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Fantasy Baseball Existentialism: Chase Utley Still the Man

I’m a San Francisco Giants fan and our* starting second baseman will probably never play baseball again. His replacement Brandon Hicks is hitting just .182/.297/.359. Despite Hicks’ stellar work in the field (+4 DRS) and occasional dinger production, we need a new second baseman if we’re going to set the modern record for wins in a single season.

So I went on over to McCovey Chronicles which is like the New York Times for me given that I don’t know what’s going on in the world beyond Grant Brisbee’s opining on the Giants. Brisbee had a well-reasoned column on the Chase Utley trade rumors. I thought Utley had faded off into obscurity with Marco Scutaro. Instead, it turns out Utley has returned from nagging leg injuries to re-take his rightful position as one of the game’s best at the keystone. Who knew? If the Phillies have a Hall-of-Fame second baseman at the top of the league at his position in offensive production, why have they been so awful? Please let me know in the comments.

Anyway, the point here is that Chase Utley is still the man, apparently. He leads all second baseman in wOBA, and he’s second in WAR.

Brisbee’s article had a link to an in-depth Philadelphia Magazine piece on Utley. The article made me completely fall in love with the guy, and that wasn’t just because of the hot picture which is now my desktop background. The tight-fitting white shirt, the gun show, the intense look off into the distance, the soul patch, the wavy hair—are we underrating how handsome Chase Utley is?

Utley is not just a Hall-of-Fame player. He’s also a leader with a plus-plus clubhouse presence, an incredibly hard-worker, and a loving husband and father. Chase, if you’re reading this, with Father’s Day coming up, perhaps you’d like to adopt me? Please let me know in the comments.

After reading about the real Chase, I was pretty devastated I hadn’t drafted him in fantasy. I figured the health risk was too steep given his age (36 in December) and injury history (hasn’t been fully healthy since 2009). Now I’m stuck with underachieving early-round picks Buster Posey and Evan Longoria who can’t lead in my fantasy clubhouse until they start producing, which, like, any day now fellas! I’m thinking of proposing a blockbuster trade to acquire Utley so I can move Matt Carpenter to third base and spark the ballclub. But first, I consulted my fantasy coach who not only doesn’t want Utley on our Giants, but who also thinks Utley is an overrated fantasy player. Here’s a transcript of our chat:

Me: I’m going to write about Chase Utley. Any fantasy thoughts?

Fantasy Coach: I actually have no fantasy thoughts on Utley. I’ve never even thought about getting him on my team. I’ve never liked him; always thought he was overrated. I seriously think Rickie Weeks may be relevant once he’s traded to the Giants, A’s, or Yankees. The concern would be the ground-ball percentage (15th highest). He’s hitting line drives (20.3 percent), which is what made him successful before, but that’s not really sustainable and his ground-ball percentage is super high which doesn’t bode well for a return to big-time power.

Me: Utley leads all second basemen in wOBA.

Fantasy Coach: Cano, Kipnis, Dozier, Kinsler, Altuve, and Pedroia are better fantasy players. I can think of seven or eight second basemen I’d rather have than Utley.

Me: Ouch. Well, he’s third in wOBA since the start of last year, so it’s not like his defense—which doesn’t count in fantasy—is carrying his value. And there’s no park adjustment in fantasy, so offensive production only, he’s at the top.

Fantasy Coach: Right, but that’s not the only calculus in fantasy. Matt Carpenter is also good at hitting baseballs, but he doesn’t hit home runs or steal bases, so he’s a ghost-runner on first a bunch of times.

Me: Which is why we need a sabermetric revolution with fantasy stats.

Chase Utley might not be the most valuable fantasy second baseman at this stage of his career because he doesn’t steal bases or dig the long ball anymore, but I doubt he’ll mention that in his Hall-of-Fame speech. Also, on my fantasy Giants team I spend most of the day thinking about, I just traded Kyle Crick for him. Get on it, Sabey-Sabes; we need the man.

*I’m basically on the team