Grading the Phillies: Infield

Sporting two All-Stars and four very strong individual performances, the Phillies infield didn’t do much to disappoint this season.

The group boasted Carlos Ruiz behind the plate, Ryan Howard at first, Chase Utley at second, the tandem of Jimmy Rollins and Wilson Valdez at short, and Placido Polanco at third. The bench most notably featured Greg Dobbs, Mike Sweeney, and Brian Schneider along with Valdez.

Ruiz – .302 AVG, 8 HR, 53 RBI, .400 OBP:

Catcher Carlosr Ruiz homers against the Giants in game one of the NLCS. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Chooch jumped out to an incredible hot start this season, batting as high as .311 after May. He batted at least .298 in all but two months this season during what easily was a career season for him.

Defensively, Ruiz flashed his leather and arm, making some key tags at the plate and throwing at 40% of base stealers. He also called a tremendous game this season, most recognizable were the perfect game and playoff no-hitter thrown by Roy Halladay.

Ruiz showed off his clutch hitting all season. Against the Cardinals in May, Ruiz broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 10th with a walk-off homer. Then in August, Ruiz had clutch hits in a weeks span with a go-ahead homer against the Marlins in the top of the 10th, a walk-off double off Jonathan Broxton and the Dodgers, and a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth against the Mets.

Chooch has become a fan favorite for his quality play all season and recent success in the post season.

Grade: A-

Howard – .276 AVG, 31 HR, 108 RBI, .858 OPS:

Howard had an interesting season. Making the All-Star game over Joey Votto (who was later added in the Final Ballot) and enjoying a very productive season before an injury brought him back to earth.

Howard had gotten his average above .300 a few times but it was his poor August filled with injury and a September that saw the stereotypical power/strike out Howard that brought his average down to .276.

Howard’s September was spectacular though, hitting .280 with seven homers and 21 RBIs. But it turned off as easy as it had turned on as Howard disappeared in the post season, striking out 17 times in 33 at-bats but still managed to hit .300.

Howard’s defense improved and he cut 30 strike outs off of his regular season averages but his power and run-producing numbers all went down, especially after he signed his ridiculous five-year, $125 million contract.

Howard saw career lows in homers (31), RBIs (108), doubles (23), total bases (273), and walks (59). They weren’t just career-lows – Howard was used to hitting 45 dingers and 135 RBIs a season, totaling over 300 bases. It’s a power-outage like that, that could cause the fans to wonder if Ruben Amaro, Jr. was completely wrong in giving Howard that extension.

Grade: C+

Utley – .275 AVG, 16 HR, 65 RBI.

Second baseman Chase Utley dives for a ground ball in game four of the NLCS. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The best second baseman in the game did not play like it in 2010. Utley battled injuries and saw a dramatic decrease in his power numbers, reaching career lows in average, homers, and RBIs.

Utley disappeared in the playoffs too, hitting a putrid .212 after a 2009 postseason in which he tore up. Defensively, Utley was at his worst in the playoffs too and during the regular season, had his lowest percentage in his career.

Next season is going to be huge for Utley. He has to prove to the Phillies that this year was a fluke and that he can get over the injuries that plagued him the past two seasons. This is either going to be simple bad luck or the beginning of the decline in Utley’s career.

Grade: C

Rollins – .243 AVG, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 17 SB, .320 OBP.

Could anyone have had any more bad luck than Rollins last season? He visited the DL more than once with the same calf injury and struggled greatly at the plate and on the base paths because of it.

But Rollins’ defense was still some of the best he’s played and he stole 17 bases despite missing over half a season with an injury to his money-maker: his legs.

What Rollins is experiencing is age. He’s 32 and hasn’t had a season close to his 2007 MVP season in the past three years. Will he get that magic back? Who knows. But he’s still a leader on the Phillies and his presence ultimately was one of the biggest keys to their success this season.

Wilson Valdez filled in beautifully for Rollins when he was down despite all the double play balls he hit. I’ll go more into him when I cover the bench players.

Grade: B-

Polanco – .298 AVG, 27 2B, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 47 SO.

Polly was probably the most consistent offensive weapon for the Phillies. A true two-hole hitter, Polly was on base a lot and did good things at the plate.

His defense was also spectacular. A former Gold Glover at second base with the Tigers, Polanco brought the leather with him when he made the transition to third and played great. He showed the leather and his range and even made a few great throws to get the out on close plays.

Polanco also played through elbow bursitis. Though his power decreased late in the season because of it, he still got base hits and hit the occasional double into the gap. The loss of power showed as he only homered once since May 10 and not at all since July 22.

The Phillies got a typical Polanco season, which is a great one. His role in the offense was simple and he delivered.

Grade: A-


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