CLEVELAND, OH: Third baseman Jack Hannahan #9 of the Cleveland Indians throws to first for the out after fielding a ground ball hit by Dayan Viciedo #24 of the Chicago White Sox during the second inning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
First, let's frame this discussion.
One year ago, in the absence of an attractive alternative, Jack Hannahan was the Indians' Opening Day third baseman. Roughly speaking, he held the every-day job until the end of June, by which point he'd posted a .215/.306/.336 line.
Exit, stage left. Hannahan would start only 27 games the rest of the season. He did hit, though: .321/.383/.491 in 121 plate appearances, which is impressive. And Hannahan seems to think he knows what happened.
From an interview during Wednesday's Indians-Giants game:
Matt Underwood: I don't think anybody doubts the fact that Jack Hannahan could be a Gold Glove winner, defensively at third base. But I heard you say earlier this spring, "I wanna go out and prove people wrong," and obviously you're referring to those who don't think you can hit enough to be a third baseman ...
Jack Hannahan: Last year, second half, I really figured something out offensively, getting that bigger bat in my hands ... I kinda messed around with it a little bit, moving from a 34-inch bat, 31 ounces, moved it up to a 34-and-a-half, 33-ounce bat. You can feel the head a little more, when I choke up I feel I have a little more control of the bat.
Before the second half of last season, Hannahan had never really hit much. Not in the majors, at all. And his only real good minor-league season came in 2007 with the Tigers' triple-A team in Toledo. It's possible that he did finally figure something out last summer, after all those years. It's somewhat more possible that he hit over his head in those 121 plate appearances, and will significantly regress if given another few hundred plate appearances this year.
Hannahan's competition at third base is 23-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall, who essentially is the Bizarro Hannahan;
* Hannahan is (relatively) old; Chisenhall is young.
* Hannahan can really field but not really hit; Chisenhall can really hit, but is just adequate in the field.
* Hannahan's been cast off by various organizations; Chisenhall was taken by the Indians in the first round of the 2008 draft, has never known another organization, and a year ago was considered the club's No. 1 prospect.
Neither player has done much this spring, but the job would seem to be Chisenhall's to lose. Until and unless, at some point, Hannahan proves that switching bats in your early 30s really can turn around a career.