August 14, 2012
First, Third, and DH for 8/14/12
Donovan Solano (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) picked up his only two hits of the week on Saturday and has been playing second base, where he’s far more valuable. He’s still a decent play in NL-only leagues at the hot corner, but this week brings a far more promising NL-only VP, so we say so long to Solano.
Instead of conforming to my tweener expectations, Chavez has continued that hot streak, starting roughly two out of every three games for the boys in pinstripes, although much of his recent production has come while wearing road grays. While starting four games in a row for only the second time all season, Chavez came alive last week in Detroit. All four games were of the multi-hit variety, and he hammered two doubles on Monday then homered on Tuesday and Thursday. This is a good trend for Chavez, since half of his 12 homers this year have come at home, but it’s a surprising one—he owns just a .247/.319/.388 career line at the new Yankee Stadium. Comerica, on the other hand, is much more friendly to Chavez. He owns a .357/.429/.652 line in 126 career plate appearances at Detroit’s home field, his best performance in any ballpark where he has at least 16 plate appearances. (Another example of why home/road splits can be misleading.)
His sudden surge of power in every park this season is unexpected, thanks to a 19.4 HR/FB rate that will be a career high if he sustains it—his best was 18.5 percent in 2004, when he hit .276/.397/.501. Chavez’s current .289 batting average would also be a career best, but it looks more sustainable than his power surge, judging from his .291 BABIP this season (.286 career). His secondary ratios also look solid. Chavez has improved his contact rate for each of the past three seasons, rising from 76.8 percent in his final season with the Athletics to 83.7 percent today, leading to a 16 percent K%, his lowest strikeout rate since 2003. Over that same four-year span, he’s also lifted his walk rate each season from a career low 3.2 percent to this season’s 8.3 percent. This is a far cry from the double-digit numbers he routinely produced during his peak, but it does show him adopting the patience of his fellow Yankees, who are third in all of baseball in walk rate.
This all adds up to good improvement for Chavez, who is likely to give back some of his power gains but still provide value in batting average and counting numbers. His 29 RBI and 27 runs already represent his best performances since 2007—not surprising since that was also the last season he played more than this season’s 77 games. He’s best suited for AL-only and deep mixed leagues, along with daily leagues where owners can work around the platoon he’s in.