What to do about giving out a grade for someone like Eric Chavez? On one hand, he had one of the greatest defensive seasons at third base ever in spite of playing through a laundry list of injuries.
When the season started, everyone was worried because Chavez had a shoulder injury that he dealt with for much of the season last year. I remember distinctly thinking that it was a point of contention with the franchise that Chavez chose not to have offseason shoulder surgery.
Yet the shoulder wound up being the least of his problems. Forearm tendonitis in both arms, a slightly pulled groin and hamstring and an occasionally cranky back were the issues with Chavez this year.
The worst part about all this is that Chavez appeared like he was going to finally have that long-anticipated breakthrough season this year when he started out April on fire. He hit nine home runs in the month of April and slugged an impressive .687. He and Nick Swisher carried the A's offense out of the gate as the rest of the A's started pretty slowly.
Then the injuries started to crop up and Chavez tumbled back down to earth. The thing about Chavez though is that he played through the injuries rather than trying to give himself time to heal. Chavez was quoted on ESPNEWS after he won his sixth Gold Glove in a row as saying that Billy Beane talked him into continually going out in the field to try and make a difference with his glove since there were times he was in pain swinging the bat.
So while the defense was unbelievable throughout the season, the offense from Chavez was unbelievably bad. I do think that Chavez should've been hitting lower in the lineup for a bigger part of the year. If you know your guy is out there for defensive purposes, you try and put him in a spot where he isn't going to hurt the team. And when Frank Thomas was hitting well and Jay Payton was hitting well, those two should've been teamed together far more frequently than just against left-handed pitching. I'm not sure if this was one of the issues that led to Macha's ultimate dismissal, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Chavez said before the season started that he put on an extra 15 pounds of muscle. After the season ended, he alluded to the fact that he felt like the extra weight was a contributing factor to all of the injuries, so expect Chavez to come to spring training looking less buff and hopefully quicker in the batter's box.
Chavez finished the year hitting .241, an OBP of .350 and a slugging percentage of .435. He also hit a mere 22 home runs and drove in 72 runs. Those were his worst numbers since 1999. Is it possible that Chavez peaked before his 29th birthday? I honestly don't think so. Expect to see a better Eric Chavez in 2007 especially if he can remain healthy and it looks like he is taking steps to try and ensure that happens.
I have to take the injuries into account when considering Chavez's grade for the season. This is a guy who played through nagging problems all year and still managed to beat out Mike Lowell and Joe Crede and Brandon Inge for the Gold Glove. He kept playing when many a baseball player could've easily put themselves on the shelf to protect their reputation. You've got to admire that whether you like Chavez or not (it appears like many of you don't).
GRADE: B- (even though his offense was the worst since 1999, his defense saved quite a few games for the team and you've got to admire a guy who runs himself out there as many times as Chavez did not being 100 percent)