The Dodgers are in Philadelphia, which means another return to the city that former Phillies great Chase Utley called home for 13 seasons. Utley starts at second base in Monday night’s series opener at Citizens Bank Park.
It will be hard to top Utley’s first return to Philly last August, when he hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam in the series opener, and even received a curtain call from the home fans as a visiting player.
This was from a city that booed Mike Schmidt, and Santa Claus!
He had just one more hit in the rest of that three-game series, but the first impression was out of sight. Utley is second all-time in Citizens Bank Park history in hits (812), doubles (163), home runs (129), runs scored (489), and RBI (465).
Utley, acquired by the Dodgers in August 2015 and subsequently re-signed to a pair of one-year free agent deals to return, was asked on Sunday by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register how long he planned to continue playing:
Utley acknowledges he has been taking it one season at a time for awhile now.
“It’s been beneficial to me to kind of stay in the moment,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always done and I feel like I succeed that way. So why change it up now?”
The 38-year-old Utley is hitting .234/.324/.406 on the season, including .253/.320/.440 since the All-Star break. He will be a free agent at the end of the season.
Once Utley decides to stop playing, what might his future hold in baseball? David Laurila at FanGraphs in his weekly notes column got a suggestion from Utley’s former general manager:
I was talking to Ruben Amaro earlier this week when the subject turned to players with excellent knowledge of the game. The Red Sox first base coach brought up the name of someone he knows well from their days together in Philadelphia.
“Chase Utley is a very inquisitive guy,” volunteered Amaro. “You would think that he’s more old-school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he hasn’t adapted, and understood, analysis — what data can bring to an evaluation process.”
In nine games against his former team, Utley is hitting .242/.306/.545 with three home runs, a double, three walks, six RBI, and six runs scored. He was 2-for-7 with a double and a walk against the Phillies at Dodger Stadium in the three-game series from Apr. 28-30, starting two of the three games.
Counting Monday’s game, the lefty Utley will have started nine of the 18 games at second base in September, the same number as the right-handed Logan Forsythe. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is roughly the same split used in the postseason; not a strict platoon, but more of a 50/50 share.
Utley has only had 27 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers in 2017, with 91.8% of his plate appearances coming with the platoon advantage.
Finally, just in case you haven’t already seen this, Utley was also busy earlier on the road trip, catching up with Mike Oz at Yahoo Sports to open up an old pack of 1992 baseball cards. It’s worth it for the Dave Hollins story alone.