-The K Zone-

January 15th  2017

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Ian Joffe and Mike Duffy both agree that the Los Angeles Dodgers are in need of a second baseman, however they disagree on who. Ian argues that the Dodgers should prioritize a trade for a second baseman, perhaps Brian Dozier, while Mike thinks the Dodgers should first and foremost resign Chase Utley:

Mike’s Pick: Chase Utley

Mike Duffy: Besides my family there is nothing more in this world I admire and love more than Chase Utley… I don’t fangirl over one direction, I don’t have  bieberfever, I’ve just been huge fan of Utley since I was 4. The way he plays and the respect he has for the game is unheard of. When he plays he’s always there to win. And at  38 years old there is no slowing him down.

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Literally! And yes he did that. And he got the guy out! Is he a magician!?!?!? But when I caught wind that the Dodgers might not bring Utley back and try and trade for the twins 2nd baseman Brian Dozier instead, I was so upset! I had moved to California from Philadelphia the same time he was traded here and now it had been for nothing! This idea of him not being here is even worse then when the Phillies traded the whole 2008 World Series team away! Yeah Brian Dozier has a better batting average but at 29 he has never had a batting average this high or even close! Brian Dozier all of a sudden learned how to play baseball this year? Will he know how to hit next year? I say he will probably go back to .238 like his previous years. Brian Dozier is a very streaky player! Where with Utley he might not be the best 2nd baseman anymore but at least you know what your getting, a solid .250-.260 batting average and 0ver 10 home runs! Last year Utley had a 10 HR boost from the year before and a .40 boost to his batting average because in 2015 he was out for a lot of the season due to an injury.

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Then my next point… Utley is a leader! We see this in the batting averages of the Dodgers.

Batting Average of the Dodgers corelation to Utley coming.

The year Before Utley came: .2554

The year Utley came: .274

The 2nd year with Utley: .266

(I computed this by adding the whole whole teams batting averages and dividing by the number of players)

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Next is that… it would be terrible terrible to give Utley and Seager a divorce! Let me step back a bit and explain what I mean. If you ask any shortstop or second baseman your double play partner is a sacred bond sorta like a marriage. They have to have great chemistry in order to complete the plays. Chase Utley and Corey Seager are have the best chemistry in the Major Leagues!

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Top; Collage by Mike Duffy Bottom; USA today

Ok your saying how could this even be a question!!! Well it gets even better! Brian Dozier has a huge price tag! Dodgers have already offered them their  #2 prospect Jose Deleon!! But the Twins want even more! They want 2-3 of the Dodgers top prospects! I say the price is way to high but I like it that way because the higher it is the more inclined the Dodgers will be to stick with the LA Native Chase Utley.

Also who do you want Dodger Fans?

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I hope that pushed you over the edge! Lets see if Ian can change all of your minds!

Ian’s Pick: Brain Dozier

Ian Joffe: There are two reasons why the Dodgers need to pursue Brian Dozier, not Chase Utley: Brian Dozier is better than Chase Utley, and Brian Dozier is getting even “more better” than Chase Utley. This is clearly presented by the statistics on either side. As always, the case starts with on base percentage. In the 2016 season, Utley posted a mere .319 clip, about league average. Dozier’s OBP was well above average, at .340, a number that Utley has not hit for four seasons. And, on-base in not even Dozier’s strong suit. In 2016, Brian put up an incredible 42 home runs, third in all of Baseball. Utley – a mere 14. Isolated power, which shows how much raw power a player possesses, clearly favors Dozier, who was second in baseball with .278. Utley’s .145 was 34th worst. So, Dozier clearly has much for prowess for hitting, in terms of both power and contact, and to further prove it, Dozier put up a .370 wOBA, correlated to a 132 wRC+, meaning he is 32% better than the average baseball player in terms of overall offense, which wOBA and wRC+ measures. Utley owns a .312 wOBA to go along with a 97 weighted runs created plus, meaning he is not just worse than Dozier offensively, he worse than the average baseball player – Chase Utley is a below average major leaguer. Dozier, on the other hand, is far better than the average guy who Utley is worse than. In terms of defense, Dozier put up 3 defensive runs saved last year, not incredible, but very respectable. Utley had a DRS of negative 3, once again, below average (which would be 0 DRS). In his glory days, Chase was known as somewhat of a base-stealing threat, but this is another category in which today, he is below average. Utley had a sad two steals last season, unlike Dozier, took 18 bases. According to wSB, a more accurate measure of a player’s contribution according to steals, Utley continued the trend of remaining below average at -0.7 (average is 0), while Dozier was certainly above average, at 2.5. In terms of BsR, a measure a player’s of non-stealing baserunning contributions, Utley was actually slightly above average (for once) with 1.3 BsR, but Dozier blew him out of the water with an outstanding 5.5.  The following chart summarizes my statistical findings (if you’re on your phone, turn it landscape!):

OBP HR ISO wRC+ DRS SB wSB BsR WAR
Dozier .340 42 .278 132 3 18 2.5 5.5 5.9
Utley .319 12 .145 97 -3 2 -0.7 1.3 2.0

That last column, wins above replacement (per Fangraphs), the overall measure of a baseball player in terms of how many MLB wins they are worth, really hits my point home. An average WAR is considered about 2.0 – exactly that of Utley. Chase is currently an average, at best, baseball player. An elite player is considered to have a WAR over 6.0. I am not going to claim that Dozier is elite, but according to the metrics, he is close to it.

My second major point is that Utley will only get worse, while Dozier will likely stay just as good. The following graph, by Fangraphs, should state the obvious:

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This chart represents a fundamental theory in determining future value of a baseball player. Namely, that players rise in value, and then peak somewhere between 25 and 29, before falling for the rest of their careers. The following graphs should show striking resemblance:

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Those are the aging curves for Chase Utley, which for the most part, look just like the MLB aging curve. The exception on both is his age-36 season, however, that data is easily disregarded based on luck. According to sabermetrics, if a ball is put in play, the batter has little control over the outcome (although more still than the pitcher). All they can do is try to hit the ball hard. Utley has an extremely low .230 BABIP in the season in question, yet he had a very normal exit velocity, as according to Baseball Savant. So, what can be concluded is that in his age 36-season, Utley had bad luck (as in maybe the defense played especially well against him), and if he had normal luck the data would better match the graph. With that in mind, we can take the major lesson from these graphs: Chase Utley will follow the expected aging curve, which is personal aging curve matches, and get worse, not better. This year, we considered Utley to be average at best. Next year, we can only expect him to get worse, finding Utley as a significantly below average piece. There is no point in acquiring a player if they will only give us marginal value, which we can likely find with the organization already. The best purely statistical evidence for this decline is defensive runs saved. In 2014, Utley put up 3 DRS. In 2015, it went down to 1. Then, as we already know, his 2016 total was -3. Because of the necessary athleticism, defense is a great indicator of how well a player is aging overall. Utley is not aging well, consistently declining year after year. Brian Dozier, on the other hand, is only 29, meaning it is not a given he will decline, and he is still very likely in the middle of his peak, as according to the aging curve. If he does decline a little, he will remain far above MLB average. Sure, it is very possible he regresses a little towards his career average, but he will still remain a far better player than the rapidly declining Utley. The stats tell the story on this one, and the verdict is clear. Dozier is the better player, so he must be looked into before giving Utley a contract.

Mike makes a very valid point by claiming that Utley makes the players around him better, but his method does not work. As any elementary school graduate knows, when using the scientific method, one must always keep the variables controlled. Mike is trying to compare how the Dodgers do before and after Utley joined the team, however, much more than that one variable changed.  Luck also changes from year to year, the Dodgers may have just gotten luckier when Utley happened to be on the team. Plenty of other variables effected the Dodgers after the addition of Utley, therefore it is completely unfair to blame an improved team on one individual. The experiment is not controlled. Other than this improvement of other players, there is no evidence for Utley’s supposed leadership skills making any difference. There is, on the other hand, very strong statistical evidence that Utley himself is not even close to the baseball player Brian Dozier is. We sometimes forget that teams like the Dodgers are spending real money on real players. Should they invest millions of dollars on solid evidence, or on unproven superstition about Utley’s quote-on-quote clubhouse skills.

Mike Duffy: Why give away are future to an aging guy while we can just pay some money to another aging guy just as good. We should not waste are future! We should not waste are future! We should not waste are future!  Im all in for Utley and you should be too! He brought us two very good years why not make it a third instead of taking a risk. Studys show you should stick with something that works because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side! Thanks for reading! Vote Mike! Vote Mike! Vote Mike!

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