The 2009 Phillies got some marvelous production out of their lineup once again -- Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez come to mind. But once again, the best of the bunch was second baseman Chase Utley. For the fourth season in a row, Utley finished second in the National League in WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
Utley quietly posted yet another ho-hum "Holy crap that guy is incredible!" season in 2009, hitting 31 homers and posting a career-high 88 walks, with a .905 OPS. Really great numbers, particularly for a second baseman, but not necessarily "second best player in the league" totals. So where does it come from?
After the jump...
1. Defense: Once again, Chase Utley posted a league-leading UZR of 10.8, which is actually down appreciably from his ungodly 20.2 UZR in 2008. Defensive metrics aren't perfect, of course, but if one system keeps showing that Utley is the best in the league, well, there's probably something there.
2. Baserunning: Utley was a perfect 23-for-23 in basestealing opportunities. John Dewan's Stat of the Week last week showed Chase Utley as the best "baserunning gainer" in the National League over the past five seasons, with a +96 total, and a +27 in 2009 alone. That's 96 bases better than the average baserunner. That's lots of bases.
3. Plunked: Hit by a pitch 24 times this season, third year in a row he lead the league in that category.
So, there you have it. Chase Utley, the best Phillies player since Mike Schmidt, and a player who literally does everything well. He hasn't been a press favorite because of his dry personality; guys like Jimmy Rollins have been and always will be more quotable. But when it comes to playing the game and winning, Chase Utley is the heart and soul of this Phillies team. We're lucky to have him. Now, about that 8th place MVP finish...