Triple Play: Lonnie Chisenhall, Justin Verlander, Jimmy Rollins

Welcome to a special Father’s Day edition of the Triple Play. This week, we look at a once-top prospect who might be fulfilling his potential, an ace struggling to find his form, and an unexpectedly great visit to the Bay for an NL West rival. Let’s get to it:

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Who’s Hot?

Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians

Chisenhall had what might be the greatest night of his career last week, smashing three home runs and driving in nine during a 17-7 rout of the Rangers last Monday. But it wasn’t just a one-night wonder for the Tribe’s third baseman. After being touted as one of their top propects for several years, Chisenhall appears to be reaching the potential predicted for him. So far this season, he is hitting .371/.424/.584 with seven home runs, 32 RBI and 30 runs scored. He’s nearly reached his career highs in all statistics already this season, and is on pace for nearly 20 home runs, 80 RBI, which would be a marked improvement over what the Indians have gotten from that position in several years. If this truly is his breakout season at age 25, it should be a symbol of hope for some other prospects that have struggled at a young age (looking at you, Mike Moustakas).

Who’s Not?

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

It’s a good thing for Detroit that they have Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez to anchor their rotation, because Verlander hasn’t resembled anything close to an ace this season. Actually, in 2013, he wasn’t ace-material either. This season, though, he has been simply awful. How bad? Look at these numbers: 4.61 ERA, 1.505 WHIP, 99 hits allowed in 91 2/3 IP. If those weren’t bad enough, Verlander is on pace to post career-worsts in hits per nine innings, walks per nine, strikeouts per nine and strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball velocity has dropped every year since 2011 and is sitting now at 92.6 mph. That’s good, but nothing close to the guy who used to routinely touch 98 mph in the 8th inning of a start. Is this the beginning of a slow, painful decline for Verlander, or is this just a REALLY rough patch? The Tigers better hope it’s the latter of the two – he’s in the second year of that $180 million contract extension. If he’s really losing his stuff, then that contract could go down as one of the worst of all time.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .189/.225/.297, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 runs, 44 OPS+
Player B: .186/.286.233, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 run, 43 OPS+

Player A is St. Louis rookie Oscar Taveras, who was sent down to Triple-A last Friday when Matt Adams was activated from the disabled list. Taveras, who homered in his debut, obviously didn’t do much after that first game. He played in 11 games before being returned to the minors. Player B is fellow rookie George Springer of the Astros and what he did in his first 11 games after being called up. Not so different. What is different is that Houston has nothing to lose by giving their rookie extensive playing time. The team is now reaping the benefits; Springer has belted 12 homers, knocked in 36 and has an OPS+ of 128. Obviously, there’s no way to know if Taveras would blossom in similar fashion, but one could certainly argue that the Cardinals should have given him more time. Time will tell if it was a wise move. Personally, I would have liked to see him get a larger opportunity.

Random Thoughts

  • Just when you start to think that this could be Adam Wainwright’s year to finally take home the Cy Young Award (which he should have won in 2009, incidentally), he develops elbow pain. Fortunately, it has been diagnosed as elbow tendinitis and not any sort of recurrence of the torn ligament that led to his Tommy John surgery in 2011. Cardinal fans and fantasy owners everywhere are crossing their fingers that this is just a minor issue for the St. Louis ace.
  • Matt Adams has homered in his first three games back from the DL after hitting just three home runs in the first two months of the season.
  • Your leader so far in Wins Above Replacement among pitchers: Houston’s Dallas Keuchel (3.8). Yes, the same Dallas Keuchel that put up a 5.15 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and allowed 11 hits per nine innings in 2013.
  • What a weekend for the Rockies in San Francisco. Friday night, the Rockies rallied to win, but it appeared that they might lose all-world shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a toe injury, just days after Carlos Gonzalez hit the disabled list. Instead, Tulo misses only one start and the Rockies sweep the division-leading Giants on the road (rallying in the late innings each time) for the first time since 2008.
  • Here’s something I didn’t realize: Gonzalez and Tulowitzki have never both played 130 or more games in the same season for the Rockies.
  • More than a little poetic justice took place Saturday afternoon when Giants center fielder Angel Pagan botched a fly ball from Colorado’s Brandon Barnes, turning it into a game-winning inside-the-park home run. Pagan did the same thing to the Rockies a couple years back.
  • Incidentally, both of Barnes’ homers this year have failed to leave the yard.
  • I know Jimmy Rollins has had a terrific career for the Phillies, but it just doesn’t seem right that Mike Schmidt is no longer the team’s leader in hits. Over the years, Schmidt had said he was skeptical that anyone else would last long enough in Philadelphia to break his record. When it finally happened over the weekend, Schmidt showed nothing but class in his praise of Rollins. Still the greatest Phillie of all time, if you ask me.
  • If there is a more exciting outfield in baseball right now than Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco, I’d like to see it.
  • Powering up: Toronto is 34-17 this season when hitting a home run, 6-13 without one.
  • Since his brief trip to Triple-A, Mike Moustakas has hit .238/.273/.472 with a pair of homers and seven RBI. Not great, but it’s an improvement over his numbers before the demotion. Like Chisenhall, he’s only 25.
  • Last year, it was a raw sewage backup that plagued the Oakland A’s at their home ballpark. Saturday night, it was a power outage in the left-field lights that caused a 38-minute delay. Oakland would go on to win 5-1. But go on, Mr. Selig, and keep telling us how San Jose is just not a feasible option for a team that deserves to play in a major-league quality facility instead of the abject dump in which the A’s are currently stuck.
  • Regardless of where the Yankees are playing, though, there is no excuse for the boneheaded double play into which Carlos Beltran hit on Sunday. After grounding into a force play at second, Beltran stopped running to first and headed to the dugout. The A’s alertly tagged him and he was declared out for “abandoning” the base (as per rule 7.08). I don’t know if he lost track of how many outs there were or what, but it was just bad baseball.
  • On the bright side, at least he didn’t fall for the hidden ball trick, I guess.
  • News: Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison suffered a cut above his eye after smashing a bat against the dugout wall and a splinter hit him. Views: Can MLB institute a fine for abject stupidity in instances like this?
  • Finally, a personal note on this, the day after Father’s Day: we all remember the final scene in Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner has a catch with his father. Most baseball writers wax poetically about fathers playing ball with their sons and how meaningful those little moments are. But take it from me: it is every bit as special with a father has a simple game of catch with his daughters. It might sound silly to some, but I cherish it every time it happens.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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