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Chase Utley Is Still an Elite Defender at Second Base

Bobby Yost@byostiCorrespondent IIAugust 29, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 22: Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws to first on a double play after putting out Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on August 22, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 22: Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws to first on a double play after putting out Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on August 22, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

The other night while listening to WIP, a caller began talking about Chase Utley and at one point commented about Chase Utley being average defensively. The host, not surprisingly, did not refute the caller's claim.

This is not an isolated incident. I've heard several hosts and fans take this same stance, commonly citing a few errors in the playoffs as enough evidence.

The last time Utley was an average defender was in his first big league season in 2003. Even with injuries mounting the last couple years, he's still fielding at an elite level. Advanced metrics agree across the board.

In Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games, Chase Utley is third in the majors, behind Howie Kendrick and Dustin Pedroia, with 20.5 runs saved. The next closest in the National League is Brandon Phillips with 14.8.

Baseball Info Solutions' defensive runs saved is not quite as high on Utley, but still has him saving three runs in his 672 innings. It still puts him third in the National League behind Mark Ellis and Brandon Phillips. However, Phillips' four runs saved has come with almost 400 more innings played.

Like UZR, Total Zone defense also considers Utley the best defender in the National League with five runs saved despite less than 700 innings played.

Even though advanced defensive metrics have their holes, they are still a better measure than worse and outdated statistics like fielding percentage and errors. More credence must also be given when the metrics universally agreed on the defensive ability like they do with Utley.

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