The Eric Chavez Appreciation Thread

What's important in the final two weeks
How Mariano became the Sandman
(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

It wasn’t supposed to work. When the Yankees agreed to bring Eric Chavez to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, it was supposed to be nothing more than a sidebar story for a weeks before the two sides parted ways before the end of camp. Chavez hadn’t been healthy in years and even when he was healthy, he didn’t produce. There was no risk involved, but it didn’t exactly qualify as a high-upside signing either.

Chavez came to camp and got his fair share of playing time (45 plate appearances), and he hit. Boy did he hit. A .395/.422/.558 batting line with just six strikeouts, but most importantly, he stayed healthy. There wasn’t even a day-to-day situation, no lingering soreness, a tight something, nothing at all. Chavez did his work and stayed healthy, and he performed well enough that the Yankees took him north out of Spring Training as their backup corner infielder.

After a pinch-hitting appearance in the second game of the season, Chavez sat on the bench for more than a week and didn’t start a game until the team’s eighth of the season. Filling in at DH in Fenway Park, the former Oakland Athletic went 3-for-5 with a pair of opposite field doubles off the Green Monster. He started at third base the next day and picked up another hit. Chavez’s playing time gradually started to increase, and by the team’s 25th game of the season, he was hitting .290/.405/.355 with twice as many walks (six) as strikeouts (three) in 37 plate appearances.

The power production wasn’t there, but that wasn’t all that surprising given his history of back and shoulder issues. The important thing is that the Yankees had a rock solid left-handed bat available off the bench, a veteran player that would put together a quality at-bat. Chavez’s season came to halt on May 5th, when the inevitable happened and he got hurt. He suffered a deep bone bruise in his right foot rounding the bases on a triple in Detroit, an injury that kept him on the shelf for more than two months, a total of 72 team games.

When he finally did return, Chavez got regular starts at third base because Alex Rodriguez was on the shelf with his knee injury. He went 11-for-32 in his first eight games back, then started to see some more time at DH. A month later, his season batting line sits at .274/.331/.363 in 148 plate appearances, or about 148 more than I expected him to get before the season. He also has three hits and a walk in ten pitch-hitting appearances, and his defense at the hot corner has been surprisingly awesome. I figured he’d lost a step in the field after all the injuries, but he’s been legitimately fantastic with the glove, living up to the Gold Glove reputation.

The Yankees came into the season with their best bench in a long time, opting to shore up the reserves in the offseason rather than in-season like they had in the past. Chavez was a total flier, it was impossible to expect anything from him given his lengthy injury history (just 154 games played from 2007-2010), but he’s been a very value reserve player for a team that has dealt with injuries, especially on the infield. He embraced his role, the first time in his life he wasn’t playing everyday, and the Yankees have reaped the rewards.

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What's important in the final two weeks
How Mariano became the Sandman
  • AJ

    I’d love to see him back in the same role next year. Seems he has enjoyed it and knows he’s not really a full-time player anymore.

    • Paul Proteus

      With Jesus Montero at full time DH there might not be enough ABs for him. Nunez will probably stay as backup to ARod and Jete.

      • AJ

        Right, but with a brittle ARod and his ability to play first base, it makes sense to bring him back. I don’t see Montero as stealing his ABs at all since he doesn’t get much time at DH anyways.

  • goterpsgo

    I thought he looked a bit like Mattingly, but in that pic I can see a little bit of Giambi too.

  • Zemba Mwbatabenu

    What about Gary Sanchez? I think he could replace Chavez on the bench next year. He’d be a cost-effective option too

    • Plinko Chips

      He’s 2-3 seasons away.

      Troll much?

  • Rich in NJ

    I never thought he’d make it back from the DL, at least for very long. I am happy t have been wrong.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Chavez was a very smart gamble. He has had a very productive offensive line from ’99-2006, unhealthy 2007-2010. He’s been a very good glove at third. So, it worked for a player who knows and accepts that his body can’t handle day-in-day out playing. With Arod and Teix. at the corners who could expect playing more than twice a week but injuries occur. Look at his stats from ’99 through 2006. The guy hit some Hr’s. He’s got legitimate pop.The Yanks have to see who’s available at season’s end to consider resigning Chavez. Chavez seems to be enjoying his union with the Yankees so maybe there is another year awaiting Chavez in 2012.

    Cashman made the right move by going after players instead of waiting especially with the bench personnel.

  • Sayid J.

    Is Chavez actually Don Mattingly? Or is Mattingly actually Chavez?

  • Brian S.

    I like Chavez as a defender and he has had some pretty clutch RBI singles this season but overall his wRC+ of 85 leaves much to be desired. I probably would not bring him back next season; I think Laird deserves a shot at being our utility corner guy on the bench.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      While making my comments I forgot about Laird. I wonder if Laird could survive with 6 or 8 AB’s a week not counting injuries with Arod. As Chavez has shown the ability to sit and play so the frustration factor with little play does not affect him.

  • Donnies Mullet

    Wait, waaat? 0.1 fWAR for $1.5M is something to be appreciated?

    • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S

      This article
      _______________

      Your head

    • IRF

      No point in bothering with fWAR for 150 PA. Chavez has been a pretty good backup infielder, which is more than anyone expected. Why wouldn’t you appreciate that?

    • Brian S.

      Not only did you miss the point but Chavez has been worth 0.6 fWAR…

  • Sarah

    Love Chavy as a bench guy. He’s a welcome addition, seems to hit the Sox well (always a plus) and seems to like his role with the club. I hope he’s back next year.

  • Woodrow Sweats

    if he really is ready to admit he can’t play every day, why not stay? good pay, great chance to win a ring, and no one could say he was along for the ride as he seriously contributed… let’s hope he stays next year, but i’ll take this year if that’s all it is…