Glen Macnow: Where Chase Utley ranks among best 2008 Phillies

Chase Utley Phillies

Chase Utley’s retirement announcement last week sparked terrific debate over whether he is a future Hall of Famer. Certainly, his prime seasons look like credentials for Cooperstown.

Utley batted .301/.388/.535 in his five-year peak from 2005 to 2009. According to stats whiz @theaceofspaeder, only six other second basemen have slashed that in a season over the last 60 years – and none did so more than once.

I’d list Utley among the best second basemen I’ve ever seen, behind only Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, Robbie Alomar and Craig Biggio – all of whom are in the Hall. To my eyes, he belongs.

Problem is, Utley’s career stats – fewer than 2,000 hits and 300 homers – won’t get his pass punched by voters. Until the people who choose the Hall of Fame start paying attention to modern metrics like WAR and defensive efficiency, Utley will join star second basemen like Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich on the outside looking in.

Same for Jimmy Rollins. He’ll get a sniff from Hall voters, but a snapshot of his career numbers may leave him short. I’d argue Rollins’ combination of speed, defense and extra-base power puts him near Barry Larkin (who’s in). But I don’t get a vote for Cooperstown.

Alas, it may be the best hearing Utley and Rollins get come decades from now, when they’re considered by the Hall’s Veterans Committee. Perhaps, by then, the gatekeepers will catch up with modern thinking about what makes a player deserving.

So, expect the best era of Phillies baseball (2007-11) to end with just one Hall of Famer – Roy Halladay, who spun most of his brilliance in Toronto. That’s doesn’t mean they aren’t all immortals in our hearts.

Here is my ranking of the top Phils from 2008 in terms of total career – including seasons played with other teams. Note that it doesn’t include Halladay or Cliff Lee, both of whom arrived later.

1. Chase Utley – He averaged 111 runs scored, 101 RBIs and 29 homers during those five brilliant seasons. Utley also made himself into an excellent defensive player. Six-time all-star.

2. Jimmy Rollins – Despite a .324 career OPB, he was dynamic, averaging 104 runs scored between 2001-09. Rollins led the NL in triples four times, won four Gold Gloves. And, of course, he’s got that 2007 MVP award over his fireplace.

3. Cole Hamels – Still getting them out in the AL,  the ‘08 World Series MVP has 152 career wins (fifth among active pitchers) and earned Cy Young votes four separate times. Don’t rule out Hamels coming home to finish his career.

4. Ryan Howard – The hardest guy to judge because injuries stole his greatness. From 2006-11, Howard averaged 44 homers, 133 RBIs, .276 BA. Now, if we could just erase his last five seasons – 18 HR, 66 RBI, .226 BA.

5. Jamie Moyer – He spent 25 years in the Majors, just five with the Phils. His 260 wins rank 35th all-time. His 522 HRs allowed ranks 1st.

6. Shane Victorino – The Flyin’ Hawaiian lasted 12 seasons with his kamikaze style and earned four Gold Gloves. A terrific sparkplug for the Phils and, later, the Boston Red Sox.

7. Carlos Ruiz -You can’t measure Chooch’s value in stats, although he worked hard to make himself a plus offensive player. Anyone who watched those years knows Ruiz saved countless runs by blocking balls in the dirt and brilliantly handling Phils pitchers. 

8. Jayson Werth – The smoldering dislike for Werth causes fans to forget how productive he was, posting an .885 OPS for the Phils from 2007-10. Then he played seven seasons in Washington – mostly good ones. 

9. Brad Lidge – He had that perfect 48-for-48 season and finished with 225 career saves. Lidge, however, mixed in too many subpar seasons to move higher on this list.

10. Pat Burrell – “Pat the Bat” could infuriate fans by watching strike three come right down the pipe, but he was an effective five-hole hitter. His 251 homers rank fourth in franchise history.

That’s my list – with J.A. Happ and Ryan Madsen knocking at the door. Yours is likely different. I’d love to hear your feedback.

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