Strength up the middle powers champs

Originally Published: February 17, 2009
By Matt Meyers | ESPN The Magazine

Baseball people say it all the time: "You gotta be strong up the middle." And even if you're inclined to be skeptical of this cliché, the 2008 Phillies helped validate it.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Rollins
AP Photo/David J. PhillipJimmy Rollins holds the evidence of why it pays to be strong up the middle.

Powered by the combo of Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and with some help from centerfielder Shane Victorino and catcher Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies had one of the best up-the-middle quartets in baseball last year. Based on WARP, Baseball Prospectus's metric for measuring a player's total value (including defense), those four were a combined 25.7 wins above replacement, which was the third-best Up-The-Middle WARP in all of baseball.