Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Here Comes the Cavalry

It is finally upon us. The day that some had called for since spring training is here. Lonnie Chisenhall, universally regarded as one of the top two position prospects in the Indians system, has been called up to the active roster. Veteran utility infielder Adam Everett is the 25-man casualty, designated for assignment and flying back East as the team prepares for another interleague series in Arizona. Everett hit .217 in his 60 at bats with the Indians this year, with one double and one RBI. He will not be missed on the field, although by all accounts he was a good guy to have around the clubhouse.

Chisenhall is of course the real story here, as his hot spring with the bat had some calling for him to be the opening day third baseman. Those calls only intensified when Jason Donald got hurt, but the job went to veteran journeyman Jack Hannahan. Chisenhall was sent down to AAA Columbus to continue his seasoning, a move that made sense considering he had not had a single AAA at bat prior to 2011. The move made even more sense when Chisenhall hit just .247/.347/.395 in April with 2 HR, hardly setting the world on fire. He picked things up in May though, going for a .278/.374/.444 line with 3 HR and 14 RBI. He went on the DL in mid-June with concussion-like symptoms after banging his head sliding headfirst. In his 5 games since returning from the DL, Chiz went 9-21 with 2 HR, a 3B and 14 RBI. That, combined with a dreadful teamwide offensive slump at the big league level, convinced Indians brass that it was time to give the kid a shot.

Chiz is being thrust into a difficult spot in Cleveland. His minor league numbers suggest that he should find success vs. RHP, but will likely struggle against lefties. He's shown almost a platoon-level split in AAA, with a .292/.380/.455 line against righties but put up just a .200/.282/.360 line against lefthanded pitching. And that's in AAA, not against major league pitching. His overall line of .265/.352/.427 with 7 HR and 44 RBI is solid, but his numbers weren't as good as those of switch hitter Cord Phelps, who has found major league pitching poses quite a challenge. Chiz is going to be asked to not just tread water, but to step right in and contribute offensively at the big league level. Jack Hannahan's .214/.304/.333 line should not be too difficult to live up to, but Hannahan did that while playing outsanding defense in the field. If Chisenhall comes up and is worth an extra win with his bat but takes away two wins with his glove, then what? Chisenhall's glove has been getting better reviews this season, but he's far from a gold glover at the hot corner. Will his bat make up for it? I sure hope so.
We've seen Alex White, Cord Phelps and now will see Chisenhall at the major league level this season. Vinnie Pestano had virtually no major league experience before 2011. Kipnis is hitting well in Columbus and will be in Cleveland before the end of the season. Relivers Zach Putnam and Josh Judy are at the cusp of an extended major league audition. The cavalry is coming, there's no doubt about that. But how effective will they be? Will they be like Patton's tanks rolling through the Ardennes Forrest against the Germans? Or will the be more like the Polish lancers that futily rode against the Panzers in September 1939? One way or another, we're going to find out. And before anyone feels the need to "correct" me, I'm well aware that is George C. Scott to the left astride his Sherman tank and not actually General Patton.

Whether Chiz, Phelps and any other prospects who are called up this year manage to stem the tide and keep the Indians in first place remains to be seen. Regardless though, there's a benefit to the club down the road. Even if they have limited success this year and the Indians miss the playoffs, the kids will be gaining valuable experience that they will be able to use next year when the Indians should again be contending for the Central Divison crown. The only way to learn how to hit major league pitching is to get reps hitting major league pitching. Phelps looked overwhelmed for a week or so, and then settled in at the plate and started looking much more comfortable. I expect it will be much the same for Chisenhall. He should continue to find success against righthanded pitching, but will likely struggle against lefties at the major league level. The key to his long-term success will be overcoming those struggles and figuring out a way to hit lefties. If not, I'm afraid this could be more Poland than Patton.


CLohse said...


I'm feeling a little coldly pragmatic about this Indians season. That feeling has replaced the surprisingly sunny start to the year which makes my attitude that much more jarring. Regardless, I find myself thinking of Choo's injury and its effect on the offense as being something of a necessary evil. Stay with me here:

The starting pitching is starting to show itself to be what we thought it was. Talbot and Tomlin are MLB average at best, Carmona's a loose cannon (literally?), White is too young to do much besides develop before our eyes (and he can't even do that, which is a big negative that nobody's talking about... well, later on this season, Alex. You'll get your innings in). Carrasco is comin' along nicely. Now that we've established that the rotation is a work in progress, can we say with any confidence that we'd want to see it perform in the postseason? I'll bet their first round opponent would care to experience that more than I would.

So, yeah. This is a team that shows promise and needs to develop. I think we're seeing some growing pains, we're seeing some callups and we're not seeing any trades that surprise us by bringing veterans to the Indians for our prospects. That is the important thing. If this team somehow starts making the people of Cleveland think they've got a shot at the postseason, the front office is going to hear nonstop cries for support at the cost of its best prospects. Can the Indians afford that? Sadly, no, they cannot. Here's where the cold pragmatism comes in: compete, Indians. Fill us with hope. Not for this year, though. Wait 'til next year, and the 4-5 years beyond that to rev us up to full speed.

Richard said...

Adam Everett don't let the door hit you in the a-- onn your way out of town seems to be what you are saying. ( He will not be missed on the field or in the clubhouse.) I thought the reason
he and Hannahan were signed in the first place was because they were 1. good defenders and 2. Good guys. Al, don't get me wrong, I'm totally for the move of bringing up the Chiz, but I'm wondering what we missed with Everett being a bad guy and not a happy camper in the clubhouse? From Indians.com, "It was one of the toughest decisions we had to make," Indians manager Manny Acta said about cutting a player who was hitting .217 in 34 games, but had such a positive effect on the ballclub. "He really did help our younger kids and kept our clubhouse in order in a good way. He's gone through a lot. He's had a lot of years of Major League. So why are you blasting him? experience. He's a pro."

Al Ciammaichella said...

Wasn't trying to blast him at all. He was a professional from start to finish, never made waves in the clubhouse or anything like that. But at the same time, he was average at best in the field and below average at the plate. I obviously don't have any sort of real insight into how he was/wasn't in the clubhouse, but teams almost always say stuff like that about guys when they cut him. I can't recall a story prior to yesterday that talked about him as a real positive influence or anything.

Re-reading that, I guess it does come off as a bit harsh. Wasn't really how I intended it.

Al Ciammaichella said...

After re-reading it, I modified the end of the 1st paragraph.

Bilbo said...

Actually George C. Scott is astride a Patton tank not a Sherman tank. They didn't use Sherman tanks in filming that movie. ;)

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