MVP voting confirms Utley as most underrated

Leave a comment

During his amazing playoff run last month I penned a lengthy article about Chase Utley being the most underrated player in baseball, writing: “Many media members and fans seem to think of him as merely a very good player rather than a truly great one.”
Part of my evidence for Utley being significantly underrated was his poor showings in past MVP balloting and with the latest votes revealed yesterday we now know that this season was no different.
Utley finished eighth overall while receiving just five top-five votes and was completely absent on 14 of 32 ballots. In other words, 27 of the 32 voters didn’t think Utley was among the five best players in the league this season and 14 of the 32 voters didn’t even think he was among the 10 best.
All of which is baffling considering that Utley hit .282/.397/.508 with 31 homers, 63 total extra-base hits, 88 walks, 93 RBIs, and 112 runs in 156 games while going a perfect 23-for-23 swiping bases and also played Gold Glove-caliber defense at an up-the-middle position.
He had a remarkable all-around season and not surprisingly Fan Graphs pegged Utley as being worth 77 runs more than a replacement-level player based on his offensive and defensive contributions. That total ranked second in the entire league behind only Albert Pujols at 84 runs, yet Utley received no second-place votes, only a handful of voters recognized him as a top-five player, and nearly half the ballots failed to even include his name. And the amazing thing is that this is nothing new.
Based on runs above replacement level Utley also ranked as the league’s second-best player in both 2007 and 2008, yet finished No. 8 and No. 14 in the MVP balloting. And in both 2005 and 2006 he ranked as the league’s fourth-best player while finishing No. 13 and No. 7 in the voting. In his five full seasons Utley has been second, second, second, fourth, and fourth among all NL position players in runs above replacement level, yet he’s never finished higher than seventh in the MVP balloting.
What makes the lack of respect shown to Utley particularly confusing is that he’s a hugely popular player on a tremendously successful large-market team. He’s not thriving in obscurity for some last-place, low-budget team, he’s putting up huge numbers for the back-to-back NL champs in the country’s sixth-largest city. Heck, two different Phillies have won MVPs with Utley as a teammate, so clearly a lack of attention for the team isn’t to blame.
MVP ballots were sent in long before Utley’s playoff heroics, so perhaps his big October this season will lead to more support from voters in 2010. In the meantime, Utley retains his title as the most underrated player in baseball for at least another year.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero
Leave a comment

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?