Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

Fire Sale Looming

Chase UtleyOn the train to DC this morning I crunched some numbers and came up with a few thoughts about the Phillies, who seem to be headed nowhere fast following a 4-7 homestand, which included their first no-hit loss since 1978 and four losses in five games to the Mets.

The Phillies are 9-17 since they were 15-14 on May 4. It’s the worst record in the National League in that span.

They are 24-31 overall. They were 26-29 at this point last year, when they were on their way to 89 losses.

I’m typically one to preach patience during a 162-game season because it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about a team a little more than two months into it. I often remind people about the deficits the 2007 and 2008 Phillies overcame to win the National League East: seven down with 17 to play in 2007 and 3 ½ back with 16 to play in 2008. But those teams did at least one thing very, very well. Those teams had the best offense in the National League. They hit the cover off the ball. They also had a very good bullpen down the stretch in 2007 and a great one throughout 2008. They also played good defense.

But the 2014 Phillies don’t do anything well. You can’t say, “This team has fantastic starting pitching, so if they can just add a bullpen arm and get Domonic Brown going they should be OK.”

There are holes everywhere.


Brown is hitting .206 with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 27 RBIs, 15 walks, 36 strikeouts and a .557 OPS through the team’s first 55 games. It reminds me of Pat Burrell’s 2003 season. Burrell’s struggles were a huge story that year. Fans wanted him sent to Triple-A, like Brown. I got emails from people asking about Burrell’s eyesight or other ailments that might be affecting him at the plate. But through 55 games in 2003, Burrell was hitting .204 with 13 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 31 walks, 64 strikeouts and a .751 OPS. Amazing. Burrell’s OPS was nearly 200 points higher than Brown’s is today.


Don’t Expect Franco Soon, Utley Trade Rumors

Chase UtleyIt sure doesn’t sound like Maikel Franco is an option to play third base while Cody Asche is on the disabled list.

“He’s just not playing good enough baseball yet,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said today at Citizens Bank Park. “He’s not really ready to be a big-leaguer yet.”

Franco returned to the IronPigs lineup yesterday after missing a couple days with an upper respiratory issue. He is hitting .231 with four home runs, 19 RBIs and a .669 OPS this season after a poor start, but he has hit .292 with an .851 OPS in 27 games since April 22.

But in those last 27 games, he is hitting just .125 (3 for 24) in his last seven.

Asche is on the DL with a strained left hamstring. The Phillies said they hope Asche can return June 7, when he is eligible to be activated. If that happens, it means there are just 10 more days for Franco to get a call up.

That isn’t much of a window to suddenly become a big leaguer in the eyes and minds of the Phillies front office. Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez continues to play third base in Asche’s absence. He entered Tuesday hitting .129 (4-for-31).

“There’s no reason to bring Franco unless he’s ready to be a big leaguer as far as I’m concerned,” Amaro said. “If he puts together a few days. Offensively, he’s made some adjustments, he’s made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he’s not really going on all cylinders now. We’re still contemplating it. We’ll see how it goes.”


Are there Chase Utley trade rumors? If not, there will be soon, unless the team begins to play well.

“They surface because he’s a good player and we’re not in first place, that’s why they surface,” Amaro said.

But Amaro downplayed the suggestion the Phillies would trade one of their more iconic players.

“First off, no one wants to trade Chase Utley and No.2 I don’t think Chase Utley wants to go anywhere and he has the power to decide what he wants to do,” Amaro said. “The point is kind of moot. The same with Jimmy (Rollins). The same story.”

Phillies Cruise in LA

Cliff LeeGood morning from California.

If you missed last night’s 7-0 victory over the Dodgers because of the three-hour difference, you missed a rare night when the Phillies didn’t have to sweat out a victory. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back as Cliff Lee allowed four hits and struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings.

Lee is 2-2 with a 1.20 ERA in four starts since Opening Day. In 30 innings over those starts, he has allowed 33 hits, four earned runs, one walk and has struck out 37.

“He’s evolved over the years,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s throwing more changeups, the curveball in different ways. He’s using more pitches. He used to be simple — stuff and location. He doesn’t throw quite as hard, but it doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot.”

Lee’s fastball has lost about one mph since last season, but it hasn’t affected his results.

Ryne Sandberg hit Carlos Ruiz fourth, despite hitting .204 with no home runs and two RBIs. He finished hitting .245 with one home run and four RBIs.

Ryan Howard continues to swing a hot bat. He hit his fifth home run of the season. It is just 19 games, but it is worth noting for the moment that his .905 OPS ranks 24th out of 199 qualifying hitters in baseball. Chase Utley is fourth at 1.086.

If you didn’t see Utley’s play in the bottom of the first inning you should watch it here. Lee called it “advanced” baseball.

Utley Leads Phillies Offense

Chase UtleyEverybody seems to know by now that Chase Utley is the hottest hitter on the planet.

He leads baseball with a .500 batting average, .565 on-base percentage, .875 slugging percentage and 1.440 OPS. Elias Sports Bureau said he is the first Phillies player to open a season 20-for-40 since Von Hayes in 1989.

We also know Utley won’t keep up this pace forever. But the Phillies are hoping their offense keeps up its pace through the first 12 games of the season. The Phillies lead the National League with a .354 on-base percentage and 49 walks. (Remove Utley from the equation and the team still has a .327 on-base percentage, which would rank fifth in the league.) Have the Phillies had bad days with runners in scoring position? Yes. They are sixth in the NL averaging 4.67 runs per game, so they can do a better job of taking advantage of their opportunities. But from 2005-11, when the Phillies led the league in runs, they also led the league in runners left on base. Utley often mentioned that in the past: Sure, they are leaving a lot of runners on base, but that is because they are putting a lot of runners on base. Typically, the law of averages kicks in and many of those runners score. The Phillies are hoping the same holds true this season.

Regardless, the first 12 games are a marked improvement over the past two seasons when the Phillies were ninth in the league averaging a paltry 3.99 runs per game and 11th with a .312 on-base percentage.

Utley Out with Flu

home opener 2014Chase Utley got sent home from the ballpark today because of the flu.

That’s a blow to the Phillies lineup. Utley entered the day leading the National League with a 1.369 OPS.

Cesar Hernandez will play second. Carlos Ruiz will hit third.

Sandberg Gets the Job

Ryne SandbergRyne Sandberg finally got his dream job.

The Phillies will announce at an 11:30 a.m. news conference today at Citizens Bank Park they have removed the “interim” label from Sandberg’s job title to make him Phillies manager. Sandberg becomes the 52nd manager in franchise history.

Sandberg replaced Charlie Manuel on an interim basis Aug. 16, but Sandberg has impressed the organization in that time. The Phillies are 18-16 under Sandberg, no small feat for a team that is 25th in baseball averaging 3.84 runs per game, 26th in baseball with a 4.30 ERA and 27th in run differential at minus-121.

It is not a surprise Sandberg got the job. Everybody in the world seemed to know it would happen. The only mystery remained when the Phillies would make the announcement.

They decided today would be the day.

Sandberg, who spent six seasons managing in the Minor Leagues to get a big-league opportunity, has received high marks from players in the clubhouse.

“Ryno is positive,” Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said Wednesday. “He’s always talking during the game. He’s definitely into the game, and guys respect him for that. He’s given a lot of guys an opportunity to play, which is nice. So far he’s done a great job.”

“There’s definitely a way he wants to do things,” Roy Halladay said earlier this month. “He’s set a tone early, and my guess would be that’s going to continue. He may even have more changes come Spring Training that he wants to see and that he wants to do. I think sometimes that can be a good thing, just to shake things up and make things different to where it’s not the same everyday routine. But he definitely has a way he wants to do things. It’s good that he’s not afraid to do it the way he wants to do it. If you’re going to do something, whatever job you do, you do it to the best of your ability and the way you want to do it and let everything take care of itself. I think he’s done that.”

Utley Writes Back Mac

Chase Utley finally answered Mac’s letter from It’s Always Sunny.

I spoke to Rob McElhenney in 2010 about the love letter to Utley and more.

Phillies, Utley Reach Contract Agreement

Chase UtleyChase Utley barreled into Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro on a play at the plate in the seventh inning in tonight’s 5-2 loss to the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies fans will get to see more hustle and body-be-damned plays like that from Utley in coming seasons. A source told the Phillies and Utley have agreed on a two-year contract extension. There are reports it is in the $25-$30 million range with vesting options for more years.

“I love Philadelphia,” said Utley, who declined to address the extension in specifics. “I’ve always envisioned playing here. I’ve never envisioned playing anywhere else. I hope that remains a possibility.”

“He’s pretty much the face of the franchise,” Cole Hamels said. “He does things right. He’s done things right since Day 1. He’s the typical Philly athlete and Philly ballplayer. He maxes out every day and you have to give him credit. That’s what’s fun to watch. Being a teammate, feeling confident knowing that I’m playing with one of the best second basemen in the game. I feel pretty comfortable and obviously pretty happy that he’s still going to be here.”

The Phillies and Utley have been discussing an extension for some time with Ruben Amaro Jr. saying frequently in the past month he wanted Utley to be a “Phillie for life.”

Utley said just before the All-Star break he saw pieces on the roster he believed could help the Phillies win in the future. Since then the Phillies have played poorly, completely falling out of postseason contention, but Utley said his feelings on the organization’s ability to win haven’t changed.

“Obviously right now we have a few guys that are banged up, that aren’t on the field, some of our main contributors,” Utley said. “But we have some solid pieces. Obviously, we all want to improve and I think everybody in this room can improve. So I like what I see. Obviously we have to play better baseball, though.”

Utley entered the night hitting .275 with 16 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .505 slugging percentage this season. His slugging is his best since a .509 mark in 2009. His .841 OPS is his best since a .905 mark in 2009.

If he had enough plate appearances to qualify his OPS would rank third among 18 big-league second basemen.

When Utley is healthy he remains one of the best second basemen in baseball, but his health has been a problem in recent years. He missed much of the previous two seasons because of chronically injured knees, although this season the Phillies have said Utley has not appeared on their daily injury report with knee issues.

Utley missed a month this season because of a strained oblique, but that was considered more of a freak injury than anything else.

“I’ve felt good all the way since I came back last year,” Utley said. “I feel like the program that have been doing has worked. I’ve been able to stay on the field for the most part and be fairly productive. I plan on continuing to do that.”

Quiet Deadline for Phillies?

Michael YoungThe Phillies have spoiled fans with plenty of action at the trade deadline in recent years, one way or another.

Let’s look back, shall we?

  • 2006: Traded Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, David Bell and Sal Fasano and DFA’d Ryan Franklin in a fire sale.
  • 2007: Acquired Kyle Lohse and Tadahito Iguchi.
  • 2008: Acquired Joe Blanton.
  • 2009: Acquired Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco and signed Pedro Martinez.
  • 2010: Acquired Roy Oswalt.
  • 2011: Acquired Hunter Pence.
  • 2012: Traded Shane Victorino and Pence.

This might be the quietest deadline since 2005, when the Phillies got Ugueth Urbina in June. I say that because last night the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy from the White Sox, which means Lee isn’t going to Boston or anywhere else. So I believe at this point it’s Michael Young or nobody. The Phillies are not going to trade Lee just to trade him. Why do that? They don’t need to shed payroll, and they’ve already been burned once on a Lee deal. Teams aren’t beating down doors for Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz or Delmon Young either, so they probably aren’t going anywhere. Ruben Amaro Jr. has said Chase Utley isn’t leaving as they’ve discussed a contract extension, so that’s basically it. It’s Michael Young or nobody, unless something crazy happens in the next few hours.

The Clock Is Ticking …

Cliff LeeThe speculation and rumors are at a full boil.

Depending on the time of day, Cliff Lee either is not going to be traded because the Phillies’ asking price is way too high — we’ve heard everything from three to four legitimate prospects to first, second and third born children — to there is a good chance he will be traded. Here’s what I know: the Phillies are willing to trade Lee. They are listening to offers for Lee. But they still plan to try to win next season and beyond — thus the $48 million to Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and the expected contract extension with Chase Utley — so they’re not pressured to trade him. They’re not the Marlins or Pirates or another small-market team. They don’t have to shed payroll. Lee’s contract isn’t an issue (although it is an issue for other teams), and for all of those reasons I would say the chances the Phillies trade Lee are less likely than trading him.

Now, please keep in mind these things can change by the hour, minute, text message or phone call. The Phillies thought they had no chance to acquire Hunter Pence before the 2011 trade deadline, but eventually got the deal done. The same could happen for Lee, but I think the Phillies aren’t as motivated to move Lee as they were to acquire Pence.

The most likely Phillies player to be traded is Michael Young for obvious reasons. He has value as a veteran corner infielder that can also DH and he isn’t expected back next season. But don’t expect much in return for a two-month rental.

The rest? Utley is not going to be traded. (See above.) Jonathan Papelbon‘s trade value isn’t terribly high at the moment and not because of his strong comments Sunday to It’s because of his performance and contract. His velocity has dipped and his five blown saves are tied for third in baseball. Carlos Ruiz could be moved, but don’t expect much in return. His .581 OPS would be the worst among big-league catchers, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Trading Jimmy Rollins is moot. He said Sunday he would not waive his trade rights. I suppose the Phillies could move Delmon Young, but they would get less for him than they would get for Michael Young. reported the only three players the Phillies will not trade are Utley, Cole Hamels and Domonic Brown. No surprises there. The Phillies expect Hamels to bounce back and a team starved for young talent would be crazy to trade Brown at this point.


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