Freddy Galvis Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Maximizing Second Base

Chase Utley Turning Two
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As Spring Training moves forward, leading us generously to the start of the regular season, one question on so many Phillies fans minds is what we can expect from Chase Utley. Utley’s recent production for the Phillies has been stunted, by injured fingers, a concussion, and withering knees. That isn’t to say that Utley, when healthy, hasn’t played exceptionally well for the Phillies, in fact, he continues to be a favorite amongst fans, analysts, pundits, coaches, and his fellow players. No matter how well Utley performs on the field, the issue that nags at anyone associated with the Phillies is whether Utley can put up those great numbers for an entire season. Can Chase Utley stay healthy enough to provide the Phillies with the production they desperately need from him?

When examining this question, I came to the conclusion that despite all the optimism in the world, Chase Utley won’t play in 152 games (the number of games he played in on average from 06′-09′) in 2013. Once I accepted that truism, I decided to look into how well the Phillies can expect to perform at second base. As of now, it is likely that Chase will play in the majority of the Phillies games, especially given that his knees seem to have found the fountain of youth thus far in Spring Training.

In 2012 the majority of qualified second baseman played in about 156 games, a total probably too high for Utley. Since the Phillies shouldn’t expect 156 games played from Utley, what will the combination of Utley, and whoever fills in for him, produce?

First, let’s discuss Utley’s projections for 2013. Remember, these projections are not definitive numbers, all of them come with a confidence interval, a +/-, like the ones you see accompanying results of a political poll. The authors of these systems don’t publish those confidence interval numbers, but given the acceptance of these systems, we can safely assume they are fairly confident, but not superglued to these numbers. I used 6 different projection systems in order to gain the most clarity possible.

Chase Utley

Steamer

Bill James

Oliver

ZIPS

Fans

PECOTA

Average

G

97

122

-

103

118

121

112

HR

13

19

12

14

16

19

16

R

55

77

61

59

69

71

65

BA

0.268

0.274

0.267

0.258

0.270

0.260

0.266

OBP

0.361

0.372

0.358

0.362

0.372

0.358

0.364

SLG

0.447

0.463

0.417

0.431

0.452

0.444

0.442

WAR(P)

3.3

-

3.1

3.5

4.8

3.6

3.7

Just as a note, PECOTA doesn’t project games played, but using the at bats they projected I was able to come to an estimate. In addition, PECOTA uses WARP, not fWAR, which are calculated using different defensive metrics. For the sake of understanding the chart, know that 1 WARP is worth a little more than one fWAR. So, on average, these projection systems estimate that Utley will play in about 112 games this season, providing a solid 3.7 average WAR(P). Since all MLB teams play 162 games in a season, someone or someones will have to play 50 games in 2013 at second base. According to MLBDepthCharts.com, Freddy Galvis is set to be the best fit to replace Utley in those 50 games.

Freddy Galvis
Steamer Fans ZIPS PECOTA
G 55 88 105 56
WAR(P) 0.3 0.7 1.5 -0.1
Adj WAR(P) 0.3 0.4 0.7 -0.1

Using the projection systems that forecast WAR, we get a better picture of Freddy Galvis. Since each system predicts Galvis to play in a different number of games, some close to 50 and some further away, I adjusted each number to 50 games and have provided you with that number.

Now that we have WAR’s for both Utley’s projected 112 games played, and an adjusted figure for Galvis’ supposed 50 games, let’s combine that. WAR is an additive metric in that the final number can be added to that of another player, as long as we don’t mix pitchers with hitters. If we combine Utley and Galvis’(0.3) average projected WAR, we get 4 wins.

Here is a short list of second basemen in 2012 who produced about 4 wins: 1) Danny Espinosa (3.8), Brandon Phillips (4.0), and Dustin Pedroia (4.5). If the combination of Utley and Galvis can be muster 4 wins between them at second base, the Phillies should have a better chance at a winning season.

112 games played is a decent average for Utley in 2013, but as you saw, some projection systems have Chase playing as many as 122 games, meaning that Phillies second basemen could produce even more wins than I calculated. Overall, the Phillies,  despite Phillies fan’s love for Utley, don’t have a Robinson Cano playing at second base, or even Chase Utley circa 2007, but getting similar production to a top-5 second baseman from an Utley/Galvis tandem could prove very fruitful.

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Tags: Chase Utley Freddy Galvis