Monday night saw one of the better performances of anybody in Major League Baseball over the past several seasons, and that’s probably a tremendous understatement. Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall went 5-for-5 on the night, swatting three home runs and knocking in nine, as the Tribe routed the Texas Rangers by a count of 17-7.
It was just the latest chapter in what has quietly been a brilliant season for Chisenhall, as the Indians attempt to chase down the division-leading Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the American League Central. Once thought of as the third baseman of the future for an emerging Cleveland ballclub, Chisenhall looked to be on the outs after a couple of very quiet seasons, including some time in Triple-A in 2013. There were rumors of him possibly being dealt, but now those rumors look like they would have been a egregious mistake on the part of the Indians’ front office with the year he’s having.
Even before Chisenhall exploded on Monday night with that performance for the ages, he was still a key to the offensive power that the Indians have represented in 2014. They are near the top of the league in a number of categories, including being a top five club in runs scored, seventh in the league in batting average, and no. 2 in the league in on-base percentage. Right at the top of the stat chart for their position players in that terrific stretch is Chisenhall.
In fact, Chisenhall’s numbers not only represent the best of what the Tribe has to offer, but some of the best in the league overall. He’s slashing .385/.429/.615/1.044 on the year. His average is up 160 points higher than it was last season, while he’s reaching base at a rate that is 159 points better. His walk rate is right about where it has been over the course of his career, but he’s managed to cut down on strikeouts by five percent. Interestingly enough, his swing rate is right where it’s been throughout his career, he’s simply making better contact overall.
A look deeper indicates even more impressive figures. Chisenhall’s wRC+ on the season is an absurd 195 and he’s gone for a .230 ISO, helping to illustrate his ability to hit for extra bases. He has 23 extra base hits on the year, split between 16 doubles and seven home runs. His WAR for the year is already a 2.0, which blasts any figure that he’s posted before this year.
One figure that has definitely contributed to his incredible start is that .420 BABIP. It may be unreasonable to think that this can continue given that number alone. Not that many of these numbers are sustainable anyway, especially for a guy without a history of excellence.
Nonetheless, what Monday night did represent was a true coming out party for Lonnie Chisenhall. These numbers may not be sustainable, and Chisenhall may not quite reach an elite level, but what this season, especially Monday, has helped to illustrate is that Chisenhall is a much more capable player than we’ve seen in recent years. He has underrated power and an offensive ability that make him a key piece for this young Indians club. If anything, Monday simply put the world on notice as to the type of year that Chisenhall was already having.