The Philadelphia Phillies‘ second basemen, Chase Utley, entered this afternoon’s game hitting .389 with one home run and four RBIs. After a slow Spring Training, there was concern that he was not going to be able to produce this season.
During 21 games this spring, Utley only managed a .217 batting average, with three RBIs and seven strikeouts in 60 at-bats. For those who value Spring Training and think it is an indicator of how a player will perform throughout the regular season, then yes, there was reason for concern.
Sprint Training is a time for young, unproven players to try to make their case for the major league squad and for the veterans to stretch out and loosen their arms to make sure they are ready to go for opening day. For players like Utley, entering his 12th season in the majors, there should not be much weight on preseason performance.
Utley has played in 1327 games in MLB, with a career .288 batting average, 218 home runs and 812 RBIs. What does he need to prove in Spring Training that he has not already done in his regular season career?
Yes, he has had to overcome his fair share of injuries of late and he is getting older. But it is silly to write him off because of his struggles during spring ball.
In 2008, Utley played in 22 spring training games, hit just .214 with two home runs and eight RBIs. That season, he hit .292 with a career-high 33 home runs and 102 RBIs.
Utley has added another three hits and a solo home run in this afternoon’s game so far, raising his average to .476 on the young season. It is beyond unrealistic to think that he will keep this pace up, but it is clear that Spring Training trouble has little correlation to regular season success.