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Utley wins third straight Silver Slugger

Utley wins third straight Silver Slugger

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PHILADELPHIA -- Earning a third straight Silver Slugger Award simply further validates what is already known about the Phillies' Chase Utley: He's among the best second basemen in baseball.

Utley has continued to gain respect. The Silver Slugger may pale in comparison to the ring he earned for helping the Phillies win their first World Series championship since 1980, and the second in the franchise's 125-year history. However, the award, announced Thursday, represents offensive excellence at a position traditionally known for defense, and affirms that Utley is as good as it gets among his peers.

As a member of the World Series champions, Utley pounded a career-high 33 homers and drove in 104 RBIs, one fewer than his career best. Despite nagging injuries that dogged him for most of the second half, Utley played in 159 games. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia won the award in the American League.

The other National League winners were catcher Brian McCann (Braves), first baseman Albert Pujols (Cardinals), third baseman David Wright (Mets), shortstop Hanley Ramirez (Marlins), outfielders Ryan Ludwick (Cardinals), Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Matt Holliday (traded from the Rockies to the A's on Wednesday) and pitcher Carlos Zambrano (Cubs).

Although quiet in the NL Division Series and World Series, Utley hit .353 in the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers.

The 29-year-old led NL second basemen in hits (177), runs (113), RBIs (104), on-base percentage (.380), slugging percentage (.583) and extra-base hits (78). His 33 homers were the highest total for a second baseman in the Majors, and the lefty swinger totaled 100 RBIs for the fourth straight season.

2008 Silver Sluggers
AMERICAN LEAGUE AL
 C Joe Mauer, MIN
1B Justin Morneau, MIN
2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS
3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY
SS Derek Jeter, NYY
OF Josh Hamilton, TEX
OF Carlos Quentin, CWS
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE
DH Aubrey Huff, BAL
NATIONAL LEAGUE NL
C Brian McCann, ATL
1B Albert Pujols, STL
2B Chase Utley, PHI
3B David Wright, NYM
SS Hanley Ramirez, FLA
OF Ryan Braun, MIL
OF Matt Holliday, COL
OF Ryan Ludwick, STL
P Carlos Zambrano, CHC

Utley has being doing this for a while. The three-time All-Star has more homers (112), RBIs (404), hits (702) and runs scored (433) than any other second baseman over the past four seasons.

"He's a special player," manager Charlie Manuel said, during the season. "I never worry about him [when he's not hitting], because I know he's always going to come out of it."

Louisville Slugger's Silver Slugger Award winners were determined by a vote of Major League Baseball coaches and managers who vote for the players they felt were the best offensive producers at each position in each league. Selections are based on a combination of offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value.

Managers and coaches couldn't vote for players on their own team.

The specially designed Silver Slugger will be presented to each player by a representative of the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., makers of Louisville Slugger, the official bat of Major League Baseball, in a ceremony early in the 2009 season. The trophy is three feet tall and bears the engraved name of the winner and his Silver Slugger teammates in his respective league.

The Silver Slugger Award was instituted by H&B in 1980 as a natural extension of the Silver Bat Award, which is, as its name indicates, a silver-plated bat presented by Louisville Slugger to the batting champions in the AL and NL. This year's Silver Bat Award winners were Atlanta's Chipper Jones, who hit .364 to win the NL batting title, and Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who .328 to claim the AL honor.

"I can't say enough about Ut," Manuel said, after Utley batted .352 in April. "When I start talking about Chase, you could probably come back a year later, and I could still be talking. He's that good, and you can never say enough about him."

A notable omission to the list of Silver Slugger winners was first baseman Ryan Howard, who led the Major Leagues with 48 home runs and 148 RBIs. That award went to Pujols, and could be a harbinger for Monday's NL Most Valuable Player announcement.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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