One of the bigger question marks facing the Phillies in 2013 was that of the status of their second baseman. Chase Utley, who for so long was among the best players in the game, was beset by a pair of knee injuries in 2011 and 2012 that cost him a great deal of offensive value. Those injuries caused – rightfully so – many to wonder just how much Utley had left in the tank, and if his time on the Phillies was coming to an end.
That worry was perhaps premature, because as it happened, Chase Utley rewarded the Phillies – and the fans – with his best all-around season since 2010. It was in 2010 that he last had an OPS over .800, where he last hit over 15 homers, where he last had a respectable slugging percentage, and where he last didn't start the season on the disabled list thanks to a pair of knee injuries.
That last part is of particular importance, because it was those knee injuries that, only last season, were thought of as a potential career-ender for the veteran second baseman. In his two seasons dealing with said injuries, Utley netted a .258/.353/.426 line in 186 games. Among second basemen, that's actually a bit above average, but for Utley, it was well below what we have come to expect from the infielder.
But thanks to the new treatment to his knee, Utley appeared to be a brand new man in 2013. He came out swinging, with an .870 OPS and five homers in the first month of the season. He wouldn't be without struggles during the season – thanks in part to an oblique injury – but he finished the year with a very respectable .284/.348/.475 line, and his 18 homers were fourth in the game among second baseman.
While his resurgence in the batting order was a sight for sore eyes, perhaps the most important takeaway from his season was that he managed to stay (relatively) healthy for the duration. Aside from the aforementioned oblique injury, his knees did not appear to be an issue over the course of the year. He was with the team at the start of the season, and his 131 games played were the most since he played 156 in 2009.
And as Utley rewarded the team with a very solid season, Ruben Amaro rewarded the second baseman with a contract extension that will keep him in red pinstripes through at least 2015, with options that could make him a fixture in Philadelphia through 2018. Of course, a lot of that relies upon Utley being healthy during the next few years, but it's nice knowing that perhaps the greatest Phillies hitter of this generation will be around for the long haul. And with no obvious heir to second base (with apologies to Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez) on the roster, Utley's continued presence in Philly is an important one.