Chisenhall’s Eye Coming Back at Columbus

This season has not gone exactly according to plan for Lonnie Chisenhall. Most saw this as his breakout season where he would hit the ground running for the Tribe but that has not been the case. During his time in Cleveland this season, Chisenhall struggled heavily earning only a .213 batting average with just three home runs and 11 RBIs in 26 games played. While some might see these stats and be willing to pass on Chisenhall, his work this season in Columbus proves that would be a poor decision, as he has a batting average of .371 with five runs, 14 RBIs and 23 hits in only 62 at bats during his 15 games at Triple-A.

Chisenhall began the season in Cleveland as the starting third baseman, earning that spot after a solid sophomore season with the Indians last year. In 2012, Chisenhall continued to grow in his major league career, posting a .268 batting average with five home runs and 16 RBIs. One of the biggest areas that Chisenhall seemed to show growth in last season was his eye at the plate. In 2011, he struck out 49 times in 66 games, while he was able to limit that number to only 27 last season in 43 games. He was able to draw eight walks his rookie year in 212 at bats, whereas he was able to reach the same number of walks in only 151 at bats the next season.

Despite this positive growth in 2012, it seemed to be that he regressed to past habits this season. His strike out rates went up again, striking out 22 times in less than half of the games he played in a year ago, while only drawing three walks. While the staff in Cleveland tried to let him work through his struggles at the plate during the early parts of the season, they finally decided to send him down to Columbus with the hope that he would be able to find his eye and swing again away from the bright lights of Cleveland.

This plan of management so far has worked to perfection as all parts of his game have improved since being sent down. His batting average is the most glaring improvement, as he boosted his average over .150 points since being sent down. One of the most promising parts of his swing however is that he has raised his average and his power has not been sacrificed. During his 15 games in Columbus, Chisenhall has hit nine extra base hits, including five home runs. In his brief time he has already driven in 14 runs, three more than he had in Cleveland where he played 11 more games.

The area of his time at the plate that draws the most attention hoping to see growth is his pitch selection, which has certainly improved, however not as much as one might hope. While he still has a mildly high strike out rate, 1:5, he has greatly improved his walk rate. During his time in the majors this season he had a walk rate of 1:31, that rate has gone to 1:10 in Triple-A.

When looking at his stats together, a much higher batting average and walk rate, along with a slightly lower strike out rate, it seems clear that Chisenhall is improving at the plate and should be viewed very positively for everyone hoping to see him in Cleveland soon. The stats show that he is being much more patient and willing to wait on his pitch while not swinging at bad pitches outside the zone. If he can keep this trend up, it seems clear that he has a strong enough swing to get back to Cleveland as long as he keeps the eye.

While most of his struggles have been at the plate, it cannot be overlooked that no matter what level Chisenhall has played at, his glove has been a liability. During his time at the minor league level, Chisenhall has a career average fielding percentage of only .927. When looking at the major league level it is slightly better, with his average at .934, which is still below the league average. During his 16 games this season at Cleveland, he had four errors in 58 chances. While most would think that he would do better in Columbus, sadly that hasn’t been the case, as he has six errors in 49 chances for a fielding percentage of only .878. It seems that he clearly struggles with the reflexes playing third base, which is a clear issue he must address now that his bat seems to be arriving.

Overall, Chisenhall has been doing well since being sent down, posting an All-Star level batting average, with much better plate discipline, maintaining his power but still having his poor fielding ability. It seems that the move to send him down is a good one as the stats seem to show that the Lonnie Chisenhall that management was hoping for this season is finally coming around and ready to play in Cleveland this season, just slightly later than expected.

Photo: Columbus Dispatch

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