After emerging as a surprisingly good right fielder in the second half of 2015, the only natural option was to leave him there in 2016. Maybe he would work out in a full-time role, maybe he wouldn’t. But the Cleveland Indians did not really have a choice. With Abraham Almonte suspended for the first 80 games, Marlon Byrd was pretty much the only option. And that didn’t last long.
So, how did it go? Well, it went... it went, that’s for sure.
Chisenhall finished the season having played 887 innings in right field and eight in center, mostly splitting time with Brandon Guyer when the Indians acquired him at the trade deadline. In that span, he was worth three defensive runs saved, compared to the 11 DRS he had in just 354 right-field innings last season.
Part of what made Lonnie so attractive in right field last season was his ability to make routine plays so easily. He converted every single play deemed routine or likely by Inside Edge Fielding, 84 in total. That slipped a bit in 2016 as he converted 177 of 178 routine plays in 2016 and four of six likely plays. Not perfect, but still pretty good.
Unfortunately, like last season but dragged out over more opportunities, Lonnie was unable to turn anything considered even or above — finishing 0-15 on plays considered remote or unlikely. Lonnie has a lot of athleticism and a cannon for an arm, but as we saw at times throughout 2016, he is just not that fast and he lacks the range to be a great defender in right field. His UZR dropped to -2.6 from the 9.3 he had in 2015, which was likely boosted by a small sample size.
But it wasn’t all bad for Lonnie. Once Brandon Guyer was in place and Chisenhall was hard platooned against right-handed batters he performed much better, offensively. Against righties, Chisenhall slashed .295/.332/.451 for a wRC+ of 107. Although, curiously, his walk rate against right-handers (4.9%) is lower than it is against left-handers (9.6%).
With Guyer and Chisenhall both in the fold through at least 2018, the Indians have a formidable platoon in right field. Guyer excels against left-handed pitching, and Lonnie is good enough to supplement against right-handed pitching.
Unless the Indians quickly get back to the World Series and Chisenhall does something big, his postseason legacy is probably — unfortunately — going to be tied to an awful play in Game 6 of the World Series. You know the one by now. Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin both appeared to be going for an easy fly ball, neither (or both, depending on who you ask) called for it, and it dropped harmlessly for a base hit, which snowballed into things I am not going to speak about. Whether or not it was Chisenhall’s fault, he will also be tied to that highlight, and would also probably be tied to how loudly he called for the next pop-up, even though Naquin was nowhere near him.
And that’s really a shame, because you could make the argument that the Indians would not even have made it to the World Series without him. You could say about most players, but Lonnie’s October heroics went mostly unnoticed. He even basically won a game against the Toronto Blue Jays by himself.
No matter what happens, though, Lonald has given us an amazing thing: The Chisentray. I imagine it started as kind of an accident or a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing, but Chisenhall grabbed an entire water tray to celebrate a walk-off win. Then it happened again. Then we made t-shirts. It was delightful.