Endy Chavez was first called up from the minors in 2001. He has since spent the entirety of his 14-year career bouncing the minors and the majors. The 2014 season has been more of the same for Chavez, as he started with Triple-A Tacoma before being called up to Seattle on May 30th. Chavez has been getting plenty of playing time since his call-up, a move that has generated a lot controversy among fans. That controversy is for a good reason, as his peripherals are really weird — no like really weird — but he hasn’t been a black hole for the Mariners; and most of his production has come with him at the top of the batting order.
Chavez’s slash line this season isn’t exactly encouraging, and in fact gives you the impression of an aging athlete who is over matched at the major league level. In 81 plate appearances he is hitting .266/.280/.380. But his batting average has been suppressed by a relatively low .288 BABIP — Chavez’s career BABIP is .293.
Another pair of statistics that show Chavez is a bad to mediocre MLB hitter is his .287 wOBA, and 79 wRC+.
He is continuing his trend of not striking out often, 8.3% of his plate appearances, but he isn’t walking a lot either, 2.4% of his plate appearances. That low walk rate is probably do to his incredibly high contact rate of the pitches he swings at outside of the strike zone, 80.9%.
The majority of Chavez’s value in ’14 has come from his contributions to the roster while hitting at the top of the batting order. His slash line in 65 plate appearances is .323/.338/.468 and that’s good for an OPS of .806.
You read that correctly, an OPS of .806.
That’s a level of production from the lead off position the M’s haven’t seen since Ichiro Suzuki in 2010 — Ichiro hit .315/.359/.394 that year. Ichiro also had 732 plate appearances as the lead off hitter in 2010.
Obviously is this small sample size and all of that, but it’s probably a good idea to enjoy the production from Chavez while he is still producing…because, as Ichiro proved, aging outfielders can start to decline at any point in time.