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What The Utley Effect Means for the Phillies

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At 17 games over .500, the Phillies continue to own the best record in the majors. But, that’s really not a new development, as they have rabbited baseball’s best teams through most of the first 70 or so games of this season.

 What that would seem to indicate is that the May 23rd return of Chase Utley did not really change the team’s fortunes. They were, after all, 10 games over .500 and already atop the division when he arrived.

However, to suggest that today’s Phillies are anything close to the same team that they were three-and-a-half weeks ago would prove that you haven‘t been watching. The Utley Effect has been obvious during each of the 22 games that the star second baseman has taken the field. If you still aren’t sure what The Utley Effect is, it can be defined as: The unmistakable energy and winning attitude present among the Philadelphia Phillies whenever Chase Utley is in the lineup.

Charlie Manuel has come to appreciate The Utley Effect over the last six seasons. Photo: Gene Puskar-AP

The Utley Effect is a product of intense focus and extreme competitiveness. It often takes the form of disciplined at-bats, disregard for bodily wellness at the plate and in the field, and a refusal to make excuses for poor play or losses.

It’s the reason that Utley has always been immune to the short memories and even shorter tempers of his home fans.

Quick, name one other Philly position player that has not heard boos from the Citizen’s Bank Park faithful.

Exactly.

There are times when the mere presence of Utley makes the Phillies a better team, even when he doesn’t generate offense or make a great play with his glove. But the truth is, since his return last month, there have been very few games during which Utley hasn’t made significant contributions. Prior to Saturday night’s game, he is leading the team in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. In his last 11 games, he is 15-for-42 (.357) at the plate. Those 15 hits include four doubles, two triples and two home runs. Utley has also scored eight runs and knocked in 10 during those 11 games. And in true Utley fashion, he has even battled his way to seven walks and a hit-by-pitch during that stretch en route to an on-base percentage of .500.

So what has the Utley effect meant to the Phillies’ offense? Well, since his return, the team that was struggling to post three runs per game has averaged 4.9 when Utley is in the lineup. During his recent 11-game surge, that average has increased to 5.2 runs per game.

What doesn’t show up in those stats, however, is the spectacular catch in Pittsburgh that may have preserved an important win, or the game-saving snag against the Cubs one week later. The impact of Utley’s return was best summed up by staff ace Roy Halladay. “You need guys like that who are successful players who continue to grind it out. It sets a tone,” said the staff ace, who continued, “From the overall, everything he brings, I’ve never been around a guy like him.”

The Utley Effect has taken a hot baseball team and raised its temperature another notch. The current 11-2 stretch that the Phillies are experiencing is making those ugly Junes of years past a distant memory. It might also make a major trade deadline deal unnecessary for the team whose bank account seems to be maxed out. Utley’s return, coupled with the promise of Domonic Brown’s first few weeks in pinstripes, is as good as any trade deadline deal in terms of its impact on a team.

The Utley Effect has obviously made the Phillies better team, but his greatest contribution seems to be the way he ups the ante for everyone on the roster. Suddenly, there are inspired performances throughout the Phillies lineup, as players like Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard appear to have a renewed focus. Charlie Manuel has come to appreciate The Utley Effect over the last six seasons. He has seen his team go through some pretty serious funks since the World Series title.  As the man in charge, his analysis of Utley’s importance to the Phillies success seems to say it all.  

“Add someone like Chase Ultey to your team and it helps the atmosphere and attitude,” said Manuel. The beloved manager then continued, “It’s how he goes about things. He’s one of the most solid leaders I have ever seen.”

He’s the type of leader whose effect on this Phillies team continues to be unmatched. It’s an effect so great, that it has earned it’s own name: The Utley Effect.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

 Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net 

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Photo Credits:

 Utley: UPI Kevin Dietsch

Utley and Manuel: AP Gene Puskar