Chase Utley: Philadelphia Phillies’ Rock is Ready to Roll Again

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The Phillies need Utley to play a full season this year

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Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley has entered his eleventh Philadelphia Phillies' season. With his chronic knee condition apparently under control, it seems as though number 26 is ready to roll again.

Younger fans might have been surprised to see that he hit his two-hundredth career home run against the Atlanta Braves in the 2013 season opener. Despite three consecutive down years, he has enough heart to make a strong push this season.

Former general manager Pat Gillick inked the second baseman to a contract extension that kicked in during the 2007 season. That deal is scheduled to end this year.

The native Californian's WAR score had increased in each of his first five major league seasons. After posting a 7.8 WAR score in 2007, he posted the highest sabermetric mark (9.0) of his career in 2008.

Flashing back to that period in history, it was fair to think that he was on a Hall of Fame path. But, a four-year pattern of decline began in 2009, as Utley's WAR scores dropped from 8.2 to 3.0 last season.

If this 34-year-old veteran is able to gut his way through a full-season and play approximately 140 games, he's likely to reverse many downward statistical trends.

Based upon last season's encouraging efforts, let's assume that he can hit .275, generate an OPS in the low-.800 range and push his WAR score between 5.0-6.0.

Utley has never been the best defensive player, but he's sound. Injury issues haven't caused a major erosion in his glove work. So, the .982 career fielding percentage that he carries should be able to be maintained this season.

Obviously, this great player has had his career limited by physical issues. But, fans far beyond Philadelphia still love him because he's the model for what a baseball player should be.

Any objective view of the franchise leader boards reveals that Utley needs to produce two, or three, more productive seasons in order to overtake Tony Taylor as the Phillies undisputed top second baseman of all-time.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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Utley should cross the 1,300 games played line this season

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Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Among all second basemen who have ever played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chase Utley (1,193) only trails Tony Taylor (1,669) in total games played for the franchise.

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Utley has hit twice as many home runs as any other second baseman in team history

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Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley hit career home run number 200 during the first game of the 2013 season. That total doubles the amount that Juan Samuel hit in his Philadelphia Phillies' career.

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Utley had three RBI in his first game of the 2013 season

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Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley is the Philadelphia Phillies' all-time RBI leader. The 742 runs that he's knocked in tower above Bill Hallman's 571 mark. That former second baseman played for the team in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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Utley generated his highest OPS mark (.976) in the 2007 season

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Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Chase Utley is the Philadelphia Phillies' all-time OPS leader. His career .876 mark is trailed by second-place second baseman Lafayette Fresco Thompson's .756 OPS mark. “Tommy” played for the Phillies from 1927-1930.

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Utley will cross the 1,300 career hit line this season

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Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Among all second baseman who have ever played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chase Utley (1,278) only trails Tony Taylor (1,511) in career franchise hits.

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