Abbott: Who’s on first?
Costello: I don’t know.
Abbott: He’s on third . . .
Costello: Did I say Who was playing third?
Abbott: No, Who’s playing first.
Costello: Who’s playing third.
Abbott: Why do you insist on putting Who on third base?
Abbott: No, What is on second.
Costello: Alright, enough, I don’t give a damn.
Abbott: Ok, but he’s our shortstop.
With only two weeks to go before Opening Day, who’s on third for the Tribe? The gritty, grizzled journeyman veteran with the nimble glove (Jack Hannahan) or the young whiz kid with the super sweet swing (Lonnie Chisenhall)? Or both? Pressed for an answer, Acta would probably take the bait, mimic Costello and say, “I don’t know.”
Actually, he does. Based on Spring Training and conventional wisdom, its Hannahan.
Acta says Chisenhall is “competing with himself.” In other words, to win the job Chisenhall must force Acta’s hand and separate himself from Hannahan with an improved and more well-rounded game, especially with regard to plate discipline (low walk rate, high strikeout ratio), run production and defense. Otherwise, Hannahan’s superior glove on a staff loaded with ground ball pitchers wins out.
So far in Spring Training Chisenhall has not shown the required improvement or separated himself from Hannahan, despite the fact he’s played more games and received more at bats. Opportunity lost.
The stats (thru March 21):
AB R H RBI HR BB K E AVG
Chisenhall 28 2 6 3 0 1 12 0 .214
Hannahan 18 3 4 5 1 0 2 2 .222
Chisenhall has no extra base hits, fewer RBIs and his low average and walk rate plus high strikeout ratio mirror last year’s problems. If the
decision point comes down to potential offense versus better defense and some offense, better defense and some offense wins. But should it?
The Case for Chisenhall
(1) The future is now. Although only 23 years old, he is an elite prospect who rose quickly through the minors and needs to play every day if Antonetti’s assertion the Indians’ window for winning is this year and next (before Choo, Cabrera, Jimenez and others leave);
(2) He does not appear overmatched and should be allowed to develop his game at the major league level against the competition he will actually face, not the minors;
(3) He could add much needed punch to the bottom of the lineup with a full season projection of 30+ doubles and 18-20 HRs;
(4) He finished the 2011 season strong (.279/4/14 in September) and showed consistent splits against RHs and LHs (.253/.260) so he can play everyday;
(5) His footwork and throwing accuracy on defense appear improved (no errors this spring);
(6) Part of his struggles in 2011 resulted from a beaning in early July which caused him to miss a week and scuffle on his return, going 2-20;
(7) When he fully adjusts to major league pitching his walk rate and strikeouts will improve; and
(8) Hannahan’s offense in 2011 was an outlier from career norms and unlikely to be repeated (career .231 batter, with prior 2 years at .213 and .218); even a lesser season from Chisenhall is better than Hannahan.
The Case Against Chisenhall
(1) He played only 66 games at AAA and his poor walk ratio and high strikeout rate indicate he is not a polished hitter and needs more time;
(2) His poor 2012 Spring numbers show these problems remain;
(3) His inconsistent defense puts pressure on a pitching staff heavy on sinkers and ground ball outs; and
(4) A platoon with Hannahan (the most likely outcome if Chisenhall stays) will retard his progress since he needs to play everyday. Also, if he stays then versatile Jose Lopez (3B, 2B and 1B with potential power) probably does not make the team after a strong Spring which further limits Acta’s RH options on the bench; and
(5) Hannahan switched to a heavier bat last year and claims it allows him to drive the ball better so his brief offensive spurts are not an aberration and will continue.
In the end the emergence/allure of Lopez allows Acta to go old school and return Chisenhall to Columbus to play every day, avoid a platoon and round off his game. He’ll be ready by June if Lopez and/or Hannahan struggle.
AB R H RBI HR 3B 2B OBP OPS AVG
Chisenhall 212 27 54 22 7 0 13 .284 .699 .255
Hannahan 320 38 80 40 8 2 16 .331 .719 .250
(career) 1,176 129 272 130 24 4 69 .317 .675 .231
2011 Minors 2011 Career
v. RHs .253 .226 .224
v. LHs .260 .296 .249
RISP .250 .377 .256
RISP, 2 Out .172 .333 .183
BB/K 8/49 142/252
Walk Rate 3.6 % 10.4 % 10.7 %
K Rate 22.2 % 21.6 % 23.9 %
Per PA .22 .21 .19
Errors 10 5
Chances 168 328
Fielding % .940 .929 .983 .973
The general impression is Hannahan turned enough of an offensive corner last year to let his glove play. Actually, he hit in only 2 months.
AB HR RBI AVG
April 77 4 14 .273
May 76 0 3 .184
June 61 1 4 .180
July 29 0 2 .207
August 50 3 13 .420
Sept 27 0 4 .259
.187 average May-July with 1 HR and 9 RBI. Wow.
Acta wants Hannahan’s glove and will live with his bat. The Indians need solid seasons from the rest of the order (and especially Lopez) to make this work.
So, Who’s on Third for you (assuming, of course, Who’s not on first)?