The past five years
The question with Chavez is obvious: it's as much as about how often he'll play, as how well he'll play. As the stats above show, he has typically missed over 100 games per season - not all through injury, of course, but that has certainly been a major contributory factor. Last season was actually above average in terms of playing time, and he has spent more time in the field (rather than at DH) the past couple of years as well. Kirk Gibson has likely learned from last year: "With his age, all the injuries and the wear and tear, you just can't play him that much. He'll say he's ready and good to go, but it seems like it always bites us. I'm going to have to be more proactive with that."
In 2013, there were two main issues responsible for Eric's absence. At the end of May, he strained his right oblique while swinging the bat, an injury that caused him to miss most of May. Then, in the middle of August, he strained his left knee, though this time, he had basically only to miss the minimum 15 days. Neither of those should carry over to this campaign, but they are typical of the nagging health problems which have plagued Hinske over his career. I'm not saying he's hurt often, but the 36-year-old's injury history will shortly be adapted by Peter Jackson into a trilogy of major motion pictures.
There was some speculation that the strain of playing the field might cause Chavez to head back to the American League this season, especially with his previously stated desire to win now as his greatest concern: "All there’s left for me to do is just win — get to a World Series, get to the playoffs. After that, everything doesn’t even come into my mind whatsoever." But perhaps the prospect of moving away was enough to convince the long-time local resident to hang around - getting a little bump in salary to $3.5 million won't have hurt, making 2014 Eric's best paid-season since he was with the A's in 2010.
A recent report had him "ready to be more assertive" this time around. "I'm going to take a little bit more of a role that maybe they thought I should have last year. It kind of just happens. You don't say, 'Oh, I've arrived.' It takes time. You've got to be comfortable with yourself, too. It's a trust factor. They've got to get to know you and see what you're all about. For anybody to come in from the outside and immediately take control, it's unrealistic. You want to go through a period of time where they get to trust you and see if you're genuine. Not only do you talk the talk, do you walk the walk? You have to earn the respect." Be interesting to see how that works out.
What the stats above don't show, is how much better Chavez is when he has the platoon advantage. Over his entire career as a left-handed hitter, his OPS against southpaws is only .689, but it rockets up 178 points to .867, when facing a right-handed pitcher. That's how he'll be used again with the Diamondbacks - last season, he faced RHP in almost seven out of of every eight trips to the plate. He may get a little more time at 1B, where Chavez only started two games in 2013. However, one suspects (and certainly hopes!) that the need for Goldie to get a break will be limited. I think Eric will again see most action at 3B, though Martin Prado may simply move elsewhere, to LF or 2B.
This article is part of our 2014 Diamondbacks expectations series - check out the other entries. As we go through spring, we'll have a series of pieces looking at each of the players likely to be on the 25-man roster for the home opener. It's an open forum, to discuss expectations, hopes, fears and their potential contribution to the 2014 season.