Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Is Utley a Hall of Famer? The case in numbers

MLB.com @AndrewSimonMLB and @mattkellyMLB

Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley announced Friday that he will retire at the end of the 2018 season, signaling the close of an incredibly accomplished career in the Major Leagues. Utley has made an indelible mark in the game through both his toughness and his considerable skill, making contributions to many a contending club over his 16 seasons.

But is he a Hall of Fame player? That question has already been posed in regards to Utley for several years as he's wound down his career in Los Angeles, and the debate will certainly rage on between now and when he first becomes eligible for Cooperstown consideration after the 2023 season. One thing is already certain: Utley's resume ranks favorably among those who have played before him at second base, and his case is worthy of serious contemplation.

Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley announced Friday that he will retire at the end of the 2018 season, signaling the close of an incredibly accomplished career in the Major Leagues. Utley has made an indelible mark in the game through both his toughness and his considerable skill, making contributions to many a contending club over his 16 seasons.

But is he a Hall of Fame player? That question has already been posed in regards to Utley for several years as he's wound down his career in Los Angeles, and the debate will certainly rage on between now and when he first becomes eligible for Cooperstown consideration after the 2023 season. One thing is already certain: Utley's resume ranks favorably among those who have played before him at second base, and his case is worthy of serious contemplation.

Below is a look at five of Utley's biggest selling points for a spot in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery:

He's been just as valuable as Ryne Sandberg
The two make for a natural comparison. Both second basemen came up with the Phillies -- though Sandberg spent most of his career with the Cubs -- and Sandberg managed Utley in Philly from 2013-15.

Sandberg has the edge in many counting stats due to a longer career that included nearly 1,500 additional plate appearances. Despite that, their careers are nearly indistinguishable in terms of value. The FanGraphs version of wins above replacement (WAR) has Utley at 63.2, to 60.9 for Sandberg; the Baseball-Reference version has Sandberg at 68.0 and Utley at 65.6. In terms of the latter, and combining each player's seven best seasons, Utley (49.3) has the slight edge over Sandberg (47.1).

Considering that Sandberg cruised into the Hall on his third ballot in 2005, it seems only right for Utley to join him in Cooperstown.

His peak was spectacular
Opinions differ about how much weight should be placed on a Hall of Fame candidate's peak, compared with his longevity. But for anyone who believes in the importance of the former, Utley truly fits the bill.

Video: Utley belts a home run to right

Utley didn't play his first full season until 2005, when he was already 26 years old. But over the next five seasons, he posted Baseball-Reference WAR totals of 7.3 (fifth in the NL), 7.3 (third), 7.8 (third), 9.0 (second) and 8.2 (second), due to his all-around brilliance. That's a total of 39.7 WAR, second only to Albert Pujols over that span, with Alex Rodriguez the only other player within 10 WAR of Utley. Going all the way back to 1940, Joe Morgan is the only other second baseman to put together five seasons of 7 WAR in his career.

His power was rare for a second baseman
Even playing alongside a slugger like Ryan Howard for much of his prime, Utley's power was hard to ignore. The veteran currently stands with 259 home runs, 1,025 RBIs and 1,100 runs scored. Only six other players in history have totaled at least 250 homers, 1,000 RBIs and 1,000 runs while logging at least half their games at second base: Craig Biggio, Robinson Cano, Rogers Hornsby, Jeff Kent, Joe Morgan and Sandberg. Four of those six are already in the Hall of Fame, while Kent remains on the BBWAA ballot and Cano could someday be elected -- though his suspension this season makes his Cooperstown case less of a sure thing.

Video: COL@PHI: Utley's first MLB hit is a grand slam

Utley racked up at least 20 home runs and 100 RBIs in each season from 2005-08, joining Kent as the only primary second basemen in history to log at least four straight campaigns with those totals.

He's played big on the biggest stage
The heart and soul of Philadelphia's back-to-back National League pennant-winning clubs, Utley's power did not wilt under the bright lights of the World Series. After hitting .353 in the Phillies' five-game triumph over the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS, Utley chipped in a pair of home runs against the Rays to help his club capture its first Fall Classic title in nearly three decades. The following autumn, Utley smacked five home runs to tie Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson's record for a single World Series (since equaled by George Springer in 2017) in the Phillies' eventual six-game loss to the Yankees.

Video: A look at all of Chase Utley's World Series home runs

Utley owns a .689 slugging percentage over 15 career World Series games with the Phillies and Dodgers, which ranks seventh all-time among players with at least 50 Fall Classic plate appearances behind only David Ortiz, Jackson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Pablo Sandoval and Lenny Dykstra.

He excelled at the little things
Even setting aside intangibles such as leadership, one hallmark of Utley's career was doing whatever it took to win. That often didn't endear him to opposing fans, but it was effective.

For example, Utley has been a master at getting hit by pitches. Earlier this season, he became the fifth player in the modern era to draw 200 HBPs (he's now at 201). That's a lot of extra times on base.

Video: LAD@SD: Utley gets hit by a pitch for the 200th time

And once Utley was aboard, he was adept at making the most of it. While never a prolific basestealer -- his career high was 23 in 2009 -- Utley rarely got caught. His career success rate of 87.4 percent is the highest for any player with at least 100 attempts on record (since 1951).

Beyond steals, Utley ranked among the top 10 qualified hitters (at least 500 plate appearances) in the rate of extra bases taken in five straight seasons from 2006-10 -- including three different seasons in the top five ('06, '08 and '09). FanGraphs' overall baserunning value metric recognizes this, putting Utley 12th all-time, essentially even with Lou Brock, who stole more than 900 career bases.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Chase Utley