For 1st-place Cleveland Indians, Lonnie Baseball is a Real Thing

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 24: Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 24: Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall /

“Another Cleveland Indians first-round bust.” “Utility player at best.” A “Four A” player. Admit it. You were fearing the worst about Lonnie Chisenhall. Well forget it. The Chiz Kid is showing everyone they were wrong.

I’m guilty of doubting him as well. You are too. The sooner we all admit this and get it out of the way, the easier this is all going to be. Lonnie Chisenhall was looking like a bust at third base. He struck out too much and was dreadful in the field at the hot corner.

It looked like he would be just another first round draft pick that never amounted to much, like Michael Aubrey or Beau Mills. Instead, moving to right field and continuing to improve has saved his career.

The shift to right field is a well chronicled part of Chisenhall’s revival. We won’t focus on that here, but instead take a look at how Chisenhall has stepped into the void created by down seasons by Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Santana.

We hinted at it in our Mid-Season Report Card, but Chisenhall sneaks under the radar for his impact on the team.

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His 51 RBI lead the team, ahead of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana. What makes this feat even more incredible is that he has done this in 62 games and 183 at bats. Jose Ramirez has 46 RBI, but in 84 games and 322 at bats. His .954 OPS trails only Jose Ramirez on the team and is far ahead of Michael Brantley’s .809 mark. His 1.5 WAR thus far in the season trails only Jose Ramirez on the Tribe as well.

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Chisenhall has been on fire the last month. In his last 30 days, he’s hitting .341 with 5 home runs, 28 RBI and a .990 OPS. That puts him among the best right fielders in baseball over 30 days, with a higher batting average than Bryce Harper, a higher OPS than Mookie Betts, and a higher WAR than Giancarlo Stanton.

Lonnie isn’t perfect. He hits a lot of singles and even on Friday night had a bloop hit that fell into shallow center. But he is hitting and hitting in key moments. You don’t knock in 51 runs by accident. He’s taking full advantage batting behind Jose Ramirez at the moment and perhaps is forcing pitchers to actually throw to Ramirez.

More importantly, he’s helped stabilize the outfield through yet another rash of injuries. While Abe Almonte and Brandon Guyer are finally back, Austin Jackson is on the DL. While Almonte and Guyer were out, the Tribe had to rely on Dan Robertson in right field. It’s safe to say that getting Chisenhall back at full strength has been a boost.

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So while he isn’t perfect, Lonnie Chisenhall, or Lonnie Baseball, is looking like a real thing. That is unless you want to bring back Colin Cowgill again.