Jesse Chavez: Is a star being born for the Oakland Athletics?


Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics came into the season facing questions about their rotation, due to a lack of health within their starting five. Yet, as we approach the end of the first month of the 2014 campaign, they’re sitting pretty atop the American League, primarily thanks to a starting rotation that has been absolute dynamite. And right in the middle of that has been Jesse Chavez.

With injuries to A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker prior to the season getting underway, Chavez saw his opportunity to grab a spot in this starting rotation for Oakland. Prior to joining the A’s towards the end of the 2012 season, Chavez bounced around quite a bit with several different organizations. Even in his brief time in Oakland, he had failed to start a game prior to the 2014 season.

While it’s just four starts into a long season, Jesse Chavez has been one of the larger surprises anywhere in the league. He’s provided stability in a rotation that looked like it could have easily fallen apart prior to the season starting, and has actually been a leader on this starting staff, from a statistical standpoint.

Through his first four starts of 2014, Chavez has pitched 26 innings, just a touch over six per appearance, while going for a fabulous 1.38 ERA. Even his FIP, which takes a very good defensive Oakland ballclub out of the equation, he’s still staring down a 2.97 mark. He’s getting the whiffs, with well up over nine punchouts per nine innings, while keeping his walks down as well, at just 1.73 BB/9.

Chavez isn’t doing anything too fancy. He’s not overpowering in an elite type of way. He does mix his pitches up effectively, going from a two-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s and a sweet cutter, in addition to regularly utilizing his curveball and changeup. When he’s not striking guys out, he’s keeping the ball down and getting groundouts. For an Oakland team that is among the league’s best defensively, that’s a recipe for success.

Given the fact that he’s already 30, though, it’s tough to label him as a budding star. What he has done is develop his offspeed stuff and use it to his advantage more. He was certainly a diamond in the rough when the A’s acquired him, and he’s managed to utilize his pitches to become a much more effective pitcher than he had at any of his previous stops.

It’s probably unreasonable to expect Jesse Chavez to continue this type of torrid pace he’s on for the remainder of the year. But for an Oakland ballclub that lost multiple starters in the offseason, due to both departure and injury, Chavez has been an incredible addition to the rotation and one of baseball’s best hurlers early on.