Should Lonnie Chisenhall Play Everyday?


Indians Face Decision On Chisenhall’s Role With Club

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Is Lonnie Chisenhall a platoon player?

It’s an argument that has circled around the promising young third baseman since he came up to the Cleveland Indians in 2011.

What’s the genesis of the “he’s a platoon player?” Is the evidence that he can or cannot handle left handed pitching been established?

In 2010, during his first year with the Indians Double-A affiliate Akron Aeros his platoon splits seemed more extreme than they may have been simply based on his overall production versus right handed pitching.

With the Aeros he posted a triple slash line of  .301/.367/.484 against right handed pitching while holding his own against southpaws slashing .234/.320/.383.

His struggles against left handed pitching seemed to be exposed when he arrived in his first full season with the Indians Triple-A affiliate Columbus Clippers in 2011.  While with the Clippers he hit .200/.282/.360 prior to his callup to the Indians.

Interestingly enough during his brief call up in 2011 he faced left handed pitching 52 times and posted a slash line of .260/.288/.600. The highlight of his inaugural season with the Indians came on September 9th when he hit two homers off lefty Mark Buehrle to lead the Indians to a 8-4 victory in Chicago.

Between 2011 and 2013 Chisenhall bounced between the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and never really had a substantial number of plate appearances at either level to make a clear judgement on his overall ability to handle southpaws.

As shown in the tables below, from 2011-2013 during his time with the Triple-A Clippers he had 170 plate appearances against lefties and posted a slash line of .242/.300/.431.

In his major league career he’s had 250 plate appearances against left handed pitching and posted a slash line of .240/.286/.382.

Lonnie Chisenhall Vs LHP (Triple-A 2011-2013)

Lonnie Chisenhall Vs LHP (MLB Career)

The 2014 season was a breakout season with the bat for Chisenhall. Overall, he appeared in 142 games and posted a triple slash line of .280/.343/.427 with 13 home runs and a wRC+ of 121.

Despite the impressive numbers there is still a large amount of doubt as to what to what production we should expect in 2015.  In the first half of 2014 he was on fire hitting .332/.396/.519 but tailed off in the second half hitting just .218/.277/.315 spanning 235 plate appearances.

Was the slow finish caused by his struggles versus left handed pitching? When looking at his performance in the tables below we can take note that his drop was generally more pronounced versus right handers then left handers.

Lonnie Chisenhall Monthly Splits Vs RHP In 2014

It could be that Chisenhall is just going to be a streak hitter at the major league level. Whether he’s facing lefties or righties he’ll hit about the same while he’s hot and he’ll struggle against both sides when he’s cold.

In 2015 Chisenhall will have the first shot at the everyday job at third base. Mike Aviles may spell him occasionally and provide late inning defensive help but the job will be his to lose.

The idea that he is a strict platoon player is still a question that remains to be answered. What may prompt his removal from the position is his lack of defensive acumen, a bat that mirrors the second half of 2014 rather than the first half, or a lukewarm performance with the bat that prompts the Indians to want to take a look at promising 3rd base prospect Giovanny Urshela.