Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

Playing Howard and Utley Could Help Phillies’ Rebuild

DENVER, CO - MAY 20:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated in the dugout by Manager Ryne Sandberg of the Philadelphia Phillies after he hit a solo home run during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on May 20, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

DENVER, CO – MAY 20: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated in the dugout by Manager Ryne Sandberg of the Philadelphia Phillies after he hit a solo home run during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on May 20, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

This is why the Phillies didn’t bench or release Ryan Howard just two weeks into the season.

Remember? That’s what many fans wanted. Howard was hitting .175 (7-for-40) with three doubles, two RBIs, two walks, 15 strikeouts and a .464 OPS though April 19. They wanted Darin Ruf. They wanted Maikel Franco. They wanted Chase Utley.

They wanted anybody other than Howard.

But Howard is hitting .292 (28-for-96) with five doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 18 RBIs and a .961 OPS in 27 games since April 19. Only four players have hit more home runs than Howard since he hit his first homer of the season April 21: Bryce Harper (11), Giancarlo Stanton (10), Ryan Braun (nine), and Todd Frazier (nine). Howard’s OPS is 19th out of 191 qualified hitters in baseball in that span.

If he maintains the pace he has had since April 21 he will finish the season with 35 home runs.

Think a contending team could use somebody like that?

The Phillies had nothing to lose by continuing to play Howard, just like they have nothing to lose continuing to play Utley, despite his struggles. If Howard maintains his pace and if Utley picks up offensively — he has hit well over the past week — the Phillies might be able to trade one or both of them before July 31.

If they don’t, they didn’t lose anything.

Remember, this season is about the future. Benching or releasing the greatest first baseman and second baseman in franchise history based on a couple bad weeks (Howard) or six bad weeks (Utley) is short sighted. There is plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez and Ruf.

But what about Utley’s $15 million club option that vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances? Relax. Utley is on pace for 555 plate appearances, but even if the Phillies play him at his current pace and he is hitting .150 through July 31, the Phillies could make up the difference the final two months of the season.

So consider the big picture with Howard and Utley. Sticking with them through the trade deadline is the best plan for the future.

Utley Heads to Bench

lineup 2015Ryne Sandberg issued an interesting lineup for tonight’s game against the Braves.

First, Chase Utley is on the bench. He is hitting .103 this season and .215 with a .610 OPS in 555 plate appearances since May 29, 2014. Let’s see what Sandberg says in the dugout, but if I’m the manager I tell Utley to take a seat tonight and tomorrow night. There is an off day Thursday, so Utley could have three consecutive days to relax and clear his head. Jeff Francoeur said a weekend off benefited him Monday, when he went 4-for-5.

An extended rest has benefited other struggling hitters in the past. It might help. It might not. But it’s something to at least try.

Second, Ben Revere is playing right field for the first time since 2012, when he played 84 games there with the Twins. I think this is a precursor to Maikel Franco‘s promotion from Triple-A, which could happen as early as May 15. Whenever Franco is promoted the Phillies will want him to play regularly. That means plenty of time at third base, which means Cody Asche moving to left field.

Is It Just Bad Luck for Utley?

Ryne Sandberg, Chase UtleyChase Utley continues to hit third for the Phillies, despite the fact he entered tonight’s series opener against the Cardinals hitting .121.

Utley’s April batting average is the third-lowest in Phillies history among hitters with 40 or more plate appearances. Bill Kelly hit .119 in April 1928. Roy Sievers hit .114 in April 1962.

“He’s just a series or two away from getting hot and getting to where he wants to be,” Ryne Sandberg said.

Utley has been hitting the ball hard throughout the month, but he has had little to show for it. Some of it is bad luck. He has a .104 batting average on balls in play, which is the second-lowest BABIP in baseball. The average Major League player this season has a .290 BABIP. As FanGraphs explains: “For hitters, we use BABIP as a sanity test of sorts that tells us if their overall batting line is sustainable or not. Virtually no hitter is capable of producing a BABIP of .380 or higher on a regular basis and anything in the .230 range is also very atypical for a major league hitter. In other words, BABIP allows us to see if a hitter seems to be getting a boost from poor defense or good luck or getting docked for facing good defenses and having bad luck.”

“There’s something to that,” Sandberg said. “He’s stung the ball.”

Utley has a career .302 BABIP, including a .295 mark last season and a .305 mark in 2013. So expect Utley’s numers to improve at some point. When? That’s an entirely different question.

Worst Start Ever for Utley

Chase UtleyRyan Howard takes the heat, but Chase Utley is struggling worse than Howard through the Phillies’ first seven games. In fact, this is the worst start of Utley’s career through the team’s first seven games.

Rk Year #Matching PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS ▾
1 2014 6 Ind. Games 28 24 3 11 3 0 2 6 3 2 .458 .536 .833 1.369
2 2008 7 Ind. Games 32 26 8 9 2 0 3 6 5 0 .346 .438 .769 1.207
3 2010 7 Ind. Games 34 26 8 9 2 0 2 6 8 1 .346 .500 .654 1.154
4 2009 7 Ind. Games 31 25 7 10 1 0 1 5 5 3 .400 .516 .560 1.076
5 2013 7 Ind. Games 30 27 5 10 2 1 1 7 2 5 .370 .400 .630 1.030
6 2005 5 Ind. Games 16 15 2 5 0 0 1 5 0 3 .333 .313 .533 .846
7 2007 7 Ind. Games 35 31 4 8 4 0 1 3 2 7 .258 .314 .484 .798
8 2006 7 Ind. Games 29 27 2 6 3 0 0 3 1 5 .222 .276 .333 .609
9 2015 7 Ind. Games 26 22 1 2 0 0 0 3 2 6 .091 .154 .091 .245
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2015.

“It’s just a matter of time with Chase,” Ryne Sandberg said after yesterday’s 2-0 loss to the Mets. “I have no worries there. He gets quality at-bats. Chase will be fine. We just need to create some opportunities with men on base for those guys in the middle of the lineup.”

I’m not sure if Sandberg is saying Utley and Howard are struggling because the No. 1 and 2 hitters aren’t getting on base enough, but that should not affect Utley or Howard at the plate that much. Will Utley be better than he has been? Yes, although he has not homered since Aug. 10. It is the longest homerless drought of his career, stretching to 175 at-bats. But he posted a 1.297 OPS in Spring Training, so he was swinging the bat well recently.

Is he the only reason the Phillies are struggling offensively? Absolutely not. But he is a big reason why the team has scored just 16 runs in seven games.

Sandberg said he is not considering any significant changes to the lineup. I think that could come in time, but seven games into the season is not the time to bump Utley and Howard. I know nobody likes to hear this, but a big part of managing is managing people. You don’t take two long-time Phillies and in one day move them out of the spots they have been hitting their entire careers. They deserve a little more time. How much time? I’m not sure, but certainly more than seven games.

Utley’s Ankle Is Better, But Not 100 Percent

Chase UtleyThe Phillies hope today  represented just another step in Chase Utley’s chances to be in the Opening Day lineup.

He played in his first Grapefruit League game today in a 2-1 victory over the Rays at Bright House Field. Utley has been slowly recovering from a sprained right ankle, which he suffered in January when he stepped on a baseball.

“It feels pretty good,” Utley said about the ankle. “Still making a little progress on it. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

Utley was a designated hitter for four innings, striking out swinging in the first inning and singling to right-center field in the fourth. Aaron Altherr pinch-ran for Utley, and Altherr scored on Ryan Howard’s two-run home run.

“It felt good to get out there in front of the crowd, get some at-bats off an opposing pitcher,” Utley said. “It was nice.”

“I thought Chase looked great,” Ryne Sandberg said. “I thought he laid off some pitches. His swing was good, with the base hit, and ran well.”

Of course, the next step is playing in the field. Sandberg and Utley offered no timetable for that.

“I think we have to talk about it,” Utley said. “I think there might be another DH in there, but yeah, I’d like to play the field soon.”

Utley Could Play Friday

Chase UtleyChase Utley could play in his first Grapefruit League game tomorrow.

Ryne Sandberg said today that Utley could be the Phillies’ designated hitter against the Rays at Bright House Field. Utley has not played in a game this spring because of a sprained right ankle, which he injured in January when he stepped on a baseball. Utley’s ankle has made incremental progress over the past several weeks, and apparently he has made enough to step into the batter’s box and potentially run the bases.

Utley’s health is worth following. First, the Phillies desperately need his bat in the lineup. Second, he has a $15 million club option for next season that automatically vests with 500 plate appearances.

Sprained Ankle Keeps Utley Sidelined

Chase UtleyChase Utley did not work out with his teammates today and he is not expected to play in at least the first week of Grapefruit League games because of a sprained right ankle, but he said there is no reason to be alarmed.

Utley rolled the ankle in January. It remains visibly swollen.

“I’m making a little progress,” he said. “Obviously I wish it was a little quicker, but I’m trying to be smart about it. It seems like it’s making some progressions every few days. I’d like to get out there as soon as possible.

“There’s no sense in overdoing it and screwing something else up, especially when we have a month until the season starts.”

Nobody could say when Utley might play in a game. Ryne Sandberg said yesterday they would work Utley into a game “down the road.” Ruben Amaro Jr. said Utley would not play “for a little while.”

Utley said he did not participate in today’s workout because a nearly two-hour mandatory domestic violence education program curtailed his daily routine to get his knees and ankle ready for the field. Utley missed most of Spring Training in 2011-12 because of his knees and he works daily to keep those issues at bay.

“There’s a process I go through to get on the field,” he said.

Of course, because of Utley’s health history anytime something happens to him in Spring Training folks wonder if something more might be afoot.

He said no.

“I understand, but my ankle, look at it,” Utley said. “It looks worse than it is. But it’s not like it’s (completely healthy). There’s no point balancing on it or jumping on it. If I start balancing on it and jumping on it, and this isn’t ready, then something else is going to take the brunt of it, and I want to avoid (that). So that’s where we’re at.”

Ryno Talks Lee, Utley, Franco, Billingsley, Brown …

Cliff LeePhillies pitchers and catchers hold their first workout Thursday at Carpenter Complex, so on the eve of camp opening Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg touched on numerous topics.

Here are a few highlights from Wednesday’s nearly 30-minute press conference:

Cliff Lee. Lee finished last season on the disabled list with an injured left elbow, but his elbow is reportedly healthy. The Phillies and Lee hope so. The Phillies would like to trade him as they build for the future. “I know that he started his (throwing) program right around Dec. 1 like normal,” Sandberg said. “He had a little bit of a setback with I think a cold or upper respiratory (issue), but other than that everything’s been on schedule with Cliff. … He’s got no complaints and he’s pretty much where he usually is. So far, so good. We’ll keep an eye on him with his sides and his outings.”

Chase Utley. Utley had a solid first half in 2014 (.806 OPS through July 11), but slumped terribly in the second half (.661 OPS after July 11). Sandberg said he could give Utley more time off this season. “It’s important to have bench players that’ll be able to step in and give those guys possibly more of a rest than normal,” Sandberg said. “But that’s really up to the player and how he’s going. He had an All-Star first half of the season. Still a quality at-bat even if he made outs, still a quality at-bat. But, yeah, I see Chase getting some more days off this year.”

Maikel Franco. Franco is likely to open the season in Triple-A, but he will get a look at both third base and first base this spring. “He had an outstanding Winter Ball, so I’m anxious to see him,” Sandberg said.

Odubel Herrera.</> The Phillies selected the outfielder in the Rule 5 Draft. So far they like what they see. “He’s been impressive,” Sandberg said. “He’s a young guy that’s already opened up some eyes.”

Chad Billingsley. The Phillies hope Billingsley, who missed most of the past two seasons because of injuries, can be ready to join the rotation by late April. “I’ve seen him throw about three or four days ago,” Sandberg said. “He looked very good. He can give us a big boost in the starting pitching.”

Domonic Brown. Brown’s .634 OPS in 144 games last season ranked 139th out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball. His .640 OPS as an outfielder ranked 60th out of 64 outfielders, and his .641 OPS as a left fielder was the lowest of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch’s .582 OPS for Kansas City in ’02. “It’s a big year for Domonic Brown, to see if he’s one of the pieces of the puzzle going forward,” Sandberg said.

The Demolition Begins

Rollins Gets MRI, Status TBD WednesdayIt is just a matter of time, but Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is going to be traded to the Dodgers.

The demolition has begun.

Rollins is regarded as the greatest shortstop in franchise history, and he has the longest tenure of any professional athlete in the city. The Phillies selected him in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big league debut in 2000, won the 2007 National League MVP Award, helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series and set the franchise’s all-time hits record this season.

Rollins would be the first iconic player to fall in a potentially franchise-altering offseason. Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and others could be next in an extensive rebuilding project, although it is too early to tell. But multiple sources said Wednesday afternoon that the Phillies will trade Rollins to Los Angeles. The deal has not been finalized because a third team is involved in the trade, and money needs to be exchanged among them, which requires approval from the Commissioner’s Office.

“I know that there’s a lot of Jimmy Rollins stuff out there,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in the team’s hotel suite at the Winter Meetings. “There’s nothing to announce, and as I’ve said before, we’re keeping our options open and our minds open on any way that we can improve our club long term.”

(more…)

Utley Is Gold Glove Finalist

Chase Utley will have a shot at his first Gold Glove early next month.

He is one of three finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for National League second basemen. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips and Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu are the other two finalists.

Utley committed 11 errors with a .985 fielding percentage this season. Phillips committed two with a .996 fielding percentage, while LeMahieu had six with a .991 fielding percentage. But Utley’s 8.2 ultimate zone rating ranked second to LeMahieu (10.7), according to FanGraphs.

Utley’s 10.4 defense rating also ranked second to LeMahieu (12.7).

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