Chase Utley: One of the Best Ever

If you are reading this, there is a remarkably decent chance that you are a somewhat invested baseball fan. As a baseball fan, you probably ...

Hall of famers

Some guys that might not get the hall of fame consideration they deserve. I'm not including guys like Bonds/Clemens, not because they're off the ballot, but because they were obviously good enough on the field and everyone agrees with that. There is an order within each tier. I will come back to this periodically to actually explain my perspective. 


Chase Utley-read my article on Chase Utley. Scroll down a bit. 

Todd Helton-the dude was a bonafide 7-8 win player at his peak. If you read my Utley article, you'd know that that means a lot more than it might sound. For example, Josh Hamilton, despite having a 7-8 WAR season, wasn't close to being a true 7-8 WAR player. I digress. He might have done steroids, but I don't recall any genuine evidence of such a claim. This matters, not because of the morality of the situation, which is nonsense, but rather the reality that his 7-8 WAR true talent would be a little bit higher had everyone else also not taken steroids. This applies to Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. as well. People probably forget that that is one of the reasons those dudes are "overglorified." He is the best player in Rockies history, probably could have played third base at a high level (boosting his already incredible production level), and also lasted long enough despite a pretty sharp decline. I don't care as much about longevity for a hall of fame argument; at least, I won't take away from a player for poor longevity. 

Andruw Jones- people talk about Jones a lot more than Helton, and I don't think he was as good, but he still deserves a quick and painless HOF induction. He was the best defensive center fielder we've seen, and hit a ton of home runs. Definitely somewhere from a 6-7 win player at his best, and he was at his best for all of his 20s. As much as I love to talk about how good Utley and Helton were at their peak, they got a ton of time to develop, while Jones was tossed into the mix as as a teenager, the consensus best prospect in baseball, and started hitting home runs in the world series. For the longevity nerds out there, he had a really good age 33-34 stretch. He was a great player. Put him in the hall. 

Given Legitimate Consideration:

Evan Longoria-he started his career a lot like Andruw Jones. Top prospect, great defensive player (not on Jones' level), immediately made the World Series, hit a ton of home runs, didn't get a ton of hits. His injuries came way before Jones', and he wasn't quite as good as Jones at his best, but he still deserves plenty of consideration.

Andrew McCutchen-another highly regarded prospect who ran the league for a couple of years. His peak talent might have been better than Longoria, but again, didn't last very long. These are the guys that deserve attention. He obviously wasn't a fluke, but maybe he wasn't quite the 7-8 win player that we saw in his best 3 years. Still probably a 6+ WAR player, a guy who made the Pirates relevant again,

Josh Donaldson- personal beliefs aside, Josh Donaldson is awesome. Unlike Jones, Longoria, and McCutchen, he was a late bloomer. He's still going somewhat strong, but his lack of playing time before his age 27 season will do him no favors in the race to 60 WAR. I don't buy into the 60 WAR thing as much as many people, partially because of that reason. However, I do like to credit guys that come up and immediately fuck up the game (hence Andruw Jones being ranked higher here), so Donaldson can't be completely absolved of his lack of good baseball in his early 20s. Still, the guy was a high 6 WAR player (by my estimate) at his best, he was really fun to watch, and his 'mysterious' resentment towards Tim Anderson makes him a not so cool villain. Like Longoria and McCutchen, he made his team relevant. Unlike those two, he made two separate teams relevant. That's pretty impressive. 

David Freese (Yes, that David Freese)

The guy leads everyone, all time, in championship win probability added. Everyone knows what he did against the Rangers, and he also happened to throw up solid performances in other playoff series' as well. He was also a very good player normally, although he was certainly not a hall of famer by talent alone. If Bill Mazeroski can be a hall of famer because of one at bat, Freese can be one because of 2+* appearances at the dish. 

Shohei Ohtani:

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei should definitely make the hall because of what he has already done. I'm sure some people get annoyed by people having this viewpoint, and I get it. We all know he can pitch and he can hit, and we don't need to be reminded of that every 30 seconds. However, Shohei is both a unicorn and an incredibly effective baseball player in all of the best ways. An MVP award on top of his pure baseball skillset, regardless of how much he helps his team win games, warrants his own wing in Cooperstown. There's also a great chance he is worthy of a hall of fame spot based purely on how much he contributed to winning, but he probably isn't quite there yet. It would definitely be awesome if he were to break the (post integration) single season WAR record, which is certainly in the cards if he can put together an incredible run prevention campaign. 

*He had the game tying triple and walkoff home run against the Rangers, but he also:

  • Hit a 2 run double in game 7 to tie the game at 2. Remember, the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Pretty big moment
  • Went 3/4 with a home run in game 6 of the NLCS vs. the Brewers.
  • Homered off of David Price in game 5 of the 2018 World Series (no other Dodger hitter did anything, as they lost 5-1 in the clinching game for the Sox). This wasn't in 2011, obviously, but still worth noting.
  • Homered and drove in 4 runs against Roy Oswalt in game 4(an elimination game for STL) of the 2011 NLDS. The Cardinals were not supposed to win this series, and they probably don't without Freese's contribution.
  • and more. Point is, he is disproportionately responsible for a single world series championship. Not many people can say that. Barry Bonds would be able to say that, but he can't, because Scott Spiezio is a menace. 


 Here's an infuriating stat:

So far, through June 7th of this year, 671 pitchers have appeared in an MLB game. We only have to go back to 2012 to find a season in which fewer than that many pitchers appeared in the entire season. To be exact, 662 pitchers appeared in a game throughout the entire 2012 season. If we compare apples to apples, 497 pitchers were used from April 7th to June 6th in 2012. 644 were used during the same stretch last year.

So, why is this infuriating? The MLB and MLBPA decided to continue preventing positive growth in the game a few weeks back citing "player health". This is despite the fact that pitcher injuries have gone through the roof in recent years, because as it turns out, maxing out once a week is worse for you than doing a normal set of 10 reps every other day. Apologies for the potentially misguided analogy. 

Of course, pitcher injuries aren't good for the game. I would like to think that fans want to see superstar pitchers consistently going deep into games and providing value via their great talents. Pitchers can't do this if the rest of the league is throwing as hard as they possibly can in the one inning they pitch every month before being put on the IL. Why? Because league average ERA will lower, and all of a sudden, these superstar pitchers are not much more effective than the platoon of triple A pitchers trying their best to stay on the roster. 

On the other side, I would like to think that fans enjoy consistent offensive performance. The bad hitters shouldn't be threats, but they should be able to put in solid offensive performances. The average hitters should be clearly limited, but should be able to give the fans a feeling that they can do something. Take Melvin Mora's 2007 season: he slashed 274/341/418 for a 99 wRC+. These days, a hitter with a .274 batting average seem like a modern Ichiro. Back to Mora, his line is eerily reminiscent of 2022 Julio Rodriguez's 277/332/432 line. The difference? Julio is a budding superstar on pace for a 5 win season, and he is currently sporting a 127 wRC+. Guess who ranks just behind him in wOBA: Shohei Ohtani. MLB's biggest star, admittedly in a down year offensively (although he is still producing quite well at the plate), has a weighted on base average comparable to 2007 Melvin Mora. Keep in mind that this was Mora's age 35 season, he wasn't playing in the middle of the steroid era, and he didn't play in a launching pad of a ballpark. This was a former low-level star in the twilight years of his career, hitting at a league average rate, and yet, any uninformed fan who tuned in to a randomly sampled Orioles game would think that he compared to two of the biggest stars in baseball. *

Low scoring baseball games are awesome, or at least they can be. It's fun watching two titans of the sport putting up scoreless innings, making great pitches and preventing the runners they do allow from advancing. It's not fun watching randomly generated reliever X complementing his 95 MPH fastball, which would really hover closer to 93 if he had to pitch more than 35 innings a year, with inconsistently spotted breaking pitches that are inexplicably called strikes by the umpire on occasion, forcing batters to expand the zone and either swing and miss or hit a weak flyball. 

The title for best pitching season since integration by ERA- is held by the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They had 2 pitchers go over 200 innings, and their top 6 pitchers by innings pitched were the only starting pitchers they had that year (outside of Ryan Merritt, who pitched very nicely in some double-headers in August and then was never seen again). They mainly relied on 6 relievers, and only 17 pitchers topped the 5 inning mountain. This is how a great pitching team should look: remarkable talent in the rotation (Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Clevinger, Salazar), a solid innings eater in Tomlin, a genuine relief ace (Andrew Miller), and then a bevy of really good back-end relievers. They had an all time core of pitching talent, and then they stayed healthy. Again, that's what greatness should look like. Keep in mind that this was a year before the Rays decided they would win 90 games by throwing a bunch of middle relievers at the wall and seeing which ones would stick. 

The second best team by ERA- since integration is none other than the 2021 Dodgers, a team that had 30 different pitchers throw over 5 innings. I am skeptical that many people found this staff nearly as entertaining to watch as the Indians. Their starting rotation was full of stars, similar to the Indians. However, we didn't get to see them very much. Indians starters averaged 5.87 innings per start, Dodgers just 5.2.  I could go on and on about this but I'm getting annoyed with the whole situation. Point is, the Dodgers didn't allow runs because they abused the 40 man roster/injured list system and allowed their already great staff to overexert themselves. Same goes for the Giants that year, outside of the "already great" part. I'm sorry, there's no way that Giants staff should have had a 129 ERA+. The MLB needs to interrogate Giants front office employees until the spill the beans on exactly what they did to cause that, and then make rule changes that prevent all of that nonsense. In the meantime, they can limit pitching roster size (to be fair, this would be happening by now anyways, but the 13 pitcher limit isn't enough. Make it at least 12, if not 11. Credit to them for coming up with this all the way back in 2019, which is shockingly proactive, but that credit can be taken away by somehow thinking that more roster spots will solve the pandemic or something like that. This is also the MLBPA's fault.), increasing the pitcher IL time, (have a sore shoulder? You can wait at least 20 days to come back. Figure out some sort of IL pay policy so the association agrees to this.), and limiting options to the minors (they did this, but of course, they didn't implement this in the first month of the season. Thanks, guys.). Combining this with a pitch clock (which has been shown to decrease both walks and strikeouts) and an electronic strike zone (stop calling all of those stupid fucking outside fastballs because "he hit his spot". His spot was off the plate. Jesus christ.) and we will see a quiet offensive boom in the form of singles and doubles instead of home runs. I'm done writing this, and I'm not going to proofread. 

*I'll admit that inflated offensive performance isn't necessarily desirable. The modern NFL is a great example of this, as overpowered offensive strategies combined with tightened rules has resulted in a significant increase in the league average points per game, to the point that a middling (and also somewhat underrated, in all fairness) 2021 Eagles team averaged nearly the exact same amount of points as the high powered 1999 Colts, who went 13-3 on the back of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. The NBA has seen massive offensive inflation. There are other factors, but one that I'm not a fan of is the sheer volume of meaningless NBA games. The NBA season is long, yet the games mean very little in the grand scheme of things due to both the nature of basketball(come playoff time, the more talented team will most likely prevail no matter the seed) and the comically oversized playoff field. It's hard to give it your all on defense for 82 games when the marginal value of a win is almost nonexistent. In the playoffs, defenses seem to go back to maximum effort, and the result is an incredibly entertaining few months of basketball.