I’m extremely intrigued by Jesse Chavez, the 34-year-old righty reliever the Cubs picked up from the Rangers Thursday evening in exchange for low-A pitcher Ricky Tyler Thomas. I’ve actually loved Chavez’s peripherals dating back to the early 2010’s. It was his changeup/sinker/cutter/curve combination that caught my attention back then, and now it’s the sinker/changeup combo that has me digging the move.
If I could tell you to pay attention to just one pitch Chavez throws, it’d be the sinker. It’s disgusting. He throws the tailing fastball at 93-94 mph with more movement than 77 percent of all sinkers thrown by righty relievers this season.
Altogether, Chavez is throwing the highest quantity of “really fast sinkers” of his career this season, as illustrated by the two graphs below. See how he barely threw sinkers in 2016 despite high velocity? Now he’s throwing sinkers with the same velocity but with eight times more frequency. Basically, Chavez is throwing a 94 mph sinker every fourth pitch this season.
In addition to generating three times more whiffs with the sinker than in prior seasons, Chavez is probably setting up his changeup much more effectively considering both sinkers and changeups display similar spinning action. For instance, Chavez’s changeup whiff rate is 40 percent higher than last season and over 50 percent greater than his best season in 2014.
So when you think of Jesse Chaves, think of a mid-90’s sinker that sets up his changeup. The Cubs might even take that combo to a whole new level and spike his value that much more.