Buy or Sell: Is Jesse Chavez For Real?
The concept of this feature is simple: I'll examine something currently interesting in baseball, such as a player, team, or statistic and discuss whether we, as a baseball community, should be buying or selling them or it.
There may not always be an easy or clear-cut answer to this question, as streaks and fluke performances are abundant in the game we know and love. With this exercise, I intend to examine such performances and make a case that a performance is either the result of a player getting better at baseball (buy) or mere good fortune (sell).
Not all articles in this series will deal with analyzing a small-sample size performance or a hot streak. Some will deal with the promotion of a top prospect, while others could deal with a specific stat with a specific player, such as Jose Abreu's absurd amount of home runs or Troy Tulowitzki's performance with runners in scoring position.
Dan Weigel and the rest of the baseball writers, including yours truly, will be selecting players and topics that we think are most interesting and relevant, but if you have a player or topic that you would like examined, hit us up on Twitter (@friarNU29, @DanWiggles38 or @numberFire) and let us know. Without further ado, here is the latest edition of Buy or Sell, featuring Oakland A's starting pitcher Jesse Chavez.
Jesse Chavez is California native, and went to community college there, as well. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2002 and made his debut in 2008 with the Pirates. He has also played in the majors with the Braves, Royals and Blue Jays, until he arrived in Oakland - his current team - in 2012.
Chavez was a pretty non-existent journeyman until his 2013 campaign. Last year, he still had slightly high ERA (3.92) for a short relief man, even though he generally threw when the team was down. His FIP was rock solid at a 3.01, and his WHIP was a respectable 1.22.
Before the 2013 season, Chavez had a career ERA of 5.99, a 5.20 FIP and a 1.55 WHIP. He had started two games and logged a career record of 7-11. From 2008-2012 he pitched in 156 big league games, only 18 more than he did in the minors during that time frame.
The 30-year-old right-hander has turned it around in 2014, and is showing major signs of improvement. Through his first nine starts, he has a 2.54 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 1.08 WHIP and 9.1 K/9. No matter how you dissect it, Chavez’s numbers are quite impressive. His fastball is at an all-time slowest (91.0 mph on average), but that is to be expected given he's made over four times the amount of starts in this season as he has in his entire career.
Chavez only allowed one run in each of his first four starts, but he didn’t win until his fourth start. The A’s still won every one of those first four starts Chavez logged, even though he wasn’t always the pitcher of record. In those games, he pitched against two teams that were over .500 and three of the teams in the AL West - the Mariners, Angels and Astros.
Throughout the following four starts, Chavez has had two average to below-average outings and two good outings. In both of his so-so outings, he's allowed four earned runs, once over five innings and another over five and two-thirds innings. However, in his other two starts, he's gone seven and eight innings, shutting down the Rangers and the White Sox. The Rangers are in the top 10 in terms of batting average and on-base percentage at this point in the season, while the White Sox are in the top three in runs scored.
In his last start, Chavez faced the Indians, allowing two runs over five innings, while throwing 109 pitches. His start went fine, allowing six hits and three walks, along with six strikeouts. The biggest issue for him was that two of the six hits were home runs - thankfully they were only solo shots. It was a pretty average start, but nothing major to be concerned with.
In all, while his FIP of 3.52 is slightly better than above average, it's a sign that his ERA is going to regress into the 3.00 range, instead of remaining in the 2.00 range. Having said that, this is not a sign that Chavez is going to be a bad pitcher, but rather a sign that it will be difficult for him to maintain the level of success he is at.
His BABIP to this point is .258. It's by far his best average in the bigs by 23 points, and ranking in the top 25 in the majors. Although he has shown a lot of signs of improvement, it's hard to imagine that this number won’t grow a bit. His line-drive percentage makes it seem as if his BABIP should grow a little, and he will start to experience a few struggles.
Buy or Sell?
As crazy as it may seem, I am buying Chavez right now. He has been throwing well consistently, and even his worse outings aren’t that bad. He has a high-powered offense to back him up, which only makes it easier for him to pitch, and for those in fantasy leagues that need wins, he is going to get them for you.
In addition to being 4-1 through nine starts, the A’s are 8-1 in all of his starts. That shows that he is going to help them out in the long run, regardless of how pointless a pitcher win is. He's also lasted this long without having his elbow bothering him on the season, which is an amazing sign considering how many have gone down thus far.