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Indians Indians Archive Chisenhall Back in Action
Written by Al Ciammiachella

Al Ciammiachella

Chisenhall 800x741Lonnie Chisenhall did not have the season he envisioned in 2012. After accumulating 212 AB and a .255/.284/.415 line including 7 HR and 22 RBI for the Indians in 2011, many saw the 23-year old 3B as the opening day starter for the Indians this year. An up and down spring and the sterling glove of Jack Hannahan saw Chisenhall relegated back down to AAA Columbus out of Goodyear though, and while not necessarily a step backwards, it certainly was not a step forward. Chisenhall lasted just 30 games in the International League, hitting .314/.341/.517 with 4 HR and 17 RBI in 118 at bats with the Clip Show. In Columbus, the lefthanded hitter posted a .929 OPS against righties and a .758 OPS against southpaws. A noticeable difference to be sure, but not a crazy platoon split by any stretch of the imagination.


Called up to the Indians in June, Chisenhall looked much more comfortable at the plate than he did last year. In 24 games with the Tribe, Lonnie hit .278/.297/.458 with 3 HR and 9 RBI (.756 OPS). Just when he was settling in and getting used to big league pitching, Chisenhall broke his forearm when he was hit in the arm by a Troy Patton fastball in a game against Baltimore. The injury occurred on June 29, and Chisenhall missed all of July and August recovering from nasty break. Last week, he was finally well enough to start playing again, and was coincidentally back in Akron with the Aeros for the Eastern League Playoffs, a familiar role for the 3B as he won a championship ring with the Aeros back in 2009. After going 2-10 with three walks in three playoff games with the Aeros, Chisenhall was activated in time to start last night’s game with the Indians in Minnesota. He’s got about three weeks’ worth of game action left here in 2012, games that are not particularly important to the Indians as a whole, but are critical to salvaging some sort of developmental progress for the young third baseman. Hitting 6th in the lineup last night, Chiz went 1-3 with a walk, a strikeout and his 4th HR of the season. It was a perfect Chisenhall HR, a line drive on a pitch down and in that he just went down and yanked over the RF fence.

Even though it’s late in the season and the Indians playoff hopes are nothing more than a memory from July, Chisenhall is excited to get back on the baseball field. When I saw him at BP in Bowie, he took a round of grounders, then hit a round of BP, then went out to RF to shag flyballs for the rest of batting practice. That’s rare for a minor league 3B, let alone a major leaguer on a rehab assignment. When I asked him how he was feeling, he grinned from ear to ear and said, “It’s nice to be back on the field. I’d like to jump back up there as quickly as possible and get some meaningful at bats in September this year. I know we’re out of it, but we play Detroit and Chicago a few more times, so we want to make it tough on them, make them earn it.” While some of the other players on the Indians are just playing out the string, it sounds like Chisenhall is really excited to make things as tough as possible on the club’s Central Division foes.

Chisenhall 800x648More important than playing spoiler though is Chisenhall’s development as a ballplayer, both at the plate and in the field. Some fans complain that Chisenhall can’t hit southpaws effectively enough to be an everyday 3B. Well, the only way he’s going to learn to hit lefthanded pitching at the major league level is going to be to try and hit lefthanded pitching at the major league level. He’s already feeling more comfortable against southpaws even in his limited exposure against them so far. “In September last year, I got quite a few more at bats against lefties, and my average last year was higher against lefties than it was against righties. So I don’t think that’s ‘the book’ on me.” Chisenhall of course is absolutely right; in 162 AB against RHP, Chiz hit .253/.282/.358 as opposed to .260/.288/.600 in 50 AB against LHP. As Chisenhall said, “Once I got consistent at bats against lefties, the numbers weren’t nearly as skewed as they were when there was a big imbalance there.”

Regardless of whether the pitch comes out of the right arm or the left arm of the pitcher, Chisenhall knows how important his approach at the plate is for sustained success at the major league level. Pitch recognition and selection becomes more important the further up the line you get “It’s not about the walks, it’s more about the pitches I should be swinging at.” Recognizing and hitting major league breaking balls is a skill set that eludes some of even the best prospects in baseball when they make that jump, and some guys just can’t seem to make that adjustment to have consistent success at the major league level (cough, Matt LaPorta, cough). If Chisenhall is going to be the guy at the hot corner for the Indians, he’s going to have to get those at bats and make those adjustments. He’s got a smooth, pretty swing and has all the tools to be an above-average 3B in the field as well as a .275/.350/.440 guy at the plate in his prime. When we look back a few years from now, the injury that ruined his 2012 season will hopefully be no more than a bump in the road for an all-star career with the Tribe. 

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