Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Totally Objective Argument in Support of Chase Utley for NLCS MVP

I'm gonna open with an admission that may cause everyone who disagrees to stop reading, but it's only fair.

I know Chase personally. I don't know him well, but well enough to firmly believe that he is a model human-being in addition to being an inexplicably good baseball player.

He is humble, honest, sincere, and approachable. He works hard, plays the game right, and lets his actions do most of his talking. Like most of us, he isn't going to perform brain surgery when his career is over. But he is intelligent.

I cannot imagine him having a malicious bone in his body. Nor is he pretentious, despite being a celebrity and a millionaire.

I can offer him no higher compliment than to say he epitomizes old-school.

Or to say his in-laws love him and it has nothing to do with an $85 million contract.

Or his baseball career, which is developing into one of the best for a second basemen in the history of the game.

Or his personal celebrity.

How's that for objectivity?

Anyway, I really do think he's the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player.

The contenders (as I see them) are Chase, Shane Victorino, and Cole Hamels if he pitches well to get the win tonight. In that order. I'll address their cases in reverse:

3. Hamels - He would have two of the four wins; have given the team confidence by delivering on his ace status; set the tone for the series by going seven strong innings, striking out eight, and winning the opener; finish with a sub-3.00 ERA; and let's give him extra points for things I'm not mentioning.

Unless he pitches a no-hitter or something, this argument is a non-starter.

Even then, he only appeared in two of five games. In those two games, he pitched really well and still needed his offense plus his bullpen to get into the discussion.

And all of the requires he pitch well tonight - not a given.

The bottom line is the same rules that dictate who will win the regular season MVP apply in the postseason. These rules preclude pitchers from winning unless there is a dearth of other worthy candidates combined with a dominating pitching performance. That's more frequent in the postseason so you see pitchers win the award more frequently.

But that's not the case this year.

2. Victorino - he's been an agitator, messed with the Bum's mind, possibly knocked them off their game; been a catalyst; driven in six runs; hit a game-tying two-run homer on the road in a HUGE win; made a big catch (that was this series right?); and let's give him those same extra points we gave Hamels.

To me, this too is a non-starter. Even considering one of the things not mentioned above, that his performance is a surprise.

The guy is hitting .188. His on-base percentage is that very same .188. He has a couple of big hits...and ONE other - three hits, total. He grounded into that hideous double-play. And that catch was huge, but he is a left-fielder. That is not a premium defensive position.

The Flyin' Hawaiian's case is stronger than Hamels'. But it's probably not even as strong as one that could (probably should) be made for Pat Burrell. And it pales in comparison to...

1. Chase - his argument is an eerily simple recipe: take the strongest aspects of the argument in support of Hamels, change them to instead support a hitter, and combine them with the strongest aspects of the argument in support of Victorino.

Seriously, it's creepy.

Chase set the tone in game one for the offense by hitting a game-tying, two-run homer in a HUGE win. He's given the team confidence by delivering on his All-Star status (do you hear me down there Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard?). He made a HUGE defensive play with that diving, unassisted double play. And he's been a catalyst - as proven by his .611 on-base percentage (I'll give you a moment if you appropriately need one to recover).

Not only that, but Chase doesn't need those extra points (mainly because I'm gonna mention just about everything).

Along with the aforementioned OBP, he's got a slugging percentage of .846. That's an OPS of 1.457. Game over.

Of course, he's also hitting .462 and plays a premium defensive position at second base (not as important as third or short, but still more so than left field).

And just take a look at his numbers compared to the entire Philly team. They'd be absolutely SCREWED without him.

Like I said in the opening, he's a understated guy so you barely notice him, even when he's dominating the series.

For instance, you see those numbers in print and you wonder why nobody is talking about the fact that the Dodgers originally drafted Chase out of high school. Can you imagine how sick you are if you're a Bum fan reading that?

Of course, it makes this Giants' fan smile but I don't want to kick them when they're down (guess I just did; oh well, they're still getting good mileage out of '02).

Furthermore, I don't see any of this changing, regardless of what happens tonight. They only have one more win to go and, even if Chase tanks (which he won't since LA will probably start doing the smart thing and walk him whenever possible) and Victorino (or someone else) is the main protagonist.

There's just too much ground to make up.

Which is why I hope Chase has room on his mantel for an NLCS MVP Award.

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