A’s Chavez finds mechanical flaw, expects improvement

For more than three weeks, the Oakland Athletics rotation has struggled to keep its team in games. But one-fifth of that rotation, Jesse Chavez, is confident he has solved his personal riddle.

Saturday night’s lost was just the latest in what has been a very rough month for the A’s rotation. Chavez’s loss in a two-inning and five-run outing was right in line with the 2-12 record and 5.46 ERA posted by the staff over the prior 22 games.

As far as the personal misfortune of the right-handed hurler, Chavez believes that a review of Saturday’s game film revealed his problem, and thus the key to solving it:

“My stride down the hill resulted in me leaning back and, as a hitter, you can see the ball from basically 68 feet instead of 60 feet. That gives the hitter an advantage.”

Since his first start in July, Chavez has allowed 45 earned runs in 63.2 innings pitched. Despite his offseason training regimen being centered on improving his endurance, the 32-year old’s ERA has grown precipitously since his excellent first half.

After the loss, A’s manager Bob Melvin addressed his starter’s physical condition after his last go on September 5th:

“He was pretty frustrated with today’s game because he felt strong, physically, just the ball wasn’t going where he wanted it to.”

Though Chavez was focused on his mechanical issues and their effect on his ability to conceal the ball from the hitter, Melvin pointed to his velocity – primarily the differentiation between his pitches.

“Games when he doesn’t have his good fastball, it seems like the cutter and fastball and change all kind of get pretty close in his velocity.”

The skipper went on to say that with a lack of fluctuation between Chavez’s primary pitches, his curveball was all but ineffective.

Despite clear frustration from the now 7-14 starter, there was a moment of enlightenment when he explained the discovery of his delivery issues. While he described his motion as “sitting in a chair” and failing to use his legs in driving off the pitcher’s rubber, he claimed that the flaw has caused his pitches to lose action.

Not only has the life – velocity – of his fastball suffered from the mechanical inconsistencies over the rough stretch, but the hurler feels that the action – movement – of his changeup has flattened. The pitch’s loss of vertical movement has cost him the depth of the pitch, and played a major role in his poor second half:

“For something drastic like that, it’s tough to pinpoint when you’re in the heat of the battle. It felt like my stuff was all sharp, it was just wondering what was going on with the results. But When you sit, or fall back, (pitches) go side-to-side instead of north-to-south.”

With the now discovered flaw in his delivery, Chavez is excited to get to work with pitching coach Curt Young in “hammering this thing out.” But only performance can prove whether his issues would be solved.

With his turn in the rotation due in a Friday, the A’s starter will have an opportunity to put his work to the test in Arlington against divisional rival Texas Rangers.