A star center fielder during the 1980s, Chet Lemon was a stellar flychaser whose defensive exploits have gained more substance with the creation of the multitude of defensive stats in recent years. Lemon has fine range factors and fielding runs totals, but these newfangled stats carry little merit outside the stathead crowd. What the layman sees in Chet’s stats are consistency: modest power and good on-base and slugging averages.
Lemon was originally drafted in the first round by the Oakland A’s but before the green-clad wonders called Chet up he was packaged in a deal to bring Oakland pitchers Stan Bahnsen and Skip Pitlock. With the White Sox, Lemon made his Major League debut in 1975. The following year he accepted an everyday assignment and posted a career high 13 steals. Although he showed little as a freshman, the White Sox stuck with Chet and he rewarded them for their patience.
Chet broke out his second year in the Majors by leading American League center fielders with 38 doubles. Chet also belted 19 homeruns, up from four in 1976, which boosted his slugging average 131 points above its ’76 mark. Looking to capitalize on his breakout year, Chet was sidelined a portion of the 1978 season due to injury. He bounced back in 1979 and had his finest year. Named to the AL All-Star team, Chet paced the junior circuit with 44 doubles while hitting at a nifty .318 clip. A plate crowder, Chet also led the AL in getting plunked by pitches; something he did four times during his career.
Chet honed his batting eye in 1980 by drawing 71 walks compared to just 56 strikeouts. Although his RBI total dipped, his on-base percentage remained of the very good variety, nestled at .388. During the strike shortened 1981 season, Lemon led American League center fielders in slugging average. But after the season the White Sox, with their right-handed heavy lineup, shipped Chet off to the Tigers for left-handed swinging Steve Kemp.
In Motown during the 1982 season, Lemon matched his career high in homeruns with 19. The following year, he set a new personal high in taters by clouting 24. An All-Star again in 1984, Chet helped lead the Tigers to the World Series by pacing AL center fielders in doubles. He and Tony Armas were the only two American League center fielders to slug over .490 during the season. After a disastrous ALCS in which the Kansas City Royals kept him hitless, Chet found his stroke against the Padres in the World Series. He hit San Diego pitching at a .294 clip.
After fitting on his World Series ring, Lemon kept on churning out those doubles in 1985. He legged out 28 two-baggers while mashing 18 homeruns. In the pasture, he posted his second straight year with a fielding percentage of .990 or higher. After a down ’86 campaign, Chet rebounded to post his third 20-homer season in 1987. Detroit romped to the ALCS, aided along by Lemon’s 30 doubles and 75 runs scored and RBI. Chet blasted a pair of homeruns in the ALCS against the Twins but his Tigers fell to the eventual champions.
Chet had one good year left in his bones in 1988 when he clubbed 17 homeruns and posted 223 total bases. When he reached his mid 30s, Lemon’s numbers began to dive. He fell from 17 homeruns in 1988 to just seven in 1989. His power was all but gone in 1990 and he retired after the season.
G 1,988/R 973/H 1,875/2B 396/3B 61/HR 215/RBI 884/BB 749/SO 1,024/SB 58/BA .273/SA .442