Sunday Notes: Chase Utley is Ballot-Bound (and Underrated)

Who was better, Joe Mauer or Chase Utley? I asked that question in a Twitter poll earlier this week and the result was… well, lopsided. The erstwhile Minnesota Twins catcher/first baseman garnered 79.5% of the 1,362 votes cast, while the former Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman received just 20.5%. With both debuting on next year’s Hall of Fame ballot — one that will include numerous notable holdovers — that breakdown could be telling. While it seems unlikely that Utley will join the likes of Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker as a one-and-done snub, might he poll just as poorly, or even worse, with BBWAA voters as he did in the head-to-head matchup with Mauer?

Utley finished his career with 61.6 fWAR and 64.5 bWAR.
Mauer finished his career with 53.0 fWAR and 55.2 bWAR.

Adrián Beltré, who will also debut on the ballot, is a shoo-in to be elected in his first year of eligibility. It is much for that reason that the Mauer-Utley comparison is meaningful — at least for the segment of voters that includes yours truly. Eight of the 10 candidates I voted for this year will be returning, and Beltré is a no-brainer. That leaves one open slot. Moreover, I’m not alone in this conundrum. A total of 54 voters put checkmarks next to 10 names, with eight ballots being identical to mine.

Voting for both Mauer and Utley is obviously an option (and there is strong possibility that I’ll do just that) but who then would I drop? Many might suggest Bobby Abreu, but I’m firmly in his camp. Manny and A-Rod could be candidates, but I’ve grudgingly decided not to play PED cop (let’s not forget that Bud Selig is in the Hall of Fame). Gary Sheffield? Next year will be his last on the ballot, and while the chance of him getting the requisite 75% are remote, he hit 509 bombs while logging a 141 wRC+. Andruw Jones? That would mean incurring the wrath of Atlanta Braves fans, but unlike Sheffield he has multiple years of eligibility left and is in no danger of falling off the ballot.

Which brings us back to Mauer and Utley. I’ll be surprised if Mauer gets less than 50% of support in his first year on the BBWAA ballot, and I expect that he’ll eventually gain election. Which he should. As for Utley, let’s just say that I’m far less confident. Again, the chances of his suffering the same fate as Grich and Whitaker (both of whom had a higher WAR) are pretty low. Today’s voters are far more prone to look under the hood than they were a few decades ago. At the same time, the amount of support Utley gets will likely be far less than he merits. Regardless of how he compares to Mauer, Utley is very underrated. In my opinion, he’s worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown.



Mike Trout is 0 for 6 against Buck Farmer.

Billy O‘Dell went 1 for 5 against Jay Hook.

Collin Cowgill went 2 for 6 against Anthony Bass.

Troy O’Leary went 0 for 4 against Doug Creek.

Grover Lowdermilk went 0 for 7 against Ray Fisher.

Darwin Barney went 5 for 22 against Jake Westbrook.


Terry Francona is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. The Cleveland Guardians skipper ranks 16th all-time with 1,874 managerial wins, and this year he’ll move past Bill McKechnie, Gene Mauch, and Casey Stengel. Francona has led teams to a pair of World Series titles, and another to extra innings of a seventh game.

I asked A.J. Hinch for his thoughts on Francona last season.

“He’s sneaky new-school,” the Detroit manager told me. “I think he’s evolved, otherwise he wouldn’t still be managing. He’s managing one of the more progressive organizations around and doing it quite well. So, I think he’s a blend, as you would expect from someone who has lasted and been tested across time. I have never coached or managed with him — even spent a ton of time around him — but he’s still relatable. That’s a great skill to have with today’s players, to be just as relatable as he was when he first started managing.

“His success is incredible. Some of it is measurable. Some of it is not. But when you’ve had the impact on the players, and the organizations that he has, the highest honor should be bestowed upon him. He’s 100% a Hall of Famer.”


A quiz:

The top three all-time leaders in on-base percentage in Phillies franchise history (“Sliding Billy” Hamilton, Roy Thomas, and Elmer Flick) debuted in the 1800s. The player who ranks fourth is far more recent. Who is it?

The answer can be found below.



The Oakland Athletics have added Johnny Doskow to their radio broadcast team. Doskow, who has been the voice of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats since 2000, joins the top-notch duo of Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo.

Gary Peters, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox from 1959-1969, and the Boston Red Sox from 1970-1972, died earlier this week at age 85. A left-hander, Peters went 20-8 in 1964, and logged the best ERA in the American League in 1963 and 1966. A good-hitting pitcher who went deep 19 times, he had at least one home run every year from 1963-1971.

Sal Bando died on January 20 at age 78. One of the best third basemen not in the Hall of Fame, the four-time All-Star amassed 56.2 WAR and had a 121 wRC+ while playing for the Oakland Athletics and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1966-1981. Bando was the A’s captain when they won three consecutive World Series titles in the ‘70s.

SABR Day will take place next Saturday, February 4, with numerous chapters throughout the country holding get-togethers, both virtual and in-person. Information can be found here.


The answer to the quiz is Bobby Abreu, who logged a .416 OBP in his nine seasons with Philadelphia. Ed Delahanty (.415) and John Kruk (.400) ranks fifth and sixth.


Brayan Bello was throwing primarily four-seamers when I first talked to him for FanGraphs in June 2021. The 23-year-old right-hander, who was in Double-A at the time, now throws a higher percentage of two-seamers. That transition began last season.

“My fastball doesn’t have a lot of spin,” reasoned Bello, who debuted with the Boston Red Sox in July. “I can throw my fastball up, and sometimes inside or outside, but my two-seam is better.”

The numbers back that up. Bello’s four-seamer, which he threw 186 times in his 57-and-a-third big-league innings, was in the 89th percentile for velocity (97.0 mph), but only 27th percentile for spin (2,202 rpm). The Samana, Dominican Republic native told me that his arm angle is more conducive to a two-seamer, but that he’s needed to learn to command the pitch better.

Bello, who entered last year as arguably Boston’s top pitching prospect, also features a plus slider and what our lead prospect analysts Eric Longenhagen has called “a sneaky good changeup.” And then there is the pitch that Bello threw to big-league hitters just five times last season.

“My curveball is a new pitch I’ve developed,” said Bello. “My other pitches are all 85 and up — they’re all hard — and I’m hoping that a soft little curve will help throw some hitters off.”

Bello’s new curveball is in the 77-79-mph range. He’s expected to begin the season in Boston’s starting rotation.


A look back at a player who had a pair of big seasons, back-to-back, in the 1970s:

In 1977, Larry Hisle had 28 home runs, 119 RBIs, and a 141 wRC+ for the Minnesota Twins. The Portsmouth, Ohio native then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent and proceeded to hit 34 home runs, drive in 115 runs, and log a 153 wRC+ in 1978.

Hisle dislocated his shoulder in April 1979 — he was 32 years old at the time — and never fully recovered. His career fizzled and was soon over. He finished with 166 home runs and a 123 wRC+.



Hirokazu Sawamura has signed with NPB’s Chiba Lotte Marines, one of two teams he played for (the Yomiuri Giants are the other) before spending the last two seasons with the Boston Red Sox. The 34-year-old right-hander appeared in 104 MLB games and went 6-2 with a 3.39 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 103-and-two-thirds innings.

The Adelaide Giants and the Perth Heat will play in the Australian Baseball League’s three-game championship series, which will begin on Friday. The Giants advanced by beating the Auckland Tuatara, while the Heat bested the Brisbane Bandits.

Bandits catcher Alex Hall led the ABL in OPS during the regular season, finishing with a .360/.440/.626 slash line and eight home runs in 159 plate appearances. The 23-year-old Perth native plays in the Milwaukee Brewers system.

Tuatara southpaw Jason Blanchard made 13 relief appearances and allowed seven hits and one earned runs in 21 innings. The 25-year-old Austin, Texas native plays in the San Diego Padres system.


Quinn Priester was a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and among the topics the 22-year-old right-hander touched on were a pair of his fellow Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects. Priester is rated by Baseball America as having the system’s best curveball, so I asked him how his compares to the one thrown by 23-year-old righty Mike Burrows.

“It hurts to say, but Mike has got a better one than I do,” Priester said on the pod. “He spins the absolute crap out of it. And it’s extremely sharp. Playing catch with Mike, when he throws his curveball, it comes out, one, like a fastball, so you almost flinch, because it looks like it’s coming at your face. And then there’s a second flinch where it looks like it rolls off the table and just drops straight down. It almost drills your ankles… I’ve got to imagine that it’s really not fun to see in the box.”

Asked if any of his other teammates have left him thinking, “Man, I wish I could throw that pitch,” the 2019 first-rounder named a newly-turned-24-year-old right-hander who some evaluators now consider the organization’s top pitching prospect.

“Everything Luis Ortiz does,” replied Priester. “I’m like, ‘Dang, I wish I could throw 101-mph sinkers.’ Ortiz is one of those outliers where he just kind of goes out and is just so talented. He’s so good…. I wish I could steal his velocity.”

Priester and Ortiz are Top 100 prospects. Burrows, a Top 10 in the Pirates system, is coming off of a 2022 campaign that saw him earn a midseason promotion to Triple-A after dominating at Double-A Altoona.


LINKS YOU’LL LIKE’s Molly Burkhardt talked to former Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo about his music career and forthcoming album, “Some Might Say.”

At Seattle’s MyNorthwest, Shannon Drayer talked to former FanGraphs editor Dave Cameron about how he went from a young Mariners fan, and blogger, to his current role as the club’s director of player procurement.

USA Today’s Gabe Lacques wrote about how after decades of headaches, the steroid era is almost over for Hall of Fame voters.

Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Stadium, where Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig once played on a tour of Japan, is slated to be torn down… unless a petition can save it. Elaine Lies has the story at the Reuters news agency.



Sadaharu Oh slashed .333/.532/.761 with 49 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants in 1974. He had 158 walks and 44 strikeouts.

Jeff McNeil was born in April 1992 and has 564 career hits.
Manny Machado was born in July 1992 and has 1,597 career hits.

Nolan Ryan walked 204 batters over 299 innings in 1977. Greg Maddux walked 199 batters over 1,430-and-a-third innings from 1996-2001.

Kirk Gibson, Warren Cromartie, Terry Puhl, and Todd Benzinger all played for the Royals in 1991. Gibson hit 16 of his 255 career home runs with Kansas City that season.

Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Pete Alexander led the NL in wins, ERA, and innings pitched each year from 1915-1917. His average season over that stretch was 31-12 with a 1.54 ERA, and 384 innings pitched. In December 1917, the Phillies traded HIM to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Pickles Dillhoefer, Mike Prendergast, and cash. Alexander’s career was fascinating, and his SABR BioProject biography is well worth your time.

The Minnesota Twins signed Chili Davis as a free agent on today’s date in 1991. Davis hit 41 home runs and had a 133 wRC+ in two seasons with the Twins, part of a career that saw him go deep 350 times and log a 118 wRC+ from 1981-1999.

Players born on today’s date include Bobby Bolin, who pitched for three teams, most notably the San Francisco Giants, from 1961-1973. A right-hander who worked both as starter and out of the bullpen, Bolin went 10-5 with a 1.99 ERA for the Giants in 1968.

Also born on today’s date was Morgan Burkhart, a first baseman who debuted with the Red Sox in 1990, two years after being signed out of the independent Frontier League. Burkhart played 42 big-league games — 36 with Boston and six with the Kansas City Royals — logging 30 hits, including five home runs.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

The way I always think about PED guys like ARod and Manny when it comes to the HoF ballot is if there is room for them to get votes vote for them. But, if the ballot is crowded then the penalty they pay for steroid use is to not get a vote. If three guys get in next year like they should there are only two guys coming onto the ballot for 2025 that make sense as votes and you can rotate one of the PED guys back on.