For these two infielders, the main difference between 2004 and 2014 is the fans’ patience toward the Philadelphia Phillies and Cody Asche. Will this affect the third baseman’s future?
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This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Reading people is the answer to their decisions: past, present and future. Also, there is a humanizing element.
If the locals embrace a player during his first full season, does it make a difference?
When Chase Utley arrived, the club was ascending, while Asche entered the picture with the franchise headed in the opposite direction. That stated, the fans had high hopes for Utley regarding his potential, and they focused for most part on his successes. Meanwhile, today’s paying customers are expressing disappointment with Asche’s results. Back in ’04, the faithful clamored for Utley to be the starting second baseman and to replace Placido Polanco, but 10 years later they’re pushing for Maikel Franco at the hot corner.
Their similarities include left-side batting and their quick rise through the farm system. While they were in Triple-A, local fans were anxious to root for them. Once here, their fielding drew questions, and the faithful criticized their playing time for being too little or too much.
According to Patrick Cohn of Peak Performance Sports, confidence is fragile for some athletes, while others build a sturdy foundation from success. While some dwell on their recent performances, good or bad, others realize their talent and conquer their fears. The question here is the affect the fans have on the rookie with only his base of minor league achievements. In other words, the organizational thinking is that initial failure at the major league level can put strong doubts in a prospect’s mind. For example, Willie Mays at 20 years old was ready to call it quits after he was zero for his first 23 at-bats in the majors.
Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus wrote a player profile on Utley for the 2007 campaign, which included a prior review on him. For instance, their team of baseball experts in their 2005 paperback concluded that Utley would not be a star. You would never have known that with the anticipation of greatness by Phils fans, who wanted Polanco to replace David Bell at third base and open second base for number 26.
Two big jumps await newly signed youngsters, which are Single-A to Double-A and Triple-A to the show. While most fresh-face kids begin their pro career in one of the three rookie leagues with Phillies affiliates, the top talent plays for their Low-A entry. Utley and Asche skipped that lowest level: Number 26 was with Batavia in 2000 and the third sacker played for Williamsport in 2011. Considering only the stats, Utley found immediate success, while number 25 struggled with hitting for average.
- Utley had 153 at-bats for 40 games to average .307 with two homers, 22 RBI, five SB and three CS.
- Asche appeared in 68 contests, had 239 ABs, and hit .192 with two home runs, 19 RBI and no stolen bases for three attempts.
Again, both skipped a rung and received promotions to High-A Clearwater: Utley in 2001 and Asche in 2012. However, this time the third sacker batted .092 higher than the “maestro” with the black Marucci wood bat. While the second baseman showed power and production in Florida, Asche added his pop and knocked in runs after his advancement to Double-A Reading.
- Utley had 467 at-bats for 122 games to average .257 with 16 long balls, 59 RBI, 19 steals and eight CS.
- Asche played in 62 contests, had 255 ABs, and hit .349 with two homers, 25 RBI and 10 swiped bags in 12 attempts.
- After the mid-season point, he had 263 at-bats for 68 games at Double-A to average .300 with 10 home runs, 47 RBI, one pilfered base and one caught stealing.
As their third tour began, both infielders received assignments to Triple-A, Utley went to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons in ’01, and Asche joined Lehigh Valley in ’13. Because the hot corner had a vacancy after the stopgap measure ended with Michael Young‘s trade, Asche had a brief opportunity in 2013 and is still receiving a full shot as a regular. On the right side of the infield, Utley was behind Polanco on the depth chart, which meant a bench job or playing at Triple-A. So, he also logged time with the Red Barons in 2002 and 2003 after a full year there in 2001. Also, his initial .263 average was a consideration.
- Utley appeared in 125 contests, had 464 ABs, and hit .263 with 17 long balls, 70 RBI, eight SB and three CS.
- In ’03, he had 431 at-bats for 113 games to average .323 with 18 homers, 77 RBI and 10 stolen bases for 14 attempts.
- He played in only 33 contests during ’04, had 123 ABs, and hit .285 with six home runs, 25 RBI, four steals and two CS.
- On the other hand, the third sacker had 404 at-bats for 104 games to average .295 with 15 long balls, 68 RBI and four swiped bags in seven attempts.
During the time-tested ritual of the September call-ups, the Phillies from the coaches to the decision-makers get a close-up look at their young charges. Aside from more homers for the corner infielder, Asche’s production in ’13 was nearly identical to Utley’s for ’03.
First MLB campaign:
- Utley appeared in 43 contests, had 134 ABs, and hit .239 with two home runs, 21 RBI and two pilfered bases without getting caught.
- Asche had 162 at-bats for 50 games to average .235 with five long balls, 22 RBI and a stolen base in his only effort.
Second major league tour:
- The second sacker played in 94 contests, had 267 ABs, and hit .266 with 13 homers, 57 RBI, four SB and one caught stealing.
- Through August 25, Asche had 328 at-bats for 98 games to average .247 with nine home runs, 41 RBI and one failed attempt at stealing.
While Asche has filled the hot corner for most of this 162, Utley had to platoon with Polanco in 2004, which is the reason for three fewer games with 58 fewer at-bats. Number 26 did not immediately become “the Man;” in fact, his statistics were not dramatically better than Asche’s.
Ten years after, memories of the second-base star drift to his first career long ball, a grand slam, and that special call by Harry Kalas–“Chase Utley, you are the Man.” On the other side of the diamond, Asche hears the footsteps of Franco, rounding third base for the IronPigs and possibly heading to the friendly confines around September 1. In ’04, fans experienced infatuation with the impending contention of the red pinstripes, while today’s faithful followers grow more dispirited annually: They have completely soured on the fielded product, and at this time it does not look any better for ’15. Unlike Utley’s beginning, the fan base isn’t forgiving Asche’s growing pains, and some have already said, “write off Cody.” Unfortunately for the Phils’ brass, 1980’s first World Championship was at the end of that squad’s reign in the NL East with the 1981 strike derailing an encore performance, while the 2008 champions with a 2009 NL pennant were at the beginning of their run before slowly deteriorating through five long winters.
Asche can’t win for losing.
(A complementary piece on Gonzalez and the pen plan)
The publication date of this review was August 25, 2014. If that is not a recent date, check my author archives for my last piece:
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