I mentioned the other day that Jose Ramirez was starting to make me crazy, and Stan touched upon some of Lonnie Chisenhall‘s struggles in today’s game. I didn’t expect much in the way of change though; the Indians seemed hesitant to call up Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela, and there weren’t too many other options. There was always Zach Walters, but after him you were looking at a journeyman like Michael Martinez (who after a good spring training, was hitting just .219/.293/.355 at Triple-A). Plus Walters started the season injured, and hit just .059 in 17 at-bats at the major league level, while hitting .252/.299/.402 in Columbus.
The Indians finally decided it was time to do something with Chisenhall and Ramirez, sending them to Columbus in favor of Giovanny Urshela and Zach Walters. We’ve mostly seen the post-All Star Game 2014 version of Chisenhall this year, but at least his defense had seen marginal improvement (outside of today’s sloppy mess). Last year Chisenhall finished the year at -14 defensive runs saved; this year he was at +8. Ramirez actually headed in the opposite direction defensively; he finished 2014 at +4 DRS, while this year he’s at -2. Unfortunately at the plate, Ramirez and Chisenhall were almost automatic outs at this point. I even joked on Twitter yesterday that if MLB really wanted to save time during games, they’d just call an auto-out for Ramirez and not waste time giving him a futile at-bat. Chisenhall was hitting just .208/.240/.347 with 4 home runs, while Ramirez was hitting .180/.247/.240 with one home run. We’re a week into June, and Ramirez had yet to get a hit (or even reach base), while Chisenhall had just 3 hits so far in June, after hitting .209/.242/.407 in May.
There’s been a lot of talk about Urshela, and how he and Lindor could represent a solid presence on the left side of the infield for many years to come. The 23-year old Urshela has had a couple of DL stints at Triple-A this year, but is hitting .275/.301/.475 with three home runs. He’s also a solid defender; Urshela has a shot to wrestle the 3B spot away from Chisenhall for good. I thought we’d see Urshela this year, but I figured it would be much later this summer. I still think we may see Lindor later this season as well, but if I were a betting person, I’d go with July.
Lindor and Urshela have always been lurking behind Chisenhall and Ramirez, and I’m sure that can’t be easy to know you’re essentially the temporary placeholder. Especially with Ramirez, who has to know he’s basically just keeping the seat warm for Lindor. At the same time, Chisenhall and Ramirez had a chance to make this a temporary non-issue. You play well, you at least delay their arrival; at worst case, you leave the Indians to make some tough decisions.
Ramirez wasn’t necessarily an all-star in his time with the Indians last year, but he was solid offensively and quite good defensively. He wasn’t going to hit .300, but he also wasn’t an automatic out (as he’s been in 2015). Chisenhall really shouldn’t surprise that many people. By the end of 2013, the Indians had lost so much faith in him, they were willing to attempt to convert Carlos Santana into a third baseman. He essentially won himself a second chance with that fantastic first half in 2014 – he hit .332/.396/.519 with 9 home runs in 262 at-bats. The fact that Chisenhall finished 2014 with a .280/.343/.427 line kind of buried his bad second half, where he hit .218/.277/.315 with 4 home runs in 216 at-bats. Chisenhall’s second half of 2014 fairly closely resembles his numbers this year, and in 2013 (.225/.270/.398 with 11 home runs).
While I feel sorry for them in many ways, I can’t help but feel relief that Chisenhall and Ramriez are gone for now. It was painful to watch them hit, often painful to watch them on defense, and they were creating a dead spot in the lineup that could kill even the most promising of innings. Maybe they get some things straightened out at Columbus, maybe they don’t. Maybe Urshela and Walters shine up here, maybe they don’t. If nothing else, it’s at least time to get some fresh blood in the lineup. It seems like there’s really no place to go but up at this point.