Archive for Eric Chavez
At this point of the season, with a seven-game lead and 65 left to play, the Yankees are just looking to maintain their cushion and stay healthy. The latter is sometimes out of their hands though, and last night they lost Alex Rodriguez for an unknown length of time when a pitch broke the fifth metacarpal in his left hand. It’s a non-displaced fracture and although that’s better than a displaced fracture, but it will still require a DL stint. Most estimates put his timetable in the 6-8 week range but we won’t know fore sure until he gets back to New York and sees the doctors on Thursday.
One way or the other, the Yankees just lost their starting third baseman and an important middle of the order bat for a not insignificant period of time. A-Rod is no longer the historically great hitter he once was, but his .356 wOBA and 121 wRC+ will be very tough to replace. The Yankees also have zero right-handed power in their lineup now — it’s basically Andruw Jones on the days he starts and that’s it. Switch-hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher do soften the blow, thankfully. The team has not yet announced the corresponding roster move, but they have some options to plug the third base hole.
The Yankees have gotten some fantastic production out of Chavez this year (108 wRC+) and he remains a standout defender at the hot corner, but they would risk injury by running him out there on a full-time basis. It’s not a matter of if he would get hurt, just a question of when. Joe Girardi has done a fine of job of limiting his playing time in a way that both helped the team and kept Chavez off the DL. Doing that with Alex on the shelf will be much more difficult.
Nix has been fine as the utility infielder but he is a right-handed bat who does almost all of his damage against left-handers (99 wRC+). He and Chavez make sense as a platoon tandem in the short-term but the Yankees run the risk of exposing Chavez to injury and exposing Nix to opposing pitchers by using it permanently.
Eduardo Nunez & Ramiro Pena
Nunez is still working his way back from a thumb injury in the minors, so he’s probably not an option just yet. The Yankees love him and almost certainly would have used him as A-Rod’s replacement had a) he been healthy, and b) his defense not been so bad in April and May that he had to be sent to Triple-A. We’re all familiar with Pena, the switch-hitting slap hitter with a .249/.302/.316 batting line in Triple-A this season. He can play all over the infield and is excellent with the glove, but he can’t hit. You don’t want him out there on a full-time basis at all. Both Nunez and Pena are on the 40-man roster.
Brandon Laird & Corban Joseph
It’s been two years since Laird broke out with an MVP-winning season in Double-A, but Triple-A has been a much more difficult challenge. He’s hit .253/.294/.406 in just over 1,000 plate appearances at the level but has been hot of late, hitting .313/.367/.613 in July. Laird is a right-handed hacker with some power and he can actually play the position well, so he seems like a potential call-up candidate. CoJo has been mashing at Triple-A since making his debut a few weeks ago — .281/.379/.503 with nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (34) in 220 plate appearances — and has 43 games of third base experience to his credit (for his career, not this year), so he has to be considered as well. As a left-handed bat, he would get most of the playing time in a platoon. His ability to play second base would be nice as well. These two are both on the 40-man roster.
Go figure, Ryan Roberts was both designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks and traded to the Rays just a few hours before A-Rod got hurt. He would have been a solid temporary replacement had the timing been right. The Yankees could still explore the third base market with the trade deadline a little less than a week away, but I have to think they’ll wait for an official timetable from the doctors before diving into anything. Chase Headley is the big name now that Hanley Ramirez is off the market, but I have a hard time thinking they’ll do something of that magnitude. Headley wouldn’t just impact 2012, he’d impact 2013 and 2014 as well. A free agent-to-be like Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, Ty Wigginton, or Placido Polanco may make more sense.
* * *
Regardless of who the Yankees call-up to fill A-Rod’s spot — I expect it to be Nunez, but that’s nothing more than a guess — we’re probably going to see quite a bit of Chavez (and a little bit of Nix) at third for the next week or so. Chavez is an obvious fill-in but Girardi and the Yankees have to be very careful with him, they must ensure that he’s well-rested unless they want to lose two third baseman to the DL. I don’t have much faith in Laird or really any of the minor league guys at the moment, so swinging a trade before the deadline would be preferable. Either way, the Yankees will not be able to replace Alex and everything he provides, even this aging and declining version.
As we’ve learned through the years, winning the AL East and eventually a World Series takes an awful lot more than the nine regular position players, five starting pitchers, and a closer. Clubs need not just a strong bullpen and bench, but they also need quality backup backup players in Triple-A. The full 40-man roster is important.
The Yankees have gotten some excellent production from their projected reserve players this season, but they also assumed more prominent roles due to injuries — specifically Brett Gardner‘s. Dewayne Wise filled in admirably for a while but was replaced on the roster by Ichiro Suzuki yesterday. He’s not the Ichiro of old but he does add some sorely needed speed and outfield defense, and perhaps more importantly he relegates those reserve players back into their projected roles.
Gardner’s injury forced Ibanez into left field far more often than we or the Yankees would have liked, but now he gets to return to the platoon DH role he was brought in to fill. Ichiro is going to play left field against right-handed pitchers while Ibanez’s bat stays in the lineup and his glove stays in the clubhouse. Hopefully the extra rest can revive Raul’s bat a bit, because he has tailed off noticeably since that monster start in April…
We’re still going to see Ibanez play the field once in a while since Joe Girardi figures to rest Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher more often down the stretch, especially if the Yankees maintain their big division lead. Once a week isn’t the end of the world but not having to run him out to left day after day is a huge boon.
Andruw’s role actually won’t change very much at all. He was and remains the right-handed hitting half of the left field/DH platoon, so whether he subs in for Ichiro in left or Ibanez at DH depends on the day and whoever else is resting. Jones already has just 22 fewer plate appearances against righties this year thanlast, so expect that pace to change a bit. He’ll probably get fewer total plate appearances moving forward that he otherwise would have, but that’s not necessarily a bat thing as long he still takes his hacks against southpaws, either as a starter or off the bench.
In terms of playing time, Chavez probably lost the most with the Ichiro pickup. He had been getting regular DH and third base plate appearances — just six fewer plate appearances than last season with two months to go — but now will give Alex Rodriguez a day or two off a week and little more. There will be occasional spot starts at DH and Chavez could spell Mark Teixeira at first base once in a while, plus he’ll be the primary left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench. Given his fragile body, less playing time for Chavez is probably a good thing in terms of keeping him healthy down the stretch and potentially into the postseason.
* * *
I’m hopeful that with Ibanez spending more time at DH, Girardi will be a more open to pinch-hitting for him against tough lefties in the later innings. As the left fielder, a pinch-hitting appearance generally required three players — Ibanez the starter, Jones the pinch-hitter, and Wise the defensive replacement. Now they can replace Ibanez with Jones, leave Ichiro in the outfield, and still have Chavez on the bench in case Andruw winds up facing a right-hander later in the game. Whether or not he’s actually open to doing that remains to be seen, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
Ichiro isn’t Gardner but he’s a reasonable approximation, at least in the field and on the bases. The Yankees should use him in a similar way, which means hitting near the bottom of the lineup while sitting against tough lefties. Returning Ibanez, Chavez, and to a lesser extent Jones to their intended roles is a fringe benefit that may have huge dividends if Raul stays fresh and Chavez stays healthy.
During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?
Any time a team in any sport wins a championship or even sits in first place for a prolonged period of time, there’s always a few players on their rosters exceeding expectations. Talent can only take you so far, it’s those unexpected contributions that push one team ahead of the rest. The Yankees have the best record in baseball and comfortable lead atop the AL East, and as you’d expect they have some players on their roster doing more than expected.
When Mariano Rivera crumbled to the ground in Kansas City, all of Yankeeland held their collective breath. The worst case scenario played out — Rivera had torn his ACL and is expected to miss the rest of the season — and New York was suddenly without the one undisputed advantage they had over every team. No matter who they faced, regular season or playoffs or whatever, the Yankees have always had the advantage in the ninth inning thanks to Mo.
Replacing Rivera’s brutal effectiveness is impossible, but the Bombers had the pieces in-house to get by. David Robertson got the first crack at the closer’s job but almost immediately hit the disabled list with an oblique strain. That’s when Soriano, the 2010 AL saves champ who signed on as a setup man prior to last season, stepped in. Since Rivera and Robertson hit the DL, Soriano’s pitched to a 1.25 ERA (2.00 FIP) in 21.2 innings while going 20-for-21 in save chances. He’s allowed just three runs total during that time and has held hitters to a .210/.273/.272 batting line. Soriano has avoided the disabled list and after a rocky first season in pinstripes, he’s settled into a crucial role for the team. He’s not Mariano, but my goodness has he been effective as his replacement.
When the season opened, it was more of the same from Hughes. He allowed 22 runs in his first five starts (21.2 IP) and batters were tagging him for a .298/.365/.617 batting line. After a second-half fade in 2010 and a disastrous 2011 season, it seemed that the Phil’s days as a starter were number.
The Yankees stuck with him though, and Hughes has rewarded them by pitching to a 3.46 ERA (3.91 FIP) in his last dozen starts. Only thrice in that span did he allow more than three earned runs in a start, only four times more than two earned runs. His strikeout (8.31 K/9 and 21.5 K%) and walk (2.08 BB/9 and 5.4 BB%) numbers are so good that he’s actually fourth in the league among qualified starters with a 4.00 K/BB. The only guys ahead of him are Colby Lewis (7.50), Justin Verlander (4.27), and Jake Peavy (4.15). That’s pretty great.
Hughes still has a homerun problem — fourth in the league with 19 allowed (1.72 HR/9) — but that’s just going to be who he is. He’s a fly ball pitcher (just 33.7% grounders), but because he walks so few the majority of them has been solo shots. Only six of those 19 homers have come with men on base, and five of those six were two-run shots. The Yankees have remained patient with Phil and he’s rewarded them in the first half by (finally) becoming a solid and sometimes dominant starter.
Considering his age (40), his performance last year (.245/.289/.419), and his Spring Training showing (.150/.190/.333), it was very easy to write Ibanez off as a non-factor just before Opening Day. Rather than burn out and get released by June 1st like we all expected, Raul was the team’s most reliable hitter for the first six or seven weeks of the year and has settled in as a very nice weapon against righties — .250/.311/.484 vs. RHP — in the lower third of the lineup.
Furthermore, Ibanez has had to step in for the injured Brett Gardner and has effectively been the everyday left fielder for the last three months or so. He’s started 45 of the team’s 85 games in the outfield and has only been the DH a dozen times. That’s hard to believe. Ibanez has certainly had his share of lol-worthy moments on defense, but just being able to step in and play everyday while maintaining a reasonable level of offense is far more than we could have expected. Raul was supposed to flame out and have the Yankees hunting for a new DH at the deadline, but he’s instead provided very real impact.
Eric Chavez & Dewayne Wise
The bench has been one of the team’s strengths this year, thanks in large part to Chavez. He had an okay year in 2011 while missing lots of time due to injury, but this year he’s stayed on the field — minus a seven-day concussion hiatus — and legitimately mashed. Chavez owns a .282/.336/.504 batting line with seven homers already, two more dingers than he hit from 2008-2011. Gardner’s injury has forced him into the lineup a little more than expected, but he’s produced both at the plate and in the field. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Chavez has been one of the biggest surprises of the season so far.
The trickle down effect of Gardner’s injury is quite substantial; it forced Ibanez into the outfield, Chavez into a healthy amount of at-bats, and it brought Dewayne Wise up from Triple-A. The team’s fourth outfielder has 13 hits in 50 at-bats, but two are doubles, one’s a triple, and three (!) are homers. He’s also six-for-six in stole base chances. With the Yankees struggling to score runs and having lost six of their previous seven games, Wise laid down a perfect bunt hit against the Royals to load the bases and ignite a game-winning rally on May 22nd. They won the game and have won 30 of 42 since. Dewayne Wise’s bunt turned the season around. Okay, maybe not. But he’s been awesome.
David Phelps & Cody Eppley
The Yankees went into camp with six starters for five spots, but Michael Pineda‘s injury opened the door for Freddy Garcia to return to the rotation. It also created a competition for the final bullpen spot, a spot Phelps won in Spring Training. He shined in six long relief appearances before taking Garcia’s place in the rotation, at least until Andy Pettitte showed up. Phelps returned to the bullpen and has since bounced back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A, mostly notably striking out eight in 4.1 innings in a spot start last Wednesday.
Overall, Phelps has pitched to a 3.05 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 41.1 innings, striking out a ton of batters (9.15 K/9 and 23.6 K%) while doing a respectable job in the walk (3.70 BB/9 and 9.6 BB%) and ground ball (43.8%) departments for an AL East rookie. He generated buzz in Spring Training with improved velocity and it carried over into the season, to point where he not only looks like he can get big league hitters out, he looks like a potential long-term starting pitcher.
Joining Phelps in the bullpen has been Eppley, who the Yankees plucked off waivers from the Rangers back in April. He assumed a regular spot on the roster once Rivera got hurt and he’s seized the opportunity by pitching his way into Joe Girardi‘s late-game mix. The sinker-slider sidearm guy has pitched to a 2.70 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 23.1 innings, holding right-handers to a .226/.298/.308 batting line. Eppley’s 65.2% ground ball rate is the fifth highest in the baseball (min. 20 IP). The Yankees do as good a job of find useful arms in unusual places as anyone, and they’ve dug up another good one in Eppley.
The Yankees brought Eric Chavez back late in the offseason to help fill out their bench, and so far he’s performed well enough — 91 wRC+ in 99 PA — in more playing time than anticipated due to various injuries. Things seem to be going fine on the surface, but Chavez told Ken Rosenthal that just getting ready to play every day is a chore following years of back, neck, and shoulder injuries.
“(Each day is) a huge hurdle to climb physically,” he said. “Once I get to the park, I’m constantly going until the end of the game. If I sit down for 15-20 minutes, it takes me that much longer (to get loose again). It’s non-stop. You’ll never see me in the dugout for more than one inning. I’ve got to keep moving. I’ll go to the cage, keep the blood going as much as I can.”
Chavez also said only two teams — the Yankees and White Sox — expressed interest in him this offseason, and he would have been content to retire if things didn’t work out with New York. We know he’s an injury risk and all that, but it’s pretty crazy to hear what he has to go through every day just to prepare for a game. Not being able to sit on the bench for 15 minutes because it’ll take too long to warm back up is … unnerving.
Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have activated Eric Chavez off the 7-day DL and sent Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A in a corresponding move. They want him to play shortstop and second base on an everyday basis in an effort to improve his defense. Jayson Nix will remain with the team as the utility infielder.
Joe and I talked about the possibility to sending Nunez down at length in today’s podcast. I didn’t think it would happen mostly because it seemed like one of those ideas that wouldn’t even have been entertained had he not made those two errors last night. Something had to give with the kid’s defense though, hopefully he can find some consistency down there. Nix has a ton of experience at second and third bases but just a handful of games at short in each of the last few years. He could fake it once a week but not if Derek Jeter were to miss some time.
Chavez, meanwhile, returns to the team after missing a week with whiplash and possible concussion. He was eligible to come off the DL yesterday but had to wait for MLB clearance to be activated. He’s in tonight’s lineup at DH.
Via Marc Carig, infielder Eric Chavez took a concussion test today and is waiting for MLB clearance before he can be activated off the 7-day DL. He’s eligible to come off today but he’ll likely have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest.
Chavez suffered whiplash and a possible concussion last week diving for a ground ball at third base. He was hitting (.372 wOBA) during the little bit of playing time he received, but it’s tough to miss a bench player when he’s only been out a week. Brett Gardner‘s setback preserves Dewayne Wise‘s roster spot for the foreseeable future, so the Jayson Nix era is likely to come to an end tomorrow.
The Yankees officially announced a series of expected roster moves this afternoon. Eric Chavez was placed on the 7-day concussion deal, creating room on the roster for Jayson Nix. Joba Chamberlain was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Nix is in tonight’s lineup against the left-handed Danny Duffy, batting ninth and playing left field.
Brian Cashman made an appearance on WFAN 660 earlier this afternoon and had a number of interesting things to say beyond the usual YankeeSpeak schtick. Let’s recap (with some help from our own Stephen Rhoads)…
- Eric Chavez will be placed on the DL and was actually still at the hospital as of the time of the interview. Jayson Nix is taking his place on the roster and Cashman says he can play the outfield if needed.
- “I believe he’s getting there … baby steps,” said Cashman about Phil Hughes, making it sound like his rotation spot is safe for at least another few weeks. “I think he throws a fantastic curve, I think he’s better than what he’s shown … We want to be patient and optimistic but we also want to reward performance.”
- Joba Chamberlain has already shed his walking boot and is recovering well from both Tommy John surgery and his dislocated ankle. There’s even a chance he may return this year, though I wouldn’t count on itl. “Definitely a possibility [he returns in 2012],” said the GM. “He’s got some sort of amazing recovery ability, he doesn’t feel pain … Definitely possible we’ll see Joba.”
- Brett Gardner will head out on a minor league rehab assignment before returning to the team. He was shut down with pain in his right elbow a few days ago, though Cashman didn’t specify a new timetable. With the scheduled day off on Monday, me thinks the earliest we’ll see Gardner is Tuesday.
In a separate radio interview, Cashman said Andy Pettitte will make his next minor league tune-up start with Triple-A Empire State this Sunday. That game is scheduled to be played in Batavia but apparently is in the process of being moved to Rochester. It that goes well, it’s entirely possible we’ll see Pettitte make his return to the Yankees next weekend against the Mariners.
9:11pm: Chavez left the game with whiplash and a possible concussion. He hurt himself while diving for a ball an inning prior to leaving the game. Chavez will undergo more tests, but I can’t see any way he’ll avoid the DL. It’s worth noting that MLB instituted the 7-day DL for concussions last season, just in case you forgot (I did).
8:31pm: Eric Chavez left tonight’s game for an unknown reason in the middle of his fifth inning at-bat. He appeared to get dizzy all of a sudden and had to be helped off the field. Very weird. Eduardo Nunez replaced him at third base, leaving the Yankees with just Chris Stewart on the bench. Update(s) to follow.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Tigers the Yankees’ starters held a collective 6.37 ERA, second worst in the majors only to the Twins. CC Sabathia lowered that to 6.08 with his eight-inning, two-run performance on Sunday. On Monday Hiroki Kuroda knocked that ERA below the dreaded 6.00 mark, pitching seven innings of one-run ball in a game where one run was all the Yankees could afford. The Yankees’ starters now enter May with a 5.80 ERA.
Better to be lucky than good
Kuroda hunkered down when necessary and even made a few defensive plays himself, but it seemed as though the Orioles hitters were onto him. Nineteen of the 24 hitters he faced put the ball in play, and of those six were classified as line drives. Indeed, the Orioles did make a lot of noise with their bats. Fortunately for the Yankees, most of their hardest hit balls were right at fielders. Eduardo Nunez, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira all made excellent plays on what, on another night, might have been base hits.
Through seven innings Kuroda struck out only three, but he also walked only one and allowed just four hits. Again, he might have been lucky to give up only those four hits. He’s also lucky that Nick Markakis broke from third on a ball that didn’t get quite far away enough from Russell Martin. But all that luck came in handy on a night when the offense didn’t get much at all going.
Chavez to the rescue
On Sunday the Yankees scored six runs, but had an opportunity for more. They went just 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 15 men on base. Last night they had no such failure, but that’s because they put so few men in scoring position. To wit, they did just one time, following Mark Teixeira’s bloop single in the sixth. Raul Ibanez erased him with a ground ball double play.
Eric Chavez took care of business, though, crushing a Jason Hammel offering into the Yankees bullpen in the second, which gave the Yankees the early 2-1 lead they’d hold the whole game. They might as well have set it up on a tee for him, because it was right there. That has to be the greatest feeling as a hitter, to know without a shadow of a doubt that you got all of it.
While Kuroda was lucky, he was also efficient, throwing just 89 pitches in seven innings. Hammel was a bit less efficient, using 101 pitches through just six innings, though there’s an argument that he pitched the better game.
David Robertson struck out the side for the first time since Opening Day. He has made 11 appearances so far and has multiple strikeouts in six of them. He has struck out 43 percent of all batters he’s faced this season.
Eduardo Nunez looked pretty solid in left, especially for a guy who had 18.1 innings in the outfield as a professional coming into the game. All 18.1 of those innings came in the majors last year.
Since his 3 for 9 performance in the Boston series Russ Martin has gone 2 for 15 with just one walk. Though that kind of breakdown really isn’t necessary; Martin’s season at the plate has been horrible. Even the whole “at least he’s taking his walks” thing is starting to taper off — he’s walked just twice in the last two weeks.
If Andruw Jones is going to enter as a defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez, shouldn’t he just get some starts? It’s not as though he can’t hit righties. While Ibanez’s hits have been well-timed, he hasn’t been an irreplaceable contributor.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com box scores are good, because they have video and photo right there. FanGraphs box scores are good, because they have just about every bit of data you could ever want. Mike always links to ESPN’s standings, but it’s just as easy to get them from the MLB site while you’re checking the box score.
It’s a battle of hyped-up, underperforming pitchers as Phil Hughes goes for the Yankees and Brian Matusz goes for the Orioles.