The last at-bat of Lonnie Chisenhall’s season came on July 1, 2018, in a 15-3 rout of the Oakland A’s. It ended in a groundout to the pitcher. The final out of the game, even.
Sadly, it may have also been the final out of his eight-year tenure with the Cleveland Indians.
Two days later, Chisenhall was placed on the DL with a left calf strain, his second stint of the season. He would not appear in another game for the Tribe the rest of the season, and now enters uncertain territory as a free agent this offseason.
All because of his calves.
Both of his calves have been a plague on the Chisenhall house for two seasons now.
In 2017, the problems started with a right shoulder sprain that kept him off the Opening Day roster. He made his season debut on April 13, but lasted a little over a month before a return trip to the DL with a concussion that sidelined him until early June.
Then came the right calf.
Chisenhall was placed on the DL on July 14, 2017 with a right calf strain. He would not return to the big league club until Sept. 1, 2017. Even then, he was only able to play in 13 games before being sidelined with calf tightness for nearly two weeks. Chisenhall did make the posteason roster, but failed to reach base in any of his five at-bats.
This season, Chisenhall was healthy for Opening Day, but barely made it a week into the season before returning to the DL with another right calf strain. That right calf strain cost him nearly two months, as he was activated on June 5. But as you already know, a month later a severe left calf would sideline him through the rest of the season.
His final season with the Tribe amounted to 29 healthy games.
The worst part? Chisenhall, previously considered a platoon player alongside Brandon Guyer in right field, seemed poised to seize a full-time role in the lineup.
Here is our own Merritt Rohlfing lamenting the loss of Chisenhall’s excellence at the plate earlier this year, one day after his final trip to the DL:
Whether the bat or just maturity, it’s not just a platoon situation with Chisenhall either. That was what he seemed to be heading toward in 2016 when he and Brandon Guyer split time in right. He only saw a lefty 52 times that year, 12.4 percent of his at-bats. Between last year and this though, that rate has leapt up to 18.4 percent. Across baseball lefties have seen a left-handed pitcher 18.8 percent of the time this year, so he’s definitely become more of an everyday player. And for those living under a rock, he’s certainly been getting the better of his counterparts on the mound. Since 2017 he’s posted a 159 wRC+ againt lefties, walked 14.7 percent of the time against a 17.3 percent strikeout rate. It’s only 67 plate appearances that are broken up by a long string of injury, but it’s certainly a world away from the hitter he was only two years ago.
This is me shaking my fist at the Baseball Gods.
I’ve made no secret how I feel about Lonnie Chisenhall. I’m sad to see him go. I’m not sure what kind of offers he’ll get in the free agent market this winter, especially with those damned calves. But I hope he is able to fulfill the promise he showed towards the end of his tenure in Cleveland, when he finally seemed to be putting it all together.