In playing fantasy baseball, I’ve noticed that one thing is the consistent biggest downfall of active owners: Living in the past.
In your regular life, 2009 may not seem like it was that long ago. But in the world of sports, four years is an eternity. If the best you can do is cite someone’s 2009 numbers, you might as well be talking about Rogers Hornsby.
Chase Utley is an example of someone that you shouldn’t get stuck on past achievements with. When you look at his averages from 2005-2009 and remember that he plays arguably the worst offensive position in fantasy baseball, it’s easy to get stuck on him. Take a look at the averages.
Those are fantastic for any position and honestly, it’s easy to understand how someone could become fascinated with a player who can do that. But remember, it’s 2013, not 2009. Look at his averages over the subsequent three years.
The numbers there are troubling, but the most worrisome one is the at bats, which is obviously a direct result of games played. He played 115 games in 2010, 103 in 2011, and 83 in 2012. So, it’s bad and getting worse, or is it?
For the first time in a while, Utley’s not entering 2013 with any apparent injuries. I’ll grant that injuries aren’t likely to get better with age (Utley is 34), but entering the season healthy makes a big difference. That’s not to say that he won’t miss any time throughout the 2013 season, but don’t assume that the trend of missing more games than the previous season is going to continue.
As far as how valuable Utley is, take a look at where Utley ranked among Major League second baseman in 2012 in the counted stats, keeping in mind that he played in just over half of the season’s games.
If you were in a 12-team league, Utley’s counted stats still would have belonged on someone’s team. That’s truly amazing.
Part of that speaks to how bad the second base position is, and it is awful. But if Utley played 150 games at his 2012 rate, you’d be looking at a second baseman with 86 runs, 20 HR, 81 RBI, 20 SB, and a .256 average. That’s a similar clip to what Ian Kinsler played at in 2012.
Now, Utley is not the same player now that he was in 2009. He really struggles against left-handed pitching, which is troublesome in that lineup, especially late in games. As long as Utley and Ryan Howard bat back-to-back in the order, opponents with a good left-handed reliever can make their lives very miserable at the end of games without having to worry about burning one pitcher for one hitter, or risking a lefty pitcher against a right-handed batter, which is a concern in a staggered lineup.
But while Utley isn’t as good as he was four years ago and will likely miss some time, he can play and does pass the eye test. The talents that made him a superstar have faded, but he is an incredibly smart player and still above average at the position.
In our Draft Kit, we have Utley has the eighth best second baseman. He will miss some games and I could see the No. 8 ranking deviating a little bit, but not much. You do need to have a good backup plan, but he’s still a Top-10 second baseman.
From 2010-2012, players overrated Utley because of what he did through 2009. In 2013, I see people underrating him because of the injuries he suffered over the last three years. That’s a problem but again, there’s no pressing injury on the table. He had borderline Top-10 production in counted stats 2013 despite missing half of the season. If he plays even 120 games, the only second baseman that I’d confidently say will be better are Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Jason Kipnis, and Brandon Phillips.