clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ten Best Seasons: Third Base

New, 23 comments

Time to dust off some old projects, starting with the Ten Best Seasons series.

For those who've recently joined us, I've been ranking the top ten seasons at each position in Indians history. I started with catcher, then covered first base, second base, and shortstop. Now finally, here's the ten best seasons by a third baseman:

(10) Toby Harrah (1982)

602 AB, .304/.398/.490, 29 2B, 25 HR, 17 SB

Honors: All-Star, 20th AL MVP, 2nd OBP, 9th OPS, 1st Games, 8th Runs, 7th Hits, 9th 1B, 7th Adj OPS+, 7th RC, 2nd Times on Base, 3rd Power/Speed

It's something of a rarity to have a player from the 80s be on a top list for anything, but Harrah certainly deserves this spot. The 1982 Indians had a decent season (78-84) compared to what they usually did, and Harrah was a big part of that: only he and Andre Thronton slugged above .400.

1982 was Harrah's best season as far as power was concerned, but he was always good at getting on base. He finished his career with 1153 walks and 868 strikeouts. He was also a pretty good basestealer: in 1982, at the age of 32, he was caught just 3 times in 20 attempts. The Indians traded him to the Yankees before the 1984 season, as ironically, New York needed a replacement for Graig Nettles.

(9) Ken Keltner (1939)

587 AB, .325/.379/.489, 35 2B, 11 3B, 15 HR

Awards: 12th AL MVP, 9th BA, 1st Games, 7th AB, 3rd Hits, 8th Total Bases, 5th 2B, 5th 3B, 5th 1B, 8th RC, 10th Extra Base Hits

Keltner's main claim to fame was ending Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak at 56 with severl spectacular defensive plays, but he was also a pretty good all-around player, making 7 All-Star teams. In fact, he got enough support for the Hall of Fame that Bill James derived the Keltner Test to evaluate players who were borderline Hall of Famers.

(8) Ken Keltner, 1948

558 AB, .297/.395/.522, 24 2B, 31 HR

Awards: All-Star, 14th AL MVP, 8th OBP, 5th SLG, 5th OPS, 4th Games, 6th Total Bases, 3rd HR, 5th Extra Base Hits, 9th Times on Base

1948 was Keltner's last full season, but it many ways it was his best. That season he posted career highs in many offensive categories, including OPS, HR, and OBP. Actually, a lot of Indians had career years that season, including Dale Mitchell, Jim Hegan, and of course Lou Boudreau.

(7) Bill Bradley, 1904

609 AB, .300/.334/.404, 32 2B, 8 3B, 5 HR

Awards: 5th BA, 9th SLG, 10th OPS, 5th AB, 3rd Runs, 3rd Hits, 3rd Total Bases, 3rd 2B, 10th HR, 3rd RBI, 4th 1B, 8th Adj OPS+, 5th RC, 8th Extra Base Hits, 9th Times on Base

Besides being confused with the more contemporary basketball star/politician, Bradley was overshadowed on his own team by Nap Lajoie, who was one of the American League's first great stars. But Bradley was a very good player in his own right, and certainly his era's best third baseman. His obituary (in 1954) credits Bradley for originating the bare-handed "scoop and throw" method of fielding bunts.

(6) Bill Bradley, 1903

536 AB, .313/.348/.496, 36 2B, 22 3B, 6 HR

Awards: 5th BA, 2nd SLG, 4th 2B, 2nd 3B, 7th HR, 4th Adj OPS+, 3rd RC, 2nd Extra Base Hits, 6th Power/Speed

Bradley was a native Clevelander, and jumped from the Chicago Cubs when the American League started. He played in the AL's first game in 1901 and stayed with Cleveland through 1910, when injuries and age made him a part-time player.

(5) Bill Bradley, 1902

550 AB, .340/.375/.515, 39 2B, 12 3B, 11 HR

Awards: 6th BA, 4th SLG, 4th OPS, 6th Games, 6th AB, 4th Runs, 3rd Hits, 2nd Total Bases, 3rd 2B, 6th 3B, 2nd HR, 10th 1B, 4th Adj OPS+, 3rd RC, 3rd Extra Base Hits, 9th Times on Base, 4th Power/Speed, 5th AB/HR

11 home runs was a ridiculously high amount in 1902. In fact, four of those home runs came in consecutive games, a record that stood until 1918.  1902 also saw Bradley hit for 29 straight games, a record that lasted until 1911, when Ty Cobb bested it.

(4) Jim Thome, 1996

505 AB, .311/.450/.612, 28 2B, 38 HR

Awards: Silver Slugger, 15th MVP, 4th OBP, 8th SLG, 3rd OPS, 7th Runs, 2nd BB, 4th Adj OPS+, 7th RC, 7th Times on Base, 8th AB/HR

In retrospect, Thome was destined for first base eventually, but Jim made the move when he was 26 and still in relatively good shape.

Anyways, 1996 was Thome's best season as a third baseball, heck, one of his best seasons period. He won the only Silver Slugger of his career (so far) this season, and he became just the second Indian to hit 30 home runs, drive in 100 runs, score 100 runs, and walk 100 times.

(3) Graig Nettles, 1971

598 AB, .261/.350/.435, 18 2B, 28 HR

Awards: 28th MVP, 7th Games, 6th AB, 6th Total Bases, 5th Home Runs, 10th RBI, 10th BB, 9th RC, 7th Times on Base

Nettles combined a fantastic glove with very good power. Graig came to the Indians from the Twins in the Luis Tiant deal, and he left just three years later for the Yankees, with whom he is most remembered playing for.

(2) Al Rosen, 1950

554 AB, .287/.405/.543, 23 2B, 37 HR

Awards: 17th AL MVP, 5th SLG, 5th OPS, 5th Games, 7th Total Bases, 1st Home Runs, 5th BB, 3rd Adj OPS+, 6th RC, 8th Extra Base Hits, 7th Times on Base, 1st HBP, 7th Power/Speed

What made Rosen's 1950 campaign even more amazing was that prior to that season Rosen had just 58 major-league at-bats. Unlike his predecessor, Ken Keltner, Al was initially a poor defender at third, but his bat kept him in the lineup long enough until he grew quite adept at the position. 1950 marked the first of two times he lead the AL in home runs, the other being...

(1) Al Rosen, 1953

599 AB, .336/.422/.613, 27 2B, 43 HR

Awards, 1953 AL MVP, Major League Player of the Year, All-Star, 2nd BA, 2nd OBP, 1st SLG, 1st OPS, 4th Games, 7th AB, 1st Runs, 3rd Hits, 1st Total Bases, 1st Home Runs, 1st RBI, 5th BB, 8th SB, 8th 1B, 1st Adj OPS+, 1st RC, 1st Extra Base Hits, 1st Times on Base, 1st HBP, 1st Sac Flies, 3rd Power/Speed, 1st AB/HR

Rosen came within one-hundredth of a point of winning the Triple Crown, and had one of the best seasons any Indian has ever had in 1953. Only five Indians have topped the 180 OPS+ mark since Rosen did it: Travis Hafner (2006), Jim Thome (2002) Manny Ramirez (2000), Albert Belle (1994), and Rocky Colavito (1958). Rosen ran away with the 1953 AL MVP, gaining all 24 first-place votes in the balloting.