LAD 2016 2nd base post mortem
Chase Utley was signed on December 9th, 2015 and appeared destined to be the full-time second baseman against RHP with Kiké Hernandez likely to get the at-bats against LHP.
Howie Kendrick had been offered the qualifying offer and had refused so it was expected he would sign a multi-year deal elsewhere giving the Dodgers a nice draft pick. Those offers never materialized for Howie and come spring of 2016 he was jobless. The Dodgers took advantage of the lack of a market and signed Howie to a team friendly two-year deal on February 4th, 2016.
This changed the 2nd base situation as it was kind of expected that Howie would be the full-time 2nd baseman with Chase providing relief at 2nd/3rd. When Kendrick got hurt in the spring, Chase took those at-bats and started the season as the starting second baseman and leadoff hitter. By the time Howie was healthy, Chase had become the full-time 2nd baseman against RHP and Howie had to find his at-bats in left field.
Since Howie only played 23 games at 2nd, most of this will be about Chase Utley.
Chase had a bizarre year. He proved to his critics he wasn’t done, and he proved that even at 37 years old he could escape the disabled list for a full year. Chase played the game hard on every play and that alone made it seem like he was better than he was. As good as Chase looked playing the game of baseball he didn’t really have a good year.
He had four monster games mixed in with a bunch of meh. He couldn’t hit at home, and he couldn’t hit left-handers.
- Chase couldn’t hit at Dodger Stadium, posting a .602 OPS at home compared to an OPS of .809 on the road. All his big games came on the road. All of them.
- Chase couldn’t hit LHP a lick. In 97 plate appearances, he had an OPS of .470.
- After his magic night in Philly on Aug 16th, he had a triple stat line of .244 / .288 / .397 in 139 plate appearances. As a leadoff hitter.
- His postseason performance was very poor. He couldn’t hit, and he didn’t field very well either. He only managed three singles in 28 at-bats, and all those singles came in the NLDS. He was hitless in 12 at-bats in the NLCS.
- Six hits in seven at-bats on July 6th against the Orioles in a 14 inning game the Dodgers lost. The oldest player to have six hits was Cal Ripkin. The 2nd oldest was Ty Cobb. The 3rd oldest was Chase Utley.
- On May 27th his double sparked a rally that saw the Dodgers score four runs in the top of the 9th and tie the Mets at 5, only to see the Dodgers lose in the bottom of the 9th.
- On May 28th, Chase hit two home runs against the Mets, including a grand slam. All this came after Thor knocked him down for what happened in the 2015 NLDS. This would have been the sweetest game if not for…….
- On Aug 16th, Chase hit two home runs including a grand slam in his first appearance against the Phillies since he left. Standing ovation after standing ovation was heaped upon their favorite son.
- On June 14th against the Diamondbacks, he drove in four runs.
- As the leadoff hitter, he drove in three runs or more five times.
- He made a play I’d never seen before and one I’ll never forget.
Given how many highlights Chase Utley gave Dodger fans in 2016 it is strange to look at his full season stats and realize that he simply wasn’t that good. He put up an fWAR of 2.0 which ranked 11th among NL 2nd baseman with at least 400 PA.
Howie Kendrick did play some 2nd base starting in 23 games. Howie was so uncomfortable at 2nd by the end of the year that when given a choice of LF or 2nd base by Dave Roberts in the NLCS, Howie preferred leftfield.
I know Dave Roberts is everybody’s favorite but to me he did some strange things. Chase was a leadoff hitter for far too long and he didn’t figure that out until the end of the postseason. If Howie wasn’t going to start in LF in the postseason it seems it would have made more sense to get Howie at-bats at 2nd in Sept to get him reacquainted with the position.
The immediate future is shaky.
I don’t think they resign Chase Utley or if they do it won’t be as the starting 2nd baseman. Howie Kendrick is signed for two more years, are they comfortable with him as the starting second baseman next year? His defense looked shaky at 2nd this year but it can’t be easy going from LF to 2nd back to LF.
Other players in the mix are Kiké Hernandez but given his complete freefall in 2016, he may have a hard time even making the 2017 roster.
I have zero ideas what the Dodgers think of Austin Barnes. Backup catcher, a utility player who can catch, possible 2nd base option, none of these? I just don’t know.
The best 2nd baseman in the Dodger farm system is Willie Calhoun who was drafted in the 4th round in 2015 and was already tearing up AA in 2016. Willie can hit, but the question for the 21-year-old is if he can field well enough to be a major-league 2nd baseman. Willie Calhoun hit 27 home runs, which was the most home runs hit by any 21-year-old in AA ball in 2016. I went back to at least 2010, and Willie has the most home runs by a 21-year-old in AA since at least 2010. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs had this to say:
Standing 5-8, he’s got sneaky Jose Altuve power because of strong arms/wrists and a quick bat. He likely won’t stick at second base but the bat should play just about anywhere.
It will be interesting to see if the Dodger Front Office consider Willie a future 2nd baseman, an outfielder, or a trade chip. He’s still playing 2nd in the Arizona Instructional League. His bat should be ready sometime in 2017 but where will they put the glove?