With as good as Chase Utley has been these past five years, many people have been assuming that he can’t really get much better. After all, this is a player who did not break through to become a full-time starter until he was already 26 years old, and is currently playing in his age-30 season.

chase-utleyHowever, so far this season, Utley is proving everyone wrong with a breakout year, and is currently on pace to set new career highs in OBP, SLG, homers, walks, and RBI.

The primary reason has been Utley’s increased patience at the plate. Although Utley has always had high on-base percentages because of his high batting averages, this is a player who consistently walked only about 50-60 times a season.

This season however, is on pace to walk exactly 100 times, which at least in my book, is pretty much the magic number that can be most easily used to distinguish superstars from stars when it comes to hitting.

Indeed, looking at the numbers, Utley has become significantly more willing to work deeper into counts and wait for “his” pitch. His swings on balls outside the zone have dropped from a previously established career norm of about 22% down to 19%, and he is even swinging less at pitches inside the zone, waiting for one that he likes.  Meanwhile, his contact rates, which have always been astonishingly high, have remained right at career levels.

What makes this all even more notable is how consistent Utley’s numbers have been in the past. Utley’s swing and contact rates have been pretty much like clockwork until this season, so while it’s still within the realm of possibility that this is just some sort of fluke, it may also very well be a real change in approach. Moreover, increased patience at the plate is known as an “old player skill” and is therefore one of the few improvements that may be more likely to be made at age 30 than at age 25.

Assuming that Utley’s increased patience is a permanent improvement and that he remains in good health, there’s no reason why he can’t consistently put up totals of 100 walks, 40 homers, 120+ RBI, and 1.000 OPS’s over the next few seasons. In other words, Albert Pujols/A-Rod in his prime type, annual MVP contender type numbers.

2 Responses to “Chase Utley has turned the corner from star to superstar”

  1. Sarah Green says:

    I saw this story come through in my feed, saw the headline, and signed on prepared to mock Coley for his ridiculous man-crush on Chase Utley, which had clearly turned the corner from man-crush to super-man-crush. Only, Nick wrote this post.

    So tell me – do you guys g-chat in the middle of the night about how dreamy Chutley is?

  2. I would take a bullet for Chase.

Leave a Reply

    Recent Comments

    • planet hobbywood: This is very interesting.
    • Bren: He is a awesome player and a good man.. sweet.. polite.. friendly.. down to earth.. he never acted as though he...
    • HADAJUN( Japanese): Okajima a Japanese hero?
    • Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor league baseball in the Orioles...
    • HADAJUN: I wish for play in Japan. The death is regrettable.


    Subscribe via email

    Enter your email address:


Featured posts

December 5, 2011

Will anybody get elected to the Hall of Fame this year?

Last week, we asked you to vote for who you would like to see enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame. The verdict? If it were up to UmpBump readers, nobody would make it in. The leading vote getter (so far) is Jeff Bagwell, who has 60% support. Of course, in the real voting, players need […]

January 5, 2011

Annual UmpBump Hall of Fame Balloting: 2011 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, we here at UmpBump cast our ballots for the Hall of Fame on the eve of the announcements of the voting for the real Hall of Fame. Voters can vote for anyone ever who has been retired from baseball for at least five years and is not already […]

October 19, 2010

Crowdsourcing the Greats: The Top 10 Managers of All Time

Now that we’ve looked at every position on the diamond, as well as relief pitchers, we are nearing the end of our “Crowdsourcing the Greats” series. But before we finish, let’s turn one more time to the internet hoi polloi for answers on who the greatest baseball manager of all time was. As usual, we […]