the plate.

However streakiness in itself doesn't take away from a player's value. Compared to a theoretical version of Utley's season in which his contributions were spread evenly throughout the year, he has helped the team win games more in some periods, and less in others. It's not as though he created "excess" value when he was hot, leading to unneeded runs in Phillies blow outs in those games.

When we look at Utley's overall productivity this year compared to other second basemen in the NL, it's clear that he has been the best in the league so far, using either main WAR metric:

fWAR rWAR
Chase Utley 3.1 Chase Utley 3.0
Daniel Murphy 2.6 Dee Gordon 2.2
Dee Gordon 2.5 Daniel Murphy 1.9
Scooter Gennett 2.2 Scooter Gennett 1.5
Neil Walker 1.4 DJ LeMahieu 1.4

How is he doing this? Just as throughout his career, he's beating teams in a variety of ways:

Name AVG OBP SLG wRC+ BsR Off Def fWAR
Chase Utley .293 .349 .445 120 2.4 11.1 5.9 3.1
Daniel Murphy .294 .342 .413 116 2.8 10.3 1.5 2.6
Dee Gordon .292 .344 .398 112 6.4 11.9 0.0 2.5
Scooter Gennett .309 .346 .482 124 1.0 9.4 1.5 2.2
Neil Walker .271 .342 .444 124 -0.2 9.1 -6.9 1.4


He's been among the best hitters at the position, continues to be well above average on the bases, and has maintained his stellar defense, the occasional miscue notwithstanding.

Some tonight may be tempted to see Utley's inclusion in the All-Star game as a nod to a once great player, acknowledging him for what he has done in the past. That may be the case for the AL shortstop, but not for the NL's starter at second base.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join The Good Phight

You must be a member of The Good Phight to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Good Phight. You should read them.

Join The Good Phight

You must be a member of The Good Phight to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Good Phight. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker