Slumping Chisenhall shines with defense, baserunning
'It's been my savior so far,' says Indians third baseman
SEATTLE -- While dealing with a persistent offensive slump, Lonnie Chisenhall has tried to focus on other ways he can help the Indians. The third baseman has improved his defense and has developed into one of Cleveland's best baserunners.
Chisenhall has taken a lot of pride in those elements of his game.
"Especially when you're not hitting well, you focus on it even more," Chisenhall said on Friday. "It's been my savior so far this year."
Heading into Friday's game against the Mariners, the 26-year-old Chisenhall led the Indians in Ultimate Baserunning (1.4), according to Fangraphs.com. He ranked 15th overall among qualified Major League batters in that category.
Defensively, Chisenhall has bounced back from a dismal 2014, posting seven Defensive Runs Saved to date, tying him with Kansas City's Mike Moustakas for the best mark in the American League. Chisenhall also had a 6.5 Ultimate Zone Rating, which ranked sixth in the AL and 10th in the Majors among third baseman.
A few seasons ago, Indians manager Terry Francona talked to Chisenhall about the importance of focusing on those aspects.
"I think he took it to heart," Francona said. "I think Lonnie says some things now, even like in the course of a conversation, that he wouldn't have three years ago. ... There's a lot of maturity there. Now, has he swung the bat the way he can? No. But, we know he can, and he's also playing the game. That's important."
Chisenhall carried a .215 average and .616 OPS into Friday's action, but the third baseman had connected for three extra-base hits and four hits in his previous 12 at-bats. It is a small sample of plate appearances, but the third baseman said it felt good to be rewarded for some good swings, and some of the work he has put in with hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo.
"I'm a feel hitter," Chisenhall said. "The things that I had written down from last year, a few keys that helped me, haven't done too much for me this year. So, I've kind of simplified it and got with Ty and we've worked on shortening up the swing, and maybe working on driving the ball the other way. ... Maybe you're one hit away. Hopefully that's where I'm at right now."