Blue Jays: Jesse Chavez and sustainable bullpen velocity
The Blue Jays plan to use Jesse Chavez in roles other than a traditional long man after the veteran right-hander started 26 games for Oakland in 2015
Jesse Chavez has seen his expected role with the Blue Jays slowly shift since arriving from Oakland in a deal for Liam Hendriks this past November.
Originally a very strong candidate for the fifth starter’s job, offseason additions and the move of Aaron Sanchez into the rotation race pushed Chavez into a clear bullpen role. Chavez is typically seen as just that, an arm with velocity just a twinge above someone like Marco Estrada that can bounce between roles as a team needs. His fastball velocity out of the gates, though, provides some optimism that he could overachieve in a mid-to-late inning role this season.
In 1.1 innings pitched this season, Chavez has allowed two hits and struck out three batters. Data from Brooks Baseball shows that his early fastball has averaged a release velocity of 94.56 MPH while his valuable cutter has averaged 92.74 MPH. A good starting point for the long road ahead.
The charted data you see on the left tracks the velocity on Chavez’s fastball, sinker, and cutter throughout 2015 (a season in which he threw 157.0 Major League innings, a career high).
With his 2016 velocities starting at the same levels, if not higher, the Blue Jays have an opportunity to stretch “first half” Chavez across the length of an entire season. In 2015, Chavez allowed a .667 OPS and 3.40 ERA over the first half of the season. With his velocities dropping in the second half, those numbers climbed to a .836 OPS and a 5.59 ERA.
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In April of last season, Chavez’s average fastball and cutter release velocities sat at approximately 94 and 92.5 MPH before dropping nearly a full MPH each on average in May. His fastball would continue that decline throughout the season, ending the year 2.3 MPH lower than when he began.
The cutter will be especially important here, and at first glance, he’s brought a very good one into 2016. This will help Chavez a great deal against left-handed hitters who ate him up in 2015 with a slash line of .291 / .338 / .487. These splits were reversed in 2014 however, where lefties posted just a .663 OPS against him.
The back end of Toronto’s bullpen is firmly locked up with Brett Cecil, Drew Storen, and Roberto Osuna. Alongside new lefty specialist Franklin Morales, however, Chavez has every opportunity to be pitching in that sixth or seventh inning.
Gavin Floyd will be his most direct form of competition for this role, but with the potential that he could be the next man up should an injury hit the rotation, and the survivor of Arnold Leon and Joe Biagini taking over the long-man role, Chavez may have quietly settled into the role of the man he was traded for.