Monday, September 26, 2005

Chase Utley, Boy Wonder

Chuck Klein has recently had his butt kicked in the records department twice. First, by Jimmy Rollins's streak, now up to 30 games. Klein had two 26-game streaks for the Phillies in 1930.

Second, by Ichiro's hit counts in the last 5 seasons. Chuck Klein formerly held the record for hits in 5 consecutive seasons with 1118, and Ichiro just broke it.

I actually compared Jimmy Rollins and Ichiro as leadoff hitters in a comment on Beerleaguer a month or two back. And for a while there, I was worried that J-Roll was going to make me look really bad for the comparison. But instead, he's exploded for the last month -- between him, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley, the Phillies have been nothing short of amazing.

According to MLB stats, Jimmy has the best average in the MLB over the last 30 days, for a .398/.444/.618 line. What makes me sad is the #4 guy on that list... former Mariner Randy Winn, coming in at a .375/.407/.732 line with 9 home runs. And of course, there's nobody on the top 50 from Seattle. Go figure. We are slumpichrudinous.

Anyway, the real reason I wanted to write something today was because of CHASE UTLEY, BOY WONDER. Now, I've had a bit of a crush on Chase Utley for quite some time now, to the point that when I was at a few Phillies-Mets games at Shea this summer and a bunch of Mets fans were like "Oh, who's this kid? Chase UGLY, is he?" I retorted, "He's better-looking than Piazza!" But, does anyone else play baseball with the same intensity as Chasey-at-the-Bat? He's really a joy to watch in the field whether he's having a good day or a bad day.

Chase Utley got an inside-the-park home run during yesterday's 6-3 win against the Reds. No, really! Go look at the game wrap page and watch the video. How cool is that?

I realized that I was pretty sure I'd never seen an inside-the-park home run at any game I've been to, or really even heard of many. So, I searched around and found SABR's "50 Years of Inside-The-Park Home Runs" page, about guys hitting ITPHR's to end games. There's also the page of Inside the Park Grand Slams. But I'm trying to figure out how you'd find out how often they happen in general, these days?

Baseball Almanac lists a whole bunch of people who hit a lot of inside-the-park home runs. And they're pretty much all from 1920 or earlier. It makes sense -- ITPHR's are really a relic of history, from the time where ballparks were huge and irregular, and fielders were more error-prone, so a hard-smacked ball could easily get lost in the corners of a vast 400-foot right field, or roll into a doghouse, or deflect off a flagpole, or what have you. I mean, Utley's ITPHR was deflected off a fielder into the corner, after all.

(Trivia for you: Ty Cobb won the triple crown in 1909 with a whopping 9 home runs, all of which were inside-the-park home runs.)

So, these days they are a pretty rare occurrence, though. I'm betting they're about as rare as a triple play. Or, dare I say it, almost as rare as the Phillies making the postseason? We're one game behind in the Wild Card with 6 to play. Anything could happen. (Though I worry that Bobby Abreu might fall apart soon.)

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