Lonnie Chisenhall’s rise from the ashes has been one of baseball’s most inspiring stories this season, and thanks to some slanted voting for the All-Star Game, it will miss out on some well-deserved verification a while longer.
The former first round pick in the 2008 looked to be heading on a downward slope after a few unsuccessful appearances on the 40-man roster dating back to 2011. The third-baseman hit a wall over the last few years, failing to translate to the bigs the success he had experienced early in his minor league career and during a few stints with triple-A Columbus.
Just when Chisenhall was becoming an afterthought in the minds of Indians management and fans, 2014 happened.
Entering the season armed with only the promise of a spot on the bench for Opening Day and an “invisibility cloak” of low expectations, Lonnie Baseball has put together arguably the best offensive half-season in the American League. With a fresh stance and mental approach at the plate, Chiz has polished almost every aspect of his offense from run-production to contact percentage.
Through the first 94 games, Chisenhall’s line of .338/.395/.544 with nine homers, 41 RBIs, and 20 doubles reflects a player hitting at an elite level worthy of not only an All-Star roster spot, but possible starting lineup consideration. For comparison, here are the numbers representing the third-base position on the 2014 AL All-Star roster:
Josh Donaldson (starting): .238/.317/.449, 20 homers, 65 RBIs, 13 doubles
Adrian Beltre: .337/.383/.534, 13 homers, 51 RBIs, 20 doubles
Kyle Seager: .279/ .350/ .493, 15 homers, 63 RBIs, 22 doubles
Even though the power numbers don’t quite match up, the stellar plate efficiency should certainly close the slight gap in the HR/RBI department. Not to mention a record-setting perfect 5-for-5 performance against the Rangers, including three homeruns and nine RBIs.
From a national perspective, there are two possible arguments for keeping Chisenhall out of tonight’s game.
The primary obstacle that halted most national publicity through the first half was his below-qualifying plate appearances per game average, removing his name from any leaderboards in offensive categories. According to Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel, a player must have 3.1 plate appearances per game to qualify for a batting crown (achieved by Chisenhall 6 days ago against New York). As Bleacher Report’s Max Garland alluded to in his July 3 article, Lonnie would have started the month trailing only Troy Tulowitzki for the MLB lead in average had he been qualified.
Is that really enough to keep him out of the voting? Oakland A’s catcher Derek Norris made the roster with 9 less game appearances and almost 70 less at bats! Not to mention he rounds off a group of six total members of the A’s organization with All-Star recognition (I know they have the best record in baseball but come on!).
The second, and most flimsy, argument is that his poor fielding numbers are hindering his votes. While Chisenhall has committed 13 errors in 53 games at third (an .893 fielding percentage), he has shown steady improvement at the position after platooning between third base, first base, and DH for most of the early months. Hard to build consistency at the hot corner when you’re trying to learn two positions.
And not to keep dogging Oakland, but Donaldson isn’t really a gold-glover over there. He currently leads the entire American League with 15 errors.
There’s a number of factors that go into All-Star voting and even though its frustrating to see a good player left off this year’s roster, we shouldn’t go as far as to say the system is flawed. However, without any LEGAL reason to keep Chisenhall on the outside looking in, it does seem unfair for a guy that has made such a huge, consistent jump from below-average to league-leading.
Let us know your thoughts on the situation in the comments section below.