Michael Chavis
Can Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis fix his fatal flaw? It’s something that could make or break his big league career moving forward. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Can Michael Chavis Fix His Fatal Flaw?

May 26, 2019 everything changed for Michael Chavis. Before that, Chavis showed serious potential. He was Boston’s number one prospect at the time and immediately provided a spark after his call up. Chavis was hitting .270 with ten homers and over a .900 OPS in his first 29 games. You started to see what Chavis could eventually become. He hit some tape measure shots in 2019 and looked like a potential 40 home run hitting infielder. Those guys aren’t easy to find. Then Justin Verlander happened. 

Teams started to get smarter. May 26th, 2019, the book on Chavis had officially been written. It was a turning point in his career. The Red Sox were set to play the Astros in a series in Houston. Justin Verlander was set to take the bump. From that moment everything changed. 

Chavis faced Verlander on three occasions that day. Justin Verlander threw him 14 straight fastballs over three at-bats. Chavis struck out in every at-bat. Chavis didn’t just strike out three times in a row, he made contact just once. From that moment, Chavis’ season took a turn for the worse. 

The at-bat that changed Michael Chavis’ rookie year:

The second half of the season for Boston’s young infielder got ugly. Chavis hit a shade over .220 and didn’t even sniff a .300 OBP. Chavis had a slugging percentage of .250 in August. The scouting report was out and it was almost like Chavis became an A ball player overnight. Teams quickly realized that Chavis wasn’t just struggling with fastballs, he basically couldn’t hit anything up in the zone. 

If you take a look at the hitting zones, Chavis had by far the most success on pitches in the middle or down in the zone. High fastballs, well, different story. 

Michael Chavis
(Baseball Savant)

It doesn’t take long for you to start noticing that Chavez is whiffing a lot up in the zone. The high fastballs have been the number one deterrent to his success thus far. Chavis isn’t just bad at hitting the high fastball. It’s downright ugly. We’re talking about a 59 percent whiff rate in the top middle of the zone. If that doesn’t change, he’s going to look a lot more like Jackie Bradley at the dish. Only in this case, Chavis can’t play defense like JBJ does. 

It’s not like Chavis is the only one who struggles with high fastballs. Pitchers today do a great job of changing a hitter’s eye level. One breaking ball in the dirt is followed by a 98 MPH heater at eye level. Good luck hitting that. The problem is, Chavis isn’t just struggling with high fastballs, he’s not making contact. That’s the most alarming part.

Chavis has a 59 percent whiff rate at the top middle of the zone. Compare that number to some of his teammates. In that same zone, Xander Bogaerts had a whiff rate of 12 percent. Rafael Devers had a 25 percent whiff rate in that same spot. Chavis isn’t in the same stratosphere as those other guys. Boston’s goal over the coming years will be to sure up the right side of the infield. The left side is taken care of with Bogaerts and Devers. If Chavis wants to turn double plays with Xander Bogaerts for an extended period of time, he needs to start making contact like him too. 

Chavis, 24, can obviously continue to improve. Being more patient at the plate would likely boost his lackluster eight percent walk rate. Lay off the high ones, son! You can see the manager screaming it from here. What if there is more good news. What if the game is essentially moving toward Chavis?