Proof that the Braves think even less of spring training stats than I do, as even I take notice when a guy puts up a 14 ERA (15 RA) and walks six versus four strikeouts in nine innings of exhibition work. Admittedly, there weren’t a lot of attractive options left for the last righthanded spot in the pen, but the Braves’ line was that they liked Chavez a lot when they traded for him and that he was being judged on his prior performance and their scouting and not what he did in the peculiar circumstances of spring training. In theory, I understand and approve of this. In reality, I have to wonder what they see in Chavez, as there’s nothing in his major league stats or in what I’ve actually seen him do on the mound, and little in his minor league stats, to make me think he’s any good. Ultimately, it looks like the Braves are letting the radar gun make their call here. Chavez does indeed throw hard, but has been unable to translate that to strikeouts against major leaguers, presumably due to a lack of movement or a quality breaking pitch. I compared him to Kevin Gryboski in an earlier post. He isn’t like Gryboski in that he doesn’t appear to be a ground-ball pitcher — his home-run rates are pretty high, and he’s only gotten two GIDP in his major league career — but he is like Gryboski in that he’s a guy who throws hard but hasn’t turned that into results.
Chavez was a 42nd round pick of the Rangers out of (I believe) junior college in 2002, and moved steadily up their system despite never really pitching well. His biggest problem was poor control, though after moving to the bullpen full-time he showed a knack for getting strikeouts. He was traded to the Pirates for Kip Wells late in the 2006 season — he made only one appearance for them in AAA — and apparently the Pirates corrected something. At any rate, his walks went down dramatically after joining the Pittsburgh organization, though his ERAs were still only mediocre, in the high threes. He was called up to the big club late in 2008 and pitched very poorly, a 6.08 ERA on 20 hits and nine walks in fifteen innings. In 2009, he was a bullpen workhorse, pitching 71 times mostly in short middle relief (15 of 19 on holds, but no saves) with an only mediocre ERA of 4.01. The Braves got him for Rafael Soriano; again, I’d rather have gotten the draft pick.