Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Chase Utley: Great ... or Greatest?
There's nothing like a couple of great weeks in October (and November) to ramp up the hyperbole. Case in point:
Given that the New York Yankees are soaking up all the World Series oxygen, it's no wonder Philadelphia's Chase Utley isn't getting heaps of praise. But here's something to ponder while watching Game 6: Mr. Utley may be the best second baseman in baseball. Ever.
I've been as big a cheerleader for Chase Utley as anyone these last few years. But the greatest second baseman, ever?
Certainly, Mr. Hornsby, Eddie Collins or Joe Morgan, all Hall of Fame second basemen, might have a bone to pick. But Mr. Utley, 30, is on pace to have more hits than Mr. Morgan's 2,517, he's got infinitely more power than Mr. Collins -- who, admittedly, played in a very different era -- and is a better defender than Mr. Hornsby.
Beginning with the obvious ... Mr. Utley is on pace to have more hits than Mr. Morgan?
Mr. Utley's got 978 hits, leaving him 1,539 short of Mr. Morgan. In Mr. Utley's five seasons as an every-day player, he has averaged 175 hits per season, which means he needs to continue doing exactly what he's doing for another nine seasons, or until he's almost 40.
Impossible? No. But as you might guess, Messrs' Hornsby, Collins, and Morgan all slowed down a bit as they played through their 30s. Most players do.
Utley's "problem" is that he got something of a late start for a player with his talents. He debuted in the majors at 24, and took over as the Phillies' every-day second baseman at 25. He's now got five great seasons under his belt, compared to (roughly) 14 for Hornsby, 15 for Collins, and 11 or 12 for Morgan. Essentially, Utley is still at least five great seasons away from being even a part of the conversation.