Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis needs to cut back on strikeouts
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox rookie infielder Micahel Chavis is off to a great start in his career but his penchant for striking out is starting to get exposed.
Michael Chavis made a great first impression when he was called up by the Boston Red Sox in late April, taking the league by storm in his first few weeks of big league action. Now that opposing teams have had an opportunity to study his habits at the plate, pitchers are finding ways to expose his flaws and it will be up to the rookie to make adjustments.
Chavis made his debut on April 20 in Tampa Bay, roping a pinch-hit double that helped put the winning run in scoring position. One month later, over a span of 26 games, he was hitting .296 and had tallied his first nine home runs.
Since then, Chavis has seen his batting average tumble to .257 his last 13 games. He’s 9-for-50 (.180) with only one homer and four RBI in that span.
This recent slide has shined a light on a troubling trend developing in his young career. Chavis is striking out at an alarmingly high rate. He’s punched out 51 times in 39 games and owns a 30.2 K% that stands as the seventh highest in the American League (minimum 150 plate appearances).
Chavis is whiffing at enough pitches to power a small wind farm. His 18.1 SwStr% is among the worst in the league, per FanGraphs. The book is out on Chavis and pitchers are learning that they don’t need to throw strikes to the rookie. He’ll get himself out by chasing bad pitches. Chavis is making contact on only 50% of pitches outside the zone, placing him among the bottom 15 in the league in O-Contact%.
The at-bat doesn’t necessarily need to end in a strikeout for this lack of plate discipline to take a toll on his batting average. Falling behind in the count gives the pitcher an advantage that Chavis hasn’t been able to overcome.
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Chavis is 28-for-87 (.321) when the count is even or when he’s ahead. He’s 10-for-62 (.161) when he falls behind. That includes an 0-for-21 streak with 13 strikeouts when the count runs to 0-2.
Baseball is a game of adjustments so it was only a matter of time before major league pitchers figured him out. Now it’s up to Chavis to make adjustments of his own. We often see him in the dugout jotting down information in a notebook following plate appearances, an encouraging sign that Chavis is learning from these experiences.
Chavis charged out of the gate to such a blistering start to his career that it’s easy to forget that he’s a 23-year old with barely over a month of experience at the game’s highest level. There’s bound to be some ups and downs along the way.
We know that Chavis can hit the ball a mile when he makes solid contact. It’s also common for sluggers with his type of power to strike out at an elevated rate. If Chavis wants to become a complete hitter, he’ll need to learn to take what the pitcher gives him rather than swing for the fences. Remain aggressive on good pitches in the zone but lay off the ones pitchers try to get him to chase. Shorten his swing when he’s behind in the count to slap the ball the other way for a base hit.
Chavis is undoubtedly capable of hitting at this level but it’s a learning process. The strikeouts are dragging him into a slump lately but don’t expect him to stay down for long.