clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lonnie Chisenhall was a great surprise in 2014, until he wasn't

New, 28 comments

After bringing everyone down with the last three positions, let’s see if we can find a better spot on the diamond, third base.

One time when the gloves did not get in the way
One time when the gloves did not get in the way
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries: CatcherRight FieldCenter FieldSecond Base

Heading into 2014, the big story was that Carlos Santana in the offseason was prepping himself to play third base, which it appeared would limit Lonnie Chisenhall's opportunities of playing time. And in fact, by mid-May, Chisenhall had only 10 games started at third, with the bulk of the playing time going to Santana and Mike Aviles.

But by the end of the season, Chisenhall had forced his way into an everyday player and he ended up with 108 starts. Aviles finished as the primary back up at third, making 28 starts while the Santana experiment ended by June 1 with his 26 starts. No one else made a start at third all year. Jesus Aguilar, Elliot Johnson, Justin Sellers and Chris Gimenez did appear in relief at third, all for one game each, with the exception of Sellers' four games.

As you can see below, every plate appearance but two was handled by Chisenhall, Santana or Aviles:

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Chisenhall

438

255

317

399

716

105

Santana

113

129

283

226

509

55

Aviles

104

284

307

316

623

78

Johnson

1

000

000

000

000

-100

Aguilar

1

000

000

000

000

-100

Sellers

0

-

-

-

-

-

Gimenez

0

-

-

-

-

-

Santana started ice cold at the plate, no matter what position it was, third, catcher or DH. But man, was he brutal when playing third. He still walked decently, 18% of the time, but only had 12 hits total. Chisenhall started the season on fire, with a 345/399/555 slash through June 30. But a lot of that was due to an unsustainable 389 BAbip. The second half of the season was just as brutal as the first half was spectacular. He had a 225/295/318 slash with a 273 BAbip, with July and September really awful.

Adding those two halves together, you end up with a league average player, hence the 105 wRC+. Aviles had a great batting average, but had only one extra base hit, but hey he drove in 8, so there's that.

Here is the rest of the AL Central:

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Twins

252

312

413

725

103

Tigers

262

311

389

701

95

White Sox

250

302

377

678

87

Indians

239

309

357

665

92

Royals

230

288

370

658

85

Amazingly enough, Trevor Plouffe and the Twins lead this category. But all in all, this division didn't have any stand out results. Nick Castellanos in Detroit did decent for a rookie, but finished with a 93 wRC+. Conor Gillaspie and Mike Moustakas were both pretty brutal in 2014. Without Santana's horrid numbers at this position, the Tribe likely finishes at, or near the top.

Traditionally a power position, third base really wasn't in 2014. Only four teams finished with 20 homers or better (A's, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays) and only the Rangers bested 800 OPS. The Tribe finished in the bottom third of almost every traditional category, except walks of course.

And now some Fangraphs love ...

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Chisenhall

2.6

-0.8

-10.7

1.8

-9.0

0.8

Santana

-5.6

0.3

-6.0

-5.3

-5.6

-0.8

Aviles

-2.5

0.4

-1.6

-2.1

-1.1

0.0

Johnson

-0.2

0.0

0.0

-0.2

0.0

0.0

Aguilar

-0.2

0.0

-0.6

-0.2

-0.6

-0.1

Sellers

-

-

-

-

-

-

Gimenez

-

-

-

-

-

-

No real surprise here as Chisenhall and Santana combined for 24 total errors, with all but eight happening in the first half. Aviles also chipped in 7, so the defensive component of WAR is not pretty for any of them.  Santana grades out well on the basepaths, but man does that -5.3 offense component stink, And for how hot Lonnie started the year, he ended up with just a 0.8 WAR overall due to the second half swoon, and the season long fielding woes.

And again here is how the Tribe stacked up with their AL Central brethren:

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Twins

2.6

-2.4

2.7

0.3

5.1

3.1

Royals

-10.6

-1.7

0.9

-12.3

3.4

1.2

White Sox

-9.8

-2.3

-4.9

-12.1

-2.5

0.8

Indians

-6.0

-0.1

-18.8

-6.0

-16.3

-0.1

Tigers

-3.9

-3.2

-21.6

-7.0

-19.1

-0.5

The Twins grade out well here too, with a a lot of separation from the rest of the division. But the Tigers tumbled to the bottom as the advanced metrics really don't like Castellanos (he finished with a -0.6 WAR).

As poor as that -6.0 offense component looks, the Indians finished eighth overall in that category (with the Rangers, A's and Mariners the only teams with positive double digits). The AL Central finished with three teams in the bottom fifth of defense, with the Indians and Tigers last.

As it can be seen here, this position is not a real strength for this division. But as much as I like Lonnie as a player, he is going to have eliminate these month long stretches of being a complete non-factor offensively. We all loved the first three months, but was it a mirage? Or was it the second half that was fluky?

I don't think he is as poor defensively as his results ended overall in 2014. I think he can be a tad below average in the field, more in line with his second half performance. But he is never going to be a great fielder. That means he will have to bring more to the table offensively as a whole, and much less streaky while doing it.

This is likely Lonnie's last chance to grab the third base job and make it his. Giovanny Urshela had a great 2014, and made it to Columbus as a 22 year old. He had an 804 OPS in AAA which should translate a bit better than Lonnie's 716 last year. Plus, Urshela is a great defender, unlike Lonnie. But there doesn't appear to be much behind Urshela at third, with Yandy Diaz the only other full-time third baseman with decent numbers. But he is 22 already and hasn't passed Carolina yet. Of course, someone could slide over from another position too.