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Our Golden Age: Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell

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There's no doubt that we are in a golden age of individual Phillie performances.  In Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Pat Burrell, we have four of the best Phillies to ever play the game at their position.  If it weren't for Steve Carlton's Hall of Fame career, most of it with the Phils, we might be able to say the same about Cole Hamels in the position of lefty starter, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves as he's only started 71 games in the majors.

And yet, with these four all-time great Phillies, we have 3 playoff games and 0 playoff wins.  If that number doesn't significantly change over the course of the next few years, blame lies completely and solely at the foot of management.  Not complementing these four players with enough talent to get to the playoffs and succeed is a crime against every Phillies fan.

Back to the quartet.  Just how good are Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Burrell?  Let's look at their stats compared to other Phillies who have played their positions.  There's no doubt Howard, Utley, and Rollins are the best ever to play their positions in a Phillies uniform.  Left field has been a better position historically for the Phils than first, second, or short, so Burrell falls short of the "best ever" label, but he's still in the top five.  Consider the charts below the fold that make the case.

 

All of these charts list players who have had over 1500 plate appearances as a Phillie at the particular position.  The stats in the charts are just for the games playing the given position for the Phils.  Thus, even though Pat Burrell has 241 career home runs, 18 of those have come while being a designated hitter or first baseman, so he's listed as having only 223.  The only entire-career stat listed is career OPS+ (labeled "OPS+ C" in the chart), because I couldn't get an OPS+ just for the player's time at the position. The charts are ranked by this career OPS+. The last column, "OPS+ PH", is the highest OPS+ the player had for a single year as a Phillie. In other words, this column shows the player's peak Phillies performance level.

 

1B TPA R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ C OPS+ PH
Ryan Howard 2159 317 157 437 2 0.279 0.383 0.590 0.972 143 167
Dolph Camilli 2322 347 92 333 23 0.295 0.394 0.510 0.903 136 170
John Kruk 2174 305 50 285 20 0.310 0.406 0.466 0.872 133 150
Pete Rose 3222 390 8 255 51 0.291 0.365 0.361 0.726 118 130
Don Hurst 3603 497 112 598 41 0.303 0.373 0.488 0.861 116 145
Fred Luderus 5304 557 83 630 55 0.278 0.334 0.404 0.738 115 150
Von Hayes 1794 234 46 227 60 0.287 0.383 0.461 0.843 113 140
Ricky Jordan 2190 257 54 300 10 0.282 0.308 0.425 0.734 103 112
Kitty Bransfield 3197 270 11 359 105 0.269 0.291 0.349 0.640 97 130
Eddie Waitkus 2566 293 9 197 9 0.281 0.346 0.359 0.705 96 125
Rico Brogna 2022 247 65 300 28 0.265 0.316 0.440 0.756 96 97
Sid Farrar 3274 413 17 343 --- 0.253 0.305 0.342 0.647 90 104
Jack Boyle 1726 293 8 239 56 0.276 --- 0.364 --- 73 98

As we can see from this chart, Ryan Howard has the highest career OPS+ for any Phillie first baseman. He's hit a home run every 14 plate appearances; the closest competitor is Rico Brogna at one every 31 plate appearances. The counting numbers show Howard already leading in home runs and behind only Fred Luderus and Don Hurst for RBI. Of course, so much of this comparison has to be context-specific, which is why OPS+ is useful. Howard leads in that category. And only Dolph Camilli's excellent 1937 campaign betters Howard's best year in 2006.

2B TPA R HR RBI SB OBP SLG AVG OPS OPS+ C OPS+ PH
Chase Utley 2838 445 122 457 56 0.299 0.374 0.532 0.905 128 145
Juan Samuel 3561 491 92 393 238 0.264 0.309 0.442 0.752 101 116
Dave Cash 2238 292 7 171 43 0.296 0.348 0.371 0.719 93 104
Fresco Thompson 2595 369 12 219 61 0.300 0.343 0.404 0.746 89 104
Tony Taylor 4501 537 40 329 115 0.264 0.325 0.354 0.679 88 125
Al Myers 1836 239 5 206 --- 0.245 --- 0.320 --- 88 114
Bernie Friberg 1858 191 11 155 5 0.279 0.349 0.364 0.713 87 105
Otto Knabe 4057 468 5 280 122 0.249 0.311 0.315 0.625 86 113
Mickey Morandini 3829 434 20 254 103 0.267 0.334 0.360 0.694 85 104
Bill Hallman 3741 590 10 470 125 0.285 --- 0.359 --- 84 117
Granny Hamner 2764 331 52 334 8 0.266 0.313 0.400 0.713 84 113
Marlon Anderson 1869 195 26 182 30 0.266 0.313 0.383 0.696 84 97
Cookie Rojas 2992 321 27 222 26 0.258 0.296 0.327 0.623 83 110
Manny Trillo 2022 197 19 160 30 0.277 0.321 0.369 0.689 81 105
Kid Gleason 2525 279 2 181 65 0.251 0.284 0.308 0.592 78 104
Denny Doyle 1710 155 9 92 17 0.240 0.292 0.302 0.594 70 84

Chase Utley is head and shoulders above the competition here. He is joined only by Juan Samuel in having a career OPS+ above average (by definition, 100). But, Utley's career OPS+ of 128 is light years ahead of Samuel's 101. And his counting numbers are already toward the top, if not at the top, of the field. Utley is not only the best second baseman to ever play for the Phillies, but he is on target to be one of the best to ever play the game.

SS TPA R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ C OPS+ PH
Jimmy Rollins 5485 808 120 516 272 0.277 0.332 0.441 0.773 98 118
Dave Bancroft 2897 331 14 162 64 0.251 0.321 0.319 0.640 98 104
Dick Bartell 2704 386 2 161 33 0.295 0.344 0.379 0.722 96 104
Dickie Thon 1637 143 32 152 29 0.259 0.302 0.374 0.676 95 116
Bob Allen 2368 304 13 281 52 0.237 --- 0.332 --- 87 105
Granny Hamner 3291 358 49 353 27 0.259 0.292 0.369 0.661 84 113
Monte Cross 2325 261 8 221 89 0.230 0.305 0.293 0.599 80 94
Kevin Stocker 2121 223 14 172 30 0.262 0.347 0.350 0.697 79 124
Heinie Sand 3529 457 18 251 21 0.258 0.334 0.344 0.678 77 103
Micky Doolan 5014 383 11 445 119 0.236 0.273 0.313 0.586 72 97
Larry Bowa 7353 816 13 421 288 0.264 0.301 0.324 0.624 71 95
Ruben Amaro 1790 165 7 135 8 0.241 0.315 0.308 0.623 71 89
Steve Jeltz 1917 172 5 119 17 0.214 0.315 0.272 0.586 61 101
Bobby Wine 2113 159 23 176 7 0.216 0.262 0.297 0.559 55 64

Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop to play for the Phillies, although this isn't as much of a run-away as Utley and Howard at their positions. Rollins' career OBP+ is at the top, but is the same as Dave Bancroft, who played for the Phils from 1915 to 1920. But this is where peak OPS+ for the Phils comes in. Rollins has been an all-star, MVP, and had a peak OBP+ of 118 last year. Rollins' fielding is slick, if not at the same level of Larry Bowa. It's impossible to compare his fielding to Bancroft's, as he played in an era when he could make between 40 and 60 errors a year and keep his job. Rollins' longevity also plays a role here, as he's played at this comparatively high level for the second-longest amount of time among Phillies' shortstops.  Bowa has the most plate appearances as a Phillies shortstop and he is a fan favorite, of course, but his hitting was so lousy that his fielding and persona can't possibly make up for it. Rollins is the Phils' best shortstop ever.

LF TPA R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ C OPS+ PH
Ed Delahanty 6192 1245 84 1146 357 0.357 --- 0.527 --- 152 190
Sherry Magee 6314 898 75 886 387 0.299 0.360 0.447 0.807 136 174
Greg Luzinski 5187 605 220 796 27 0.280 0.363 0.490 0.853 130 156
Johnny Briggs 2273 286 52 209 32 0.251 0.349 0.400 0.749 121 141
Pat Burrell 4655 573 223 719 5 0.259 0.371 0.492 0.862 120 151
Irish Meusel 1988 247 35 241 67 0.308 0.337 0.449 0.786 119 140
Del Ennis 6914 891 259 1124 44 0.286 0.344 0.479 0.823 117 143
George Wood 1951 343 29 220 65 0.262 --- 0.404 --- 114 127
Johnny Mokan 2060 266 32 256 26 0.293 0.357 0.413 0.771 98 123
Possum Whitted 2094 222 13 216 72 0.274 0.297 0.363 0.660 96 113

This is where we finally get some stiff competition. As good as Pat Burrell has been, and there's no doubt he's been very good, with his 120 career OPS+, 151 OPS+ this year, and 223 career home runs as a left fielder, the Phils have had some great left fielders through the years. Ed Delahanty is in the Hall of Fame, Sherry Magee probably should be, and Greg Luzinski and Del Ennis combined for 7 All-Star appearances. Burrell will never touch Delahanty and Magee, but with a few more years like this year (if he sticks with the Phils, a big if), he could rival Luzinski as the best modern-era left-fielder.

It's quite clear looking at these charts. The Phils have four positions the best, or close to the best, that they've ever been in the franchise's history. There's simply no excuse for not winning with this talent.