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June 10, 2014 at 11:45 am ET
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Lonnie Baseball (Finally) Comes to Cleveland

Last night in Arlington, Cleveland’s Lonnie David Chisenhall muscled enough offense to beat every other team in baseball, all by his lonesome. Technically his 5-5, 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI line would have tied the Nationals’ 9-run effort, but we can only assume had he faced Washington in extras, Lonnie would have plated another 6 or 7 RBIs.

Following an abysmal, often Little League-looking May, Cleveland is 9 of their last 10, including a sweep of division-leading Detroit. Cleveland fans, as Cleveland fans often do, are dancing a frenzied do-si-do on their Jump to Conclusions Mat. Following a 17-7 fustigation of Texas, post-game chatter swapped confused formulae regarding Chisenhall’s eligibility for the AL batting title and updated playoff projections from Baseball Prospectus. While it’s hard to blame their excitement, we need to put on our Jim Mora voices and say, “Batting title? Batting title? …Batting Title?!”

See, Cleveland fans are leafing doodle-scrawled algebra notebooks because Lonnie Chisenhall started the year riding pine. Spelled by C/1B/3B/DH Carlos “Swiss Army Knife” Santana at the outset, Chisenhall hasn’t notched enough plate appearances for his .385 average to qualify for the league lead, and probably won’t until after the All-Star break. And why would Tito Francona bench what seems to be a stud hitter?

…Because Chisenhall is infamously streaky. Pickedtwenty-ninth in the 2008 MLB draft, fans dubbed Chisenhall the Future of the Franchise. But in 3 years of big-league service, Lonnie showed whelming skill at best. 2013 saw him bat .225. His hot corner glove often seemed to be made of Swiss cheese. As early as last May, most writers shackled the dreaded b-word around his neck: bust.

However, when penciled into Cleveland’s starting 9 this season, Chisenhall has done nothing short of set the world on fire. Following his 5-5 clobbering last night, Lonnie Chisenhall’s 2014 heat map looks like this:

Fastballs…shall…not…pass!

Though regression to the mean seems inevitable to some degree, there’s good reason for optimism. From 2011-13, Lonnie carried a paltry .194 average against lefties. Through 51 games of 2014, Chisenall is clubbing like a rapper’s girlfriend, hitting.520 against southpaws. His strikeouts are down. His line drive percentage is up. Even when Nick Swisher gets healthy and Santana finds his swing, it’s hard to see Lonnie Baseball riding any more pine.

The term “All-Star” buzzes around Lonnie. He won’t garner enough votes to leap-frog Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Beltre, but if Lonnie continues anywhere near his current pace, it would be difficult for AL manager John Farrell to leave him off the roster. So for now, go ahead and unfurl that Jump to Conclusions mat, Cleveland. Just don’t leap too far ahead.

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