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January 23 2007

Deep in my heart I know I should be celebrating the announcement of Utley's long-term deal by bashing Pat Burrell.  Apparently, it's what people do.  But I'm just not up for it.  Let's go with whether or not Utley can be crowned the undisputed best second baseman in baseball.

Offensively, things are looking pretty good.

Here's a look at the runs created for the top players from both leagues last season while playing second base:

Player RC
Utley 126.1
Uggla 98.8
Durham 91.4
Hudson 90.3
Iguchi 83.4

And here's the runs created per 27 outs for second basemen in either league that got at least 150 plate appearances:

 

Player RC/27
Utley 7.32
Durham 6.65
Kent 6.44
Valentin 6.40
Cano 6.38

Utley led the second base playing universe in hits, home runs and RBI.  Ray Durham was pretty good, too, though, if you look at the numbers each of the players put up as a second baseman:

 

  AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Utley 646 31 100 307 377 523 900
Durham 494 26 92 296 361 543 904

In 152 more at-bats, Utley hit five more home runs and tallied eight more RBI.  He got on base slightly more often than Durham, although Ray outslugged him by 20 points.

Despite the fact it may be closer than some would have expected, I think it's safe to say that virtually everyone would rather have Utley than Durham as their everyday second baseman going into the 2007 season.

Defensively, few would argue that Utley is among baseball's elite at the position (he was better than Durham last season, however).  Among the 22 players in both leagues that played enough innings to qualify, Utley was tied for 18th in fielding percentage.  No second baseman made more than his 18 errors.  He did make a lot of plays, however, and was fifth among the 22 in range factor.

So, is there an elite defensive player at the position who is close enough to Utley with the bat that the differences defensively might put him over the top?  Orlando Hudson may be the closest.  Hudson won the Gold Glove in the NL this season and was solid at the plate as well, hitting 287/354/454.  Defensively there's not much question that Hudson was significantly better than Utley, making more plays and fewer errors in virtually the same number of innings.  Utley buries him at the plate, however, and if you go around saying that Orlando Hudson might be better than Chase Utley you risk having people starting to look at you weird.

In the end, as a Phillies' fan there's nobody I would rather see at second base for the next seven seasons.  But undisputed?  It just wouldn't be baseball if it were undisputed.

There's a post about Michael Bourn yesterday at Beyond the Boxscore.  One thing I do know about Michael Bourn is he can bunt the cover off the ball.  With his speed he could probably hit .300 if he bunted in every at-bat for a season.  I don't really think that at all -- I just feel obligated to make some kind of statement like that when discussing anyone fast who can bunt.  I really think he would probably hit about .040 if he bunted in every at-bat for a season.  He would also be subjected to some harsh language and risk having a large and diverse group of people throw stuff at him.  If he ever tries it, I hope the Phillies pull the plug after 200 or 250 at-bats.

Darin Erstad is a possibility as the Marlins' center fielder.

The Devil Dogs re-signed Shinji Mori to a minor-league deal.

Rheal Cormier remembers his friendship with pitching coach Vern Ruhle.

This mailbag from the Phillies web site makes the point that Alfonseca shouldn't be penciled in anywhere until he passes his physical.  Regardless of the contract, the real risk for the Phillies is less the money and more the danger of giving a roster slot to an unhealthy player who won't be able to contribute much.

Todd Zolecki is back in the saddle at his Q&A forum and going over what it means to be a Super Two. 

Gillick is mentioned in this piece about general managers.

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