Eric Chavez has earned the opportunity to be the everyday third baseman for the New York Yankees. And when the time comes for Alex Rodriguez to return from the DL, he should have to earn back his every day role at the hot corner.
With a start tonight, Chavez will have equaled the 90 appearances mark he established in 2007; the last season he was considered anything near to a regular player. In 2006, he played in 137 games and has not come close to that in over five seasons. That ‘06 season was also the last where he was awarded the Gold Glove (6th in a row).
That’s a good sign for the Yankees and for a player who seems to have the worst luck with his health.
Chavez is having a very productive year for a hitter that was almost an afterthought coming into the 2012 season. A 129 OPS+ (highest since 2004), a .295 average, and a .365 wOBA are nothing to scoff at if yours is the shoulder that once looked back at Chavy. Especially when you haven’t hit above .280 since 2009 and you’ve only managed 31 home runs the past two years combined after hitting 30 in both 2009 and 2010.
Lets take it one step further. Given ARod has 125 more ABs, I prorated five key hitting stats (hits/homers/runs scored/doubles/BA) for Chavez.
But what about defensively? Is ARod really the better fielder?
ARod’s UZR is sitting at a -4.3 after posting a career-best 11 in 2011 with a .951 FP. Chavez holds a -1.4 and .962 respectively. The only distinct advantage ARod has here is his 27 OOZ plays versus 12 for Chavez. However its advantage Chavez again when you take RZR into consideration, a .679 for Chavy and a .608 for ARod.
Having his good health to thank, Chavez seems poised for career resurgence if he can continue to get significant playing time, despite the fact that any Yankee over thirty gets treated like fine china, if his bat is hot, you have to keep him in the lineup as a regular.
ARod, on the other hand, has exhibited declining numbers for the past two or three seasons. He hasn’t hit over .300 since hitting .302 in 2008 and his slugging (career .563) hasn’t broke .500 since 2010. What those small examples can be attributed to is open to interpretation (age, heath, skill loss, etc.)
This chart shows an example of both players heading in the opposite direction in regards to my favorite overall offensive stat- wOBA
Barring a big collapse, the Bombers will be playing come October but Chavy’s fall history doesn’t demonstrate he’ll make a big(ger) impact.
In the 2000 and 2002 ALDS, Chavez hit .333 and .381. Other than those two series, his average has never gone higher than .231 (2006) and he hit a paltry .045 in the 03 ALDS against the Red Sox.
Although ARod hasn’t faired much better in recent years, he was instrumental in leading the Yanks to the 09 World Series as well as a terrific 2000 post-season hitting .409 in the ALDS against the Yankees.
ARod, with a career .884 OPS in the playoffs appears much better suited for October than Chavez (.634). Recent trends could change all that, or suddenly both players could flip-flop numbers at the plate.
Sometimes wearing those navy pinstripes can transform a player into an alter ego come October like so many leaves in fall.
No matter now. Chavez has earned that position full time and if the Yankees are insistent upon inserting ARod back into the lineup permanently, it should be in a DH role or have him spell Chavez at third from time to time.