Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Utley's Numbers Don't Tell the Whole Story

Statistics is like tests. You either love 'em or hate 'em.

Some baseball fans don't care about statistics. Just watch the game, they say, forget the numbers, they're just confusing, anyway.

Similar argument about school testing. Parents and teachers say tests aren't needed, get rid of them. They say testing is taking learning out of the classroom and teaching children how to take tests.

But in reading, math, and science, how can you tell what grade level a child is on, without testing? In baseball, how can you tell if a player is qualified for the Hall of Fame if you don't study the numbers?

Me? I like the numbers in baseball and think school kids should be tested every few years to see what they're learning. Or if they're learning.

But then along comes a player like Chase Utley.

To appreciate Chase Utley, you have to watch him play. His style rarely changes. Even in the dog days of summer — August and September — in the marathon of a 162 game schedule, in the brutal day in and day out grind, Utley never wavers. Even with two serious, chronic knee injuries.

He's what baseball people call a gamer or old school. It's a certain way you play the game. The Faithful in Philadelphia truly appreciate Chase Utley.

It's not that Utley's numbers aren't good. They're just not Hall of Fame numbers. Comparing Utley's numbers to Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, for example, Utley comes up short. Chase's numbers began falling off in the 2010 season. Then he showed up in 2011 spring training taking grounders on a stool because of his knee conditions — Patella Tendonitis and Chondromalacia patella.

After 2010, he never regained his power numbers in HR's and RBIs. According to his numbers, Chase Utley was never the same player.

But here's the thing. That didn't slow him down. He sucked it up and continued to play all out baseball like nothing changed. He wanted to play, pain or no pain.

The Phillies should retire Chase Utley's number 26. And if the decision is not based on his numbers, then it should be based on how he played the game.

Seven former Phillies have their numbers retired: Ashburn, Bunning, Schmidt, Roberts, Carlton, Alexander, and Klein.

Utley's numbers are pale in comparison to Ashburn's games, hits, runs, and OBP, and pale in comparison to Schmidt's, HRs, RBIs, and games.

But with Chase, you and I know that his numbers don't matter. He showed us how the game is played!


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