Eric Chavez Reborn in New York

There was a time when Eric Chavez was on a hall-of-fame-level career path. Through 2006 — his age-28 season and his eighth full major league campaign — Chavez had a .271/.350/.489 batting line, 212 home runs and six well-deserved (at least most of them) Gold Gloves. Basically, if you think Scott Rolen should be a hall-of-famer, you can see Chavez traveling the same path — especially considering the pitcher-friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum:

Source: FanGraphsEric Chavez, Scott Rolen

This year, Chavez is putting up a .303/.362/.547 (139 wRC+) season in 224 plate appearances with the Yankees. He’s been a more-than-able replacement for Alex Rodriguez, and he’s been a surprisingly big reason why the Yankees have been able to pull away from the pack in the AL East.

Chavez’s 139 wRC+ is the best season of his career; he ranged from 123 to 133 in his four-year peak from 2001 to 2004. Chavez is hitting for as much power as ever (.244 ISO, second to a .252 mark in 2001) and he’s striking out just 15.6% of the time.

Part of the reason behind his success is way the Yankees have been able to leverage his skills. Chavez has taken 199 of his 224 plate appearances against right-handers, which helps him take advantage of his large career splits: .364 wOBA in 2590 appearances against righties, as opposed to just a .308 wOBA in 1,099 plate appearances against southpaws. Chavez’s line becomes even more impressive without the 22 plate appearance against lefties — they’ve held him to just a .143/.167/.143 mark, leaving a .324/.387/.598 mark against righties.

Although one would expect the new Yankee Stadium to be boost his comeback efforts, that hasn’t been the driving force. Six of Chavez’s 13 home runs have come on the road, and seven of the 13 have gone to either center or left. Indeed, he has a spray chart that leans pull — though it’s certainly not dead pull. As you can see, he’ll attack left field, too:

The laundry list of injuries — strained forearms, herniated disks, something called “spinal fusion surgery” and the list goes on — combined with his revived production at age 34, makes me wonder what could have been. Could he have been another Rolen? Perhaps an Adrian Beltre? He had that combination of glove and power that is so rare at third base.

For one last comparison, consider the following:

Source: FanGraphsEric Chavez, Evan Longoria

Of course, we’re comparing very different eras, but in many ways Longoria and Chavez share the same skillset. Perhaps, if Longoria can stay healthy, we can see an answer to the Chavez’s “what if?” scenario even as the 34-year-old revives his career in the Bronx.

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25 Responses to “Eric Chavez Reborn in New York”

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  1. Derek says:

    Nice article. It’s amazing how far removed he is from his last productive full season, and now he’s doing this. On a Yankees pregame show a few days ago, he gave a lot of credit to Raul Ibanez for introducing him to a therapist and a new training regimen, which has kept him healthy. Clearly it’s paid off.

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  2. YanksFanInBeantown says:

    “Revives his career” might be a bit too strong.

    Much as I love the guy, Eric Chavez is broken, he can’t sit down during games because it takes him too long to get warmed up again.

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    • Derek says:

      This is true. I was at the game the other night vs. Texas when there was the rain delay, and on the scoreboard during the delay they asked the players what they do during rain delays, and Chavez said “Stretch the entire time, seriously”.

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    • Steve says:

      He’s revived his career in the sense that he a relevant major leaguer for the first time since 2007. I think the word is appropriate.

      I get what you are saying though, he still can’t be a full time player, even though he’s hitting like one.

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  3. Rob says:

    The list of players of whom injuries robbed a Hall of Fame career is a long list.

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  4. Rob in CT says:

    I always like the comeback stories, and this one has been very nice to watch. You know the guy is always one bad move away from injury. Heck, he was out of the lineup yesterday because his back was sore.

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    • J says:

      He was out of the lineup yesterday because they were facing a left-hander. Girardi’s lineup had Ichiro as the only lefty. Chavez pinch hit in the 8th (and struck out).

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  5. Derp says:

    A name that will sting for A’s fans for years to come. I talked to him for a brief minute back in Spring Training in 2010, before his last year with Oakland. Couldn’t have been a nicer, more positive guy. He wanted nothing more than to play up to his contract for us.
    Stings he’s going well with the Yankees, but I can’t help but root for him.

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    • rory says:

      Not me. after bleeding the A’s payroll dry for years, he signed with the Yankees on the cheap,

      He also had a quote before an important series with the Angels that decided the 2004 season, saying something along the lines of “they have more talent than us hands down” and I thought it was just a terrible thing to say about your teammates right before the most important series of the year. The A’s would lose the series.

      Then, when he couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag, he suggested in an interview that he could DH. He always came off as sort of a pre-madonna to me, who’s charisma kinda of shielded him from the media scrutiny he deserved.

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      • B N says:

        A “pre-madonna”? What was he? May West? (FYI, prima donna is probably the word you were looking for)

        And totally. What a huge jerk he was to play great for the A’s as a cost-controlled player, then sign a reasonable contract, then have serious injuries that will cause him pain for life. What an inconvenience that must be to you.

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  6. Ben Hall says:

    I like the piece, but is that last graph comparing batting average? Because, batting average?

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  7. rory says:

    Chavez… Sucks up 11 m a year to warm a couch with the A’s, Leaves. Signs with the Yankees on the cheap, and has helps them survive losing A-Rod….

    He’s got to be my least favorite former A’s player who’s still active. I still love Swisher though.

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  8. Joe says:

    He’ll be hurt by the time the playoffs start. Count on it.

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  9. Kyle says:

    As a guy who isn’t an A’s fan, it’s surprising that the A’s hate him as much as they do. I guess it’s because he was paid a hell of a lot to be on the DL every year? Doesn’t insurance pay for most of his DL time anyways? Regardless, it still looks weird for me to see him in any uniform other than Oakland’s. I think he gave them quite a few good years, even if the last few have been spent on the DL. Back in the mid-00s, he was a guy anyone wanted on their team. It’s a shame he had to fall apart the way he did.

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