The numbers are ridiculous. Over his first 10 games, Chase Utley has a .500/.565/.875 triple slash line. That's an incredible 1.440 OPS, the best in the majors (Freddie Freeman is second at 1.333).
Utley's 1.440 is even higher than Barry Bonds' 2004 season OPS of 1.422. (OK, that is more a statement about just how amazing Bonds was that entire year than about Utley's hot start, but still - he's better than Bonds!)
There's just no denying how incredible Utley has been so far this year. But, has he ever been better? Hot streaks at the beginning of a season are easy to spot and remember. Hot streaks in the middle of the 162 game slog that is the baseball season are a little harder to pinpoint.
However, thanks to the always incredible Day by Day Database along with a little Excel magic, it's pretty easy to figure this out. And the answer is quite stunning -- over the course of Utley's career, he's had three other 10 game runs that have been even better than what we've seen so far this year.
Here they are starting with the best, using OPS as the determinative metric:
May 24 to June 3, 2008 - 1.567 OPS: These were the best ten days of Utley's career. Over these ten days, Utley went 15 for 36 with an incredible 7 home runs, 20 RBI, and 13 runs scored. He walked 7 times while striking out only twice. His overall line was driven by his power, as his on-base percentage and average were actually lower than his current streak, but his slugging percentage was through the roof. He had a .417/.511/.1.056 line. His isolated power for this stretch was a ridiculous .649. That just can't be a real number, even though it is.
April 15 to April 24, 2008 - 1.550 OPS: Utley's second best ten game streak came earlier the same year. Utley had a tremendous start to the season but then turned it up a notch in this ten game stretch. He went 18 for 40 with, again, 7 home runs. He didn't produce as many runs though, knocking in only 12 and scoring only 10. He also didn't have quite the batting eye he had later in the season, as he walked only 3 times but struck out 7. Regardless, his power once again drove his numbers, as he posted a .450/.500/1.050 line.
September 22 to October 2, 2005 - 1.540 OPS: The Phillies came so so close to catching the Braves at the end of 2005, but they just couldn't do it. One of the reasons they came so close was Utley, as he was scorching to bring to the season to a close. In the last ten games of the season, Utley went 16 for 39 with 6 home runs, 15 RBI, and 13 runs scored. His eye was good, as he walked 9 times against only 7 strikeouts. Overall, he posted a .410/.540/1.000 line.
March 31, 2014 to April 13, 2014 - 1.440 OPS: Utley's current streak is his fourth best ever over ten games. Because of a weaker lineup around him, he's only scored 8 runs and knocked in 10, but that's not his fault. And his eye is as good as ever - 5 walks to 2 strikeouts.
These are Utley's four best 10 game stretches overall, but what about the separate components of the triple-slash - average, on-base percentage, and slugging.
Average: Utley has never had a better batting average over 10 games than the .500 that he's posted to start this season. The closest he has previously come is a .478 stretch from June 26 to July 14, 2004.
On-Base Percentage: Utley has only once had a higher on-base percentage over 10 games than the .565 he's sporting now. Toward the end of 2012, from September 11 to September 22, Utley had a slightly higher .574 OBP. He walked 11 times over those 10 games and was hit by a pitch 3 times. Other than that stretch though, Utley has never been better at getting on base than he has been to start 2014.
Slugging: Utley has had 6 stretches of better slugging than the .875 he's in the middle of right now. Three of them are listed above when he had incredible 1.056, 1.050, and 1.000 slugging percentages. In late July 2011, he had a .919 slugging percentage over 10 games. In late July 2006, he posted a .902, and over the first 10 games of 2010, he had an .895 slugging percentage. His .875 this season is his seventh-best 10 game stretch.
Overall, Utley's start to 2014 is not his best 10 game stretch ever, but it's very close. In a season when many fans, definitely including myself, fear there won't be much good to look forward to with this team, this start may signal that one of the things we can really enjoy this year is watching a rejuvenated Utley return to the top of his game.
Of course, there's no guarantee based on just ten games, but there's also no harm based on what we've seen so far in getting very excited about the possibility.