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Second to None
2008-04-21 22:04
by Mike Carminati

Chase Utley homered again tonight, for the fifth game in a row, as the Phils rebound to beat the Rockies, 9-5, with five runs in the last two innings.

Utley's was one of three dingers in the game, including an inside-the-park jobber by Jason Werth and another by Pat Burrell, his seventh in his apparent career year (which coincidentally occurs as his monster contract expires. Utley also made a miraculous dive catch and shuffle throw to short to start an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and the Rockies ready to break the game wide open.

Utley now leads the majors in home runs (9) and OPS (1.284). He projects to 73 home runs, meaning he is clearly a lock to tie Barry Bonds' record, at least by the end of the season.

It made me wonder what were the best years offensively for a second baseman and where Utley's 2008 project would put him. Here are the best years based on OPS for any starting second sacker (not necessarily a qualifier for the batting title). Note that Utley's performance so far bests them all. Also, note why Rogers Hornsby is the greatest second baseman of all time:

Chase Utley2008Philadelphia Phillies29640.354.430.8231.25373146138
Rogers Hornsby1925St. Louis Cardinals29504.403.489.7561.24539143133
Rogers Hornsby1924St. Louis Cardinals28536.424.507.6961.2032594121
Rogers Hornsby1922St. Louis Cardinals26623.401.459.7221.18142152141
Rogers Hornsby1929Chicago Cubs33602.380.459.6791.13939149156
Rogers Hornsby1928Boston Braves32486.387.498.6321.130219499
Nap Lajoie1901Philadelphia Athletics26544.426.463.6431.10614125145
Rogers Hornsby1921St. Louis Cardinals25592.397.458.6391.09721126131
Rogers Hornsby1923St. Louis Cardinals27424.384.459.6271.086178389
Fred Dunlap1884St. Louis Maroons25449.412.448.6211.06913 160
Ross Barnes1876Chicago White Stockings26322.429.462.5901.052159126
Ross Barnes1873Boston Red Stockings23322.425.456.5841.040262125
Ross Barnes1872Boston Red Stockings22229.432.454.5851.03914481
Rogers Hornsby1927New York Giants31568.361.448.5861.03526125133
Ross Barnes1871Boston Red Stockings21157.401.447.5801.02703466
Jeff Kent2000San Francisco Giants32587.334.424.5961.02133125114
Joe Morgan1976Cincinnati Reds32472.320.444.5761.02027111113

It's been over forty years since the baseball world witnessed three different teammates winning an MVP award (the Yankees' Elston Howard, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris in 1961-63—Maris also won in 1960). Three Yankees also did it in 1941-43 (DiMaggio, Gordon, and Changler) and Gashouse Gang members Marty Marion, Stan Musial, and Mort Cooper won MVPs in three consecutive years, 1942-44. But there were eight teams per league back then.

Chase Utley seems a great bet to make the Phils' Ryan Howard, Jimmie Rollins, and himself the first teammates to do it in the expansion era.

2008-04-21 23:22:46
1.   BruceR
Ryne Sandberg is oft considered one of the top offensive 2Bs (and there's no disagreement here) so it's a mild surprise to not see his name there. What's his best OPS year ???
2008-04-22 02:33:53
2.   Yu-Hsing Chen
after the liveball era middle infielders fell back to no-hit guys again for a long time, until the 70s/80s when Morgan /Carew / Molitor / Sandberg showed up. (and of course Cal Ripkin and crew on the SS side)

Sandberg's best OPS year was 1990 where it was .913

he's known as the best more because he retired as the all time leader in 2B HR this side of Roger Hornsby (282.. Hornsby had 301 IIRC) but Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio have both smashed that now. and it would appear that some of the younger 2Bs in the game now has a very good shot at doing the same , Utley is obvious, and looking at some age rate Robinson Cano appears to have a very good shot too (48 dinger after age 24 season. at the same age Sandberg had 34 and hit 19 in that MVP year just like Cano last year). while guys like Weeks / Kinsler / Phillips also have a reasonable chance.

2008-04-22 07:11:53
3.   JL25and3
Over a 6-year stretch (1920-1925), Hornsby averaged .397/.467/.666. Knock out his subpar 1920 season (only .370/.432/.559) and his 5-year average is .402/.474/.690.

I don't care what kind of offensive era he was playing in. That's just sick.

2008-04-22 08:34:59
4.   buffalocharlie
One addition to the teams with 3 straight MVP winners (3 diff. player category) is the 1938-1940 run by the Cincinnati Reds, in which Ernie Lombardi, Bucky Walters, and Frank McCormick won back-back-back MVPs in the N.L.
2008-04-22 22:06:14
5.   Mike Carminati

.913 in 1990, but he did play in a pitcher's era.


Oops, I just did an unofficial eyeballing of the list.

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