Chase Utley makes his long awaited return to the Phillies lineup tonight as they host the Cincinnati Reds in the first of a four game series at Citizens Bank Park. Utley has missed the entire season so far with tendinitis in his knee and spent the last month testing that knee while rehabbing in Clearwater, Florida where he hit .281 with the Phillies single-A affiliate.
But just how much of an impact can we expect Utley's return to have? ESPN's David Schoenfield broke it down.
Valdez and Orr combined for about 13 runs created in 177 combined plate appearances. Last season, Chase Utley played 115 games -- coincidentally, almost exactly how many games the Phillies have remaining (116) -- and created about 82 runs in 511 PAs while hitting .275/.387/.445. At their current rate of production, Valdez and Orr would be expected to create about 37 runs over 511 PAs -- meaning Utley, if he plays every day the rest of the season -- would add about 45 runs to the Phillies' team total if he hits like he did in 2010.
That's a pretty big shift when you consider how many close games the Phillies have played. Without Utley, the Phillies still have the best record in the National League and their starting pitching has allowed the fewest runs and walks, while also posting the most strikeouts and complete games in baseball. Utley's bat along with a healthy Shane Victorino could turn a lot of those 2-0 losses in to a 3-2 wins.
If Domonic Brown becomes the hitter everyone expects, the Phillies offense could go from poor to adequate to actually pretty good.
Turning the focus to tonight however, Utley will bat second in the lineup and Cole Hamels will take the hill against Bronson Arroyo. Hamels has dominated the Reds in his career going 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA in seven career starts. He also has two complete games and a shutout against Cincy. Arroyo has not fared nearly as well against the Phils recording a lifetime 3-4 record with a 4.11 ERA in seven career starts.
The Reds are 2.5 games back of the NL Central lead, but have lost five straight and have been swept in their last two series, first by Pittsburgh and then Cleveland.