Eric Chavez came to the New York Yankees without much expectation. He knew his limitations as a player and knew the Yankees didn’t view him as a starter. That is what makes Chavez such a great bench player for the Yankees. The oft-injured corner infielder allowed the Yankees some flexibility when resting Alex Rodriguez, or to help step in when A-Rod went down to injury. Again, he played his role perfectly.
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The 34-year-old hit .281/.348/.496 in 313 plate appearances in 2012. Perhaps most amazing is the fact that he hit 16 home runs while playing as a reserve, considering he only hit two home runs in 175 PA in 2011. Again, it’s only about half season worth of data, but he recorded a .216 ISO and a 126 wRC+ (second highest WRC+ total of his career). Both those numbers indicate that he was mashing and was an above average (and valuable) hitter for the Yankees. When first looking at his slash line, I expected a BABIP near .400, because let’s face it, Chavez needed a little luck to have the season he had, but that’s not the case. In 2012 he was well within the “acceptable” range for BABIP recording an even .300 on the season.
Meanwhile, according to FanGraphs, Chavez was worth 1.8 WAR. To put that into perspective, A-Rod was worth only 2.2 WAR in 2012 in 200 more PAs. Who knows, Chavez could have faltered down the stretch if he were given those extra 200 PAs, but it was great witnessing Chavez having the season he did — from the pine.
Chavez is beginning to experience what it’s like to age as a ball player, his strikeout rate has gone up (18.8 percent K-rate in 2012 versus 17.2 percent career) and his walk rate is dropping (10.3 percent over his career versus 9.6 percent in 2012). Saying that, his walk rate in 2012 actually increased by almost two percentage points over his 2011 totals.
The six-time Gold Glove winner isn’t what he used to be in the field. Again, range, arm and the like decrease as players age, so it’s nothing new here. He recorded a good 11.6 UZR/150 rating while playing first base (only 61 innings) and a below average -4.1 rating while playing the hot corner (446.2 innings). Again for some perspective, A-Rod held a -8.8 UZR/150 rating in 709.1 innings. Much can happen in 250+ innings at one position, so who knows how it would have ended for Chavez had he played as much as A-Rod.
Overall Grade: A-
- Accepts responsibility
- Makes excellent effort
- Uses time wisely
- Positive role model for peers
It’s difficult finding a player who was once a star, knows they were a star, but also understands that their stardom has faded immensely. Chavez has accepted this role and exceeded all expectations while still being a team-oriented player. You could see how important of a player he was for the Yankees this season when A-Rod and Mark Teixeira spent extended time on the disabled list. His ability to play well with the glove as well as provide good results with the bat makes Chavez a super-sub. If he were 24-years-old, we’d be clamoring for him to get into the starting lineup somehow. He’s not, and he’s accepted his role with the team, one where he produces when called upon and that’s all you can ask from a bench player.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs