Game 94, Athletics at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Jesse Chavez, 7:10pm
In 2011, it was Brandon McCarthy. In 2012, it was Tommy Milone, AJ Griffin and Bartolo Colon. Last year, it was Griffin and Dan Straily. This year’s succesful A’s starter with essentially no starting experience and/or a spotty track record is right-hander Jesse Chavez. Chavez was a 42nd round draft-and-follow pick by the Rangers back in 2002, and he spent several years as a hard-throwing reliever in the Texas system before being shipped to Pittsburgh in a trade for Kip Wells. Three more trades later, he was waived by one team and then moved for the ever popular cash considerations from Toronto to the A’s.
Chavez’s calling card was a 95mph four-seam fastball, and he’d picked up a slider and change to go with it. As this great interview he did with Eno Sarris shows, teams seemed to love his velocity, and his potential as a Rafael Soriano-ish FB/SL set-up man.* The problem was that he never really got comfortable with the slider; despite the fact he threw it when ahead in the count, *righties* hit .300 and slugged .500 on the pitch in his career. To make matters worse, his four-seamer was an equal-opportunity offender, with lefties slugging over .600 on it, and a career ISO (against all hitters) of .246. It had velocity and nothing else, and Chavez’s career looked like it was taking the Mark Lowe path.
Side work with his cutter and a move to the Oakland organization changed all of that. The A’s got him to throw a sinker, a pitch he apparently used in the amateur ranks before MLB orgs told him to forget it. He also went to a curve ball, *another* pitch he’d thrown before pro pitching coaches swapped it out for a slider. As a cutter/sinker/curve-balling reliever, he had a modicum of success last year, though a poor strand rate made his ERA a bit uglier than you’d like your set-up man to sport. Though he’d transitioned to starting briefly in the Toronto system, I think plenty of people – even A’s fans – were dubious this spring when the A’s handed him a rotation spot. He’s rewarded them with over 100 innings of above-average performance, and he’s become the latest example of the A’s seemingly inexhaustible pitching depth.
Chavez’s cutter’s effective against righties, while his sinker/change have been solid against lefties. He’s still got platoon splits, but they’re nothing much to write about. Despite the sinker, he’s still average-to-below-average at getting grounders – the cutter’s more of a fly ball pitch. He was excellent against the M’s in early April, but struggled against them in May; we’ll see if that familiarity helps the M’s line-up today.
1: Chavez, RF
2: Jones, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morrison, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Hart, DH
7: Ackley, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
SP: Hisashi Iwakuma
It’s Iwakuma’s bobble-head night tonight, for those that love…uh, that sort of thing.
I’ll admit I haven’t thought about Jean Segura since his incredibly hot start to 2013, but I’m thinking of him and his family today.
In the minors, Victor Sanchez starts for AA Jackson, Lars Huijer for High Desert and Lukas Schiraldi for Everett. Not sure who Tacoma’s using tonight against Fresno. Despite that, today’s a good day to head to Cheney Stadium – it’s “Pink in the Park“, a fundraiser for breast cancer screening for low-income women in the South Sound.
* Ironically, he was actually traded for Soriano in one of his many transactions.