Chase Utley: Do Phillies Need the 2009 World Series Version to Win It All?
Well, do they? Before answering this question we must take a look back at Chase Utley’s record-setting 2009 World Series performance. First, the numbers:
In the six games (the Yankees beat the Phillies 4-2,) Utley had five home runs, eight RBI, seven runs scored, one double, four walks, one stolen base, and five strikeouts. He had a .286 average for the Series and a 1.448 OPS.
Utley hit two home runs in Game 1, one in Game 4 and two more in Game 5. Since the two he hit in Game 1 came off of lefty CC Sabathia, Utley joined Babe Ruth as only the second left-handed batter to hit two home runs in a World Series game against a left-handed pitcher.
Utley’s five total home runs tied him with Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit five home runs in a single World Series. Reggie Jackson hit five home runs for the Yankees in their 1977 World Series win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It would seem very unlikely that Utley would be able to repeat his 2009 World Series performance. In fact, Utley could have a very good World Series and still not be the “2009 World Series version.”
So assuming that the odds of Utley repeating his 2009 performance are indeed slim, what does that mean for the Phillies 2011 chances of winning it all?
Not much. Why not? Let me count down the reasons why.
5. Overall Team Performance
In 2009 as amazing as Utley’s performance was, it was the stunning lack of performance by the rest of the Phillies team, other than Cliff Lee, that cost them the crown. The Phillies hit just .227 as a team for the World Series with a .318 on-base percentage. The only pitcher to earn a win against the Yankees was Cliff Lee.
So in order to win it all in 2011, what the Phillies will really need is a more balanced team performance overall, not just a star turn by Chase Utley. This year’s Phillies team is currently clicking on all cylinders and is certainly capable of a much stronger offensive performance than the 2009 Phils. But so was the 2010 team until an untimely offensive slump prematurely ended their season.
It’s also worth noting that it’s often the least likely playoff star performances that can win a team the title. Does the name Cody Ross ring a bell?
4. Starting Pitching
In 2009, It wasn’t just the lack of offense that hurt the Phillies. They say good pitching beats good hitting and the Phillies starting rotation just didn’t perform when it counted. Cliff Lee had both of the Phillies wins while Cole Hamels, the previous year’s World Series MVP, after suffering through a mediocre season topped it off by giving up five runs in 4.1 innings in his only World Series start. Pedro Martinez, who the Phillies signed out of retirement, and Joe Blanton rounded out the rotation.
The 2011 Phillies starting rotation is certainly an upgrade from 2009. Lee is back joined by Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, this year having a season much more like 2008 than 2009. Although Roy Oswalt is just returning from a stint on the DL, he rounds out an impressive starting rotation.
If they perform as they have all season, heck even if two out of the four are true to form, it won’t take a record setting number of home runs from Chase Utley for the Phillies to win it all.
3. The Top of the Order
It has been well documented that the Phillies offense is at its best when their one and two hiiters get on base. When Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino ‘set the table’ the Phillies usually score runs and win games. But in the 2009 World Series, the table was usually bare. Rollins and Victorino hit a combined .200 (9-for-45) and scored a total of just six runs.
In 2011, Victorino has been the Phillies most consistent offensive weapon so far and Rollins has been hitting his stride of late. With more postseason performances under their belts, the odds are good that they will at least outperform their woeful 2009 World Series numbers.
2.The Heart of the Order
While Chase Utley was busy setting home run records, Phillies slugger Ryan Howard was setting a record of his own, but not one to brag about. Howard set a new World Series record for strikeouts with 13. After winning the 2009 NLCS MVP, Howard couldn’t carry it over to the World Series. In fact even with Chase’s power surge, the combination of Rollins, Howard and Utley only hit .222 (4-for-18) with runners in scoring position
The 2011 Phillies still feature Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But perhaps the good news for Phillies fans is that as unlikely as it is for Chase to repeat his home run feat, it is equally unlikely for Howard to repeat his record number of strike outs. And since the recent addition of Hunter Pence in the five hole, this year's Phillies offense has looked better than at any time since 2008.
A more balanced offensive effort with Utley, Howard and Pence all contributing, especially with runners in scoring position, would increase the Phillies odds of winning it all more than a single outstanding effort by just Chase Utley.
1. In Conclusion
So does Chase Utley have to perform like he did in the 2009 World Series for the 2011 Phillies to win it all should they get there, of course? In a word, no.
In order for the 2011 Phillies team to win it all they will have to keep following their manager Charlie Manuel’s mantra of taking it one day, one game at a time.
In order for the 2011 Phillies to win it all they need to get there first. There are far too many stories of the best team on paper being just that, good on paper.
In order for this team to win it all, more than one or two players will need to come through on the mound and at the plate. Let’s remember that even Chase’s superhuman efforts in 2009 didn’t win them the title.
To put it simply, in order for Phillies fans to get that parade down Broad Street, the 2011 Phillies as a team will have to just keep on doing what they’ve been doing not just in the regular season but down the stretch and through the playoffs.
In fact, even if Chase Utley hits six home runs in the World Series, it doesn’t guarantee a victory for the Phillies. But, hey Chase, it wouldn’t hurt!