How much will Chase Utley improve the Phillies, you ask?
The short answer is “a lot.” The medium-sized answer is “it won’t take much to be better than the Phillies’ second basemen through June 26.”
In Utley’s absence, the quartet of Freddy Galvis, Michael Martinez, Pete Orr and Mike Fontenot combined for 294 plate appearances. Here is where Phillies’ 2Bs rank as a unit, compared to their counterparts around the league.
Even the banged-up, lesser version of Utley that we’ve seen in 2010 and 2011 produced a slash-line of .267/.367/.435 (BA/OBP/SLG). That is 97 more points of on-base percentage and 54 more points of slugging.
The closest example of those numbers this season is Indians rightfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is hitting .275/.362/.442. According to Fangraphs, Choo – with his Utley-like offensive production -- has been worth exactly 11.0 batting runs so far in 2012.
Phillies’ second basemen, meanwhile, have been worth minus-11.9 offensive runs. That tells you, theoretically, that had Utley played second base during the Phils’ first 76 games, the team would have scored about 23 more runs.
Now, obviously these numbers take place in a vacuum, and if Utley had played many other things would have been different. But 23 runs is significant – spread out over the course of a half-season that’s between two and three additional wins.
Two and three additional wins would have the Phillies at somewhere around 39-37. They’d be 1½ games out of the final wild card spot as opposed to 4½.
That is what Utley figures to add over the second half of the season – between 20-25 additional runs scored if he remains healthy. He won’t be the Chase Utley that hit .332 in 2007 or went deep 33 times in 2008, but he doesn’t have to be. He’ll give the Phillies an enormous boost just by being the player he is at age 33.