The Cleveland Indians are at a crossroads. They have a huge problem at third base and his name is Lonnie Chisenhall. It’s been a problem since the beginning of the season, but it has gotten to a point where a change needs to be made and it needs to be made now.
If anyone has followed my Twitter account for the past few weeks they know how I feel about Chisenhall. I do not think he is a good player. I have been very hard on him. I don’t dislike him as a person at all. I dislike him as a player because he has not contributed one iota of offense at the plate. It’s time for the Tribe to move on from the Chisenhall experiment at the hot corner.
Let’s look at the numbers. On the year, Chisenhall is batting a mere .217/.250/.361 and holds a meager .611 OPS. He nowhere near resembles the player who hit a scorching .332/.396/.519 over the first half of 2014. I’m not too sure what his secret to success was in that span, but whatever it was has now completely faded. He came crashing back down in the second half and has continued that descent so far this season. He has played better defense at the hot corner, but that has not been enough to mask his other problems at the plate.
Chisenhall has poor strike zone recognition, makes very poor contact with pitches and swings at pitches he really shouldn’t be swinging at. He just can’t hit. I recently attended a game on Friday evening against the Baltimore Orioles. He came up to bat with the tying run on second as the Indians trailed the Orioles 3-2. The smart play here was to bunt and move the tying run over to third. He recognized that and tried to do it twice, but failed both times and quickly fell behind the count 0-2. At that point, Chisenhall had no choice but to put the ball in play, and ended up chopping a grounder to short and saw the lead runner at 2nd get erased trying to move to third.
Recently, left-handed slugger Brandon Moss did a social media chat with the fans. He said something that has gotten stuck in my head. He said that the Indians were a team that had been assembled to make the postseason and that as long everyone played hard and played it right then they would be there. Right now they don’t quite look like a postseason caliber team as they sit at 26-28 and 6.5 games out of the division lead of the AL Central. Lonnie is not the reason they’re below .500 but has not helped them in their quest to get above .500. This is a team with veterans who are focused on making the postseason. They cannot do that with Chisenhall as their everyday third baseman.
Tito Francona is a manager who likes to be loyal to his players. He clearly wants to be loyal to Chisenhall and give him as much time as possible to figure it out at the plate. Unfortunately, there needs to be a limit to how far loyalty towards a player can go. Chisenhall hasn’t figured it out this season and doesn’t look anywhere close to figuring it out. He is doing a disservice to the Tribe by trotting Chisenhall out there as their everyday third baseman. Chisenhall practically represents an automatic out every time he steps up to the plate. Having a guy who will make an out every plate appearance puts more pressure on the other guys in the lineup to hit as they have to pick up that slack.
This wouldn’t be as bad an issue if there weren’t any serviceable replacements. In this case there is someone waiting in the wings to take over at third. His name is Giovanny Urshela. He is currently manning the hot corner for the Columbus Clippers, the Indians’ AAA affiliate. He has shot through the system and is waiting for the call.
Urshela has a good glove that enables him to man the hot corner, so there should be no worry about a drop in defense. He is currently hitting .279/.300/.485 across only 70 plate appearances. He recently came off the DL so that’s why he has so few plate appearances thus far. However, he has a great bat on his shoulder and happens to be right-handed as well.
The Indians are currently a lefty-heavy lineup and only have one true right-handed bat who plays everyday in their lineup. Urshela would be a second right-handed bat to play everyday in the lineup and will offer a little more balance to the lineup. He is ready to take over at third. It’s time for the Tribe to cut ties with Chisenhall. They’ll always have that magical game in Texas last summer where he hit three home runs and knocked in a career-high 9 RBIs on the night. However, this is a team that carries a very solid pitching rotation and have some legitimate bats in their lineup. If this team truly wants to make a push for the postseason then its time to say goodbye to Chisenhall.