MVP voting confirms Utley as most underrated

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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.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.