Let’s talk about Chase Utley

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Speaking of injured players, I present to you Chase Utley. OK, he might not be injured, but there is certainly something not right with him at present.

On the season, he owns a .104/.204/.125 triple slash with a 1 wRC+ (not a typo). Since Logan Forsythe went down with a fractured toe, Utley has started eight of 14 games and slashed .143/.250/.179 with a 28 wRC+. Technically, that’s improvement … in the loosest sense of the word.

Well, Utley was bad again on Wednesday night as he was called out on strikes three times, and it prompted this question on Twitter.

No, PaRappa, it isn’t just you. Utley is indeed looking at a large percentage of strikes.

Year L/Str% L/SO%
2016 35.8 28.7
2017 47.1 81.8
Career (before ’17) 32.7 24.4

In 2017, he has just 54 plate appearances. The 47.1 looking strike percentage is the highest of his career by more than 10 percent (36.7 in 2009). The 81.8 strikeout looking percentage is abnormally high as he has never struck out looking more than 33 percent of the time in a season (2005, 629 plate appearances). But that’s what happens when a player doesn’t swing at pitches in the strike zone (39.8 Z-Swing%).

Coincidentally or not, Forsythe — who also has 54 plate appearances this season — has a higher looking strike percentage than Utley (49.6 percent), but he has struck out looking in just a quarter of his looking strikes.

Furthermore, it’s clear where pitchers are attacking Utley. One would think an older player would be susceptible to hard stuff inside, but that’s not how he’s being pitched.

Utley is not covering the outer-third of the plate. I’m not sure why that is, honestly. He looks quite reluctant to swing at pitches out there either because he can’t cover the plate, his bat speed declined that much since last season or some other unknown reason.

Since the beginning of June 2016, he has just a .220/.281/.349 slash line with a 73 wRC+, so a decline in production isn’t terribly surprising, but no one could have expected this — even with him being thrust into a quasi-starting role due to Forsythe’s injury. He hit .315/.371/.500 in Spring Training, so it seemed like he had at least a little something left in the tank. But the season’s first month has proven otherwise.

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Whether he’s injured or just completely ineffective, one thing is for certain: His playing time should be reduced through either a disabled list stint or just an even further limited role. And I’ll stop you before you can get the “A” in “DFA” out — that isn’t happening. He’s here for his Veteran Presents and what he brings to the clubhouse, and his contract is worth it for that by itself. Even with Forsythe’s minor setback in his rehab assignment, the Dodgers should be able to cover second base with MVP candidate Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez.

Don’t worry, though, he’ll always be Corey Seager‘s baseball dad.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.