Eric Chavez was great. Really, spectacularly great. He was the guy who was so good he got Billy Beane to give him a boatload of money instead of convincing some two-pence catcher to play third base. Chavez earned that payday too, averaging .273/.352/.495 with 28 home runs between 2000 and 2006. Let’s also not forget that he accomplished that in the same Oakland Coliseum that frightens away free agents as if it was occupied by the three witches in Hocus Pocus.
But then Chavez’s body betrayed him, leaving him a mere shell of the man he once was. Chavez managed to hit 15 home runs in 2007, though he failed to reach 400 plate appearances for the first time and pitchers no longer walked him enough to make up for his crumbling average. Chavez then received 95, 31, 123, and 175 PAs over the next four years, spending most of his time indoors like the boy from The Secret Garden, hitting only four home runs in what amounted to just under a full season’s amount of work for your average starter.
At 34, one would imagine that he was finished, living off of his good name and bouncing between the Majors and AAA until he decided to open up a hitting clinic in Mount Carmel. But this year, as the Yankees backup 3B/1B/DH against right handed pitchers, he has topped 200 plate appearances for the first time since 2007, and his 12 home runs are the most in that time span, as well. Though he’s been useless against lefties with barely any opportunities (2-for-19), Chavez is hitting .309/.371/.571 against righties. To put that in perspective, Eric Chavez has essentially been Ryan Braun when facing righties, which has plenty of value in and of itself.
There is reason to believe that this isn’t just a fluke either. Chavez has cut his strikeouts to his lowest level since 1999, upped his line drives to his highest rate since 2003 while his BABIP is right around career levels. Sure, Yankee Stadium has helped him poke a few over the fence, and not having to bother with lefties is nice, but after five years without a productive Eric Chavez, it’s nice to see the 34-year-old stumble out of bed and see the wonders of the modern world.
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