May 6, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (8) runs to first base on a single in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Yo Bro/No Bro #1: Lonnie Chisenhall Against Lefties
Hey Wahoo’s on First viewers! Today we’ll be introducing a new segment called Yo Bro/No Bro, in which two writers on our staff will argue about a hot topic. At the end of the debate, you, the reader, will have the opportunity to vote for the winner. Simply leave a comment on whose side you agree with most after reading the argument. Or, send a tweet with the hashtag #yobronobro to @wahoosonfirst, along with the name of the person who you think won the argument. Over the course of the month, Wahoo’s on First writers will compete in a single-ellimination tournament, and whoever argues their way to the top at the end of the month will be the winner!
This week’s topic is Lonnie Chisenhall, and whether he should start to see more at-bats against lefties.
Ed Carroll: Yo, bro! Lonnie Chisenhall has been red-hot all season long. He should get more opportunities to prove himself against left-handed pitching during the month of May, starting as soon as possible.
Steve Kinsella: No, bro. Chisenhall should remain strictly in a platoon role for now. Keep him away from lefties in May.
Floor open for clash!
Steve: If not now then when? What’s the risk? The time is now! These are the basic ideas behind the “play Lonnie Chisenhall everyday” group. The premise behind this though is that Chiz is finally hitting major league pitching posting a triple slash line of .368/.419/.491 at the time of this writing. He is on a hot streak and deserves the chance to prove once again that he can handle left handed pitching.
Most of this argument doesn’t compute with me. I’d much rather see him remain in a positive frame of mind, relaxed and successful at the plate, rather than divide his mind and challenge him to expand his process to battle left handers. Is there a time to allow him to tackle that responsibility? Yes, but that time is not right now.
Ed: Chisenhall was called up to the big leagues in an aggressive move to save a floundering club midway through the 2011 season. Injuries halted that year and another potential developmental season in 2012. Contending is wonderful and yes, the ultimate goal, but sometimes Major League clubs have to just suck it up and let a kid develop at the big-league level, particularly when the player has nothing left to learn in AAA (the Quad-A label is lazy and overused /soapbox). Steve’s argument regarding a player’s confidence level certainly has merit, but unfortunately, the Indians have delayed in letting Lonnie develop for three years now (thanks Jack Hannahan and Mark Reynolds!). Chisenhall becomes arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season, meaning the team has 2014 and 2015 to figure out if Chisenhall can be an everyday guy or just a useful platoon player. The process, and the discussion, should begin now. The organization could be painting itself into a corner with Chisenhall, similar to how it did with Carlos Carrasco. Playing Carlos Santana at 3B hasn’t been the disaster I expected, but it’s hard to claim it’s been a success. So let Chiz start at 3B, move Santana back to his hybrid 1B/DH/C duties and answer at least one question regarding this team and its future. Maybe Lonnie, who loved baseball, was the guy after all.
Steve: Your argument is that “the time is now?” The fact that he has been around for parts of four seasons is way too short to pigeon hole him into a platoon without extended time versus lefties?
You believe that the success he has now merits an opportunity to play more against lefties? He certainly isn’t good enough with the glove to merit more playing time at 3b.
Oh, you are saying that the sample size versus LHP and defensively isn’t large enough to make him a part-time player and he should be afforded the opportunity to increase those sample sizes right now because he is finally hitting the ball at the major league level?
How about this? He is hitting the ball well against right handed pitching. His glove isn’t missed on defense at any moment in time. He is successfully fulfilling a role. Let’s keep it that way.
Ed: Keeping Chisenhall where he is simply does that – he becomes what he is. Yes, there’s certainly value in a player who can rake against RHP, and won’t kill you with his glove. But Chisenhall is only 25 years old, and barely has a full season’s worth of at bats under his belt in his three-plus-year career. Given the current state of the offense (bad) and defense (nonexistent), this looks to be an ideal time for Chisenhall to start picking up at bats against lefties. There’s a chance he fails, but there’s always a chance something fails, and if you start giving him chances now, in May, you have time to adjust if he is simply a platoon guy. And though the (small) body of work hasn’t been pretty for Chisenhall against LHP, it’s worth noting he does have 6 home runs in his 125 at bats, so he isn’t completely worthless. Maybe you don’t start him against David Price, but against some softer-tossing lefties (like say, the Kansas City Royals’s Bruce Chen), why not? At the very least, he’s earned the chance to not be automatically lifted for a pinch hitter when an opposing manager goes for a southpaw.
Steve: If I were to start him against a left handed pitcher it would be David Price or Cliff Lee types. Guys that look to jump ahead in the count with a first pitch strike and will usually try to do it with a well-placed fast ball.
The maturation of Lonnie Chisenhall is great to see. I would not start him versus LHP right now but there is a point in a season where he will earn a start there.
That point will be one the offense is humming and he is coming back from a slump and has proved that he can overcome the mental hurdle of a bad cycle of plate appearances.
In the meantime I would let him get his swings in low leverage plate appearances in blowout loss or win games. I’d also give him more time at DH and limit his frying pan glove and erratic arm at third base. Guy has enough on his mind just keeping his mind on hitting right handed pitching right now.
Ed: Interesting observation regarding Price and Lee, but it seems counterintuitive to your desire to protect Lonnie’s confidence. Chisenhall certainly isn’t afraid to hack and rarely sees a fastball he doesn’t want to eat and poop out as a double, but do you really think starting him against guys Lee or Price, guys that mow down the finest of major leaguers in their sleep? That seems like a real confidence killer to me.
It’s hard to give your complains regarding Chisenhall’s defense merit, given he’d be replacing Santana, and both players have been worth -2 in Defensive Runs Saved. So far, they’ve been about a wash defensively, and giving the DH spot to Santana more often than not could help him get back in his own offensive groove.
Putting off Chisenhall starting versus LHP is putting off his development, and keeps the team from figuring out what kind of players they actually have (and forces them to start moving around players who where already established, like Santana, to compensate). Lonnie has the hot hand right now. Play it.
Steve: Why fear the name on the back of a uniform when protecting someone? Selective platooning is something more and more teams are going to not only in lineup construction but who plays where in what stadium or against a type of pitcher like GB vs FB. You might see a superior defensive left fielder in Yankee Stadium in lieu of offense especially if you have a fly ball pitcher on the mound.
In the same way you can pick the type of pitcher that might benefit Chisenhall. Strike throwers – especially those who want to get ahead early in a count and bury hitters late are the type of guys. Mark Buehrle certainly isn’t a power arm like David Price but I’d certainly think he’d be the type of “get ahead candidate” for Chiz to battle.
In the end, Chisenhall should get the Matt Joyce treatment from the Indians until an injury necessitates the need to put him in the lineup. Let him really absorb his role and hopefully he continues to become more of a monster by adding a little power into his slash line.
Ed: “The Ghost of Andy Marte” might be my old fantasy team name, and a complete joke, but it’s also a warning, for those who chose to listen. Don’t ignore the development of young players. Sometimes it needs to happen at the big-league level, painful as it can be at times. Let Lonnie Chisenhall develop. Don’t let Lonnie become the next Andy Marte.
Which side do you agree with? Comment below, or tweet @wahoosonfirst with the hashtag #yobronobro, along with the name of the writer who you think is right.
May 3, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (8) makes a throw against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports