This is the sixth entry in a series detailing the greatest players in Cleveland Indians history for each spot in the batting order. Here are links to the previous entries in the series: Batting 1st, Batting 2nd, Batting 3rd, Batting 4th, and Batting 5th
In 2012 the Tribe had seventeen different players start at least one game in the #6 spot of the lineup, led by Shelley Duncan (who was there 32 times) and Casey Kotchman (24 games), which tells you a lot about how crummy the Indians were last year. The lineup ought to be better in 2013, but I still wouldn't expect any one player to start there in the majority of games. In the last fifty years, one player hit sixth in 70+ games just twice (Jim Thome in 1995 and Brook Jacoby in 1990).
According to Baseball-Reference, since 1916 (as far back as complete box scores go) 487 different players have started at least one game in the #6 spot for the Tribe (far more than for any of the first five spots in the lineup), but only 22 of them collected 500+ plate appearances in those starts (which is the requirement for making this list). I've tried to balance rate stats against counting totals for my rankings. In other words, while an OPS of 850 is better than an OPS of 825, if the former came in 600 PA and the latter came in 2,000 PA, I'm probably going to favor the second player. I'm including an estimated OPS+ for each player, based on comparable figures from his era. Finally, these rankings are based solely on players' contributions on offense.
TOP TEN #6 HITTERS IN INDIANS HISTORY
10) Casey Blake
129 G, 534 PA, .285/.368/.474, .842 OPS, ~123 OPS+, 19 HR, 69 R, 67 RBI
Blake never hit sixth in a majority of a season's games, but was there occasionally between 2003 and 2008. He hit better out of that spot than he did out of other places in the order during his time with the Tribe.
9) Brook Jacoby
403 G, 1650 PA, .266/.335/.422, .757 OPS, ~109 OPS+, 48 HR, 178 R, 196 RBI
Jacoby spent most of 1990 batting sixth and spent other big chunks of time there between 1984 and 1992. He ranks 2nd on the team for starts, HR, runs, and RBI out of the #6 spot.
8) Bruce Campbell
140 G, 583 PA, .314/.395/.505, .900 OPS, ~127 OPS+, 10 HR, 92 R, 76 RBI
Before starring in the "Evil Dead' Series, Campbell was the Tribe's right fielder from 1935 to 1939. In 1937 he spent most of the season hitting sixth and put up solid numbers.
7) John Romano
156 G, 640 PA, .280/.355/.481, .837 OPS, ~128 OPS+, 29 HR, 78 R, 95 RBI
Another player who never spent the majority of any one season batting sixth, but batted there often enough over a number of years (between 1960 and 1964) to compile roughly a full season's worth of appearances.
6) Joe Sewell
280 G, 1213 PA, .328/.422/.443, .865 OPS, ~119 OPS+, 6 HR, 168 R, 160 RBI
Sewell (a Hall of Fame shortstop) moved around the lineup a lot, but hit sixth for most of 1921 and sporadically throughout the 1920s. His .422 OBP is the best among #6 hitters in franchise history.
5) Pat Tabler
165 G, 655 PA, .345/.389/.462, .851 OPS, ~132 OPS+, 11 HR, 82 R, 81 RBI
Tabler racked up about a season's worth of appearances in the #6 spot between 1983 and 1987. A .282 lifetime hitter, his .345 batting average while batting sixth is the best in Tribe history.
4) Manny Ramirez
186 G, 760 PA, .313/.401/.563, .965 OPS, ~144 OPS+, 40 HR, 109 R, 127 RBI
This is Ramirez' third appearance in this series (3rd among #4 hitters and 8th among #5 hitters). He was never the regular #6 hitter, but he hit the crap out of the ball when slotted there, same as he did everywhere else.
3) Jim Thome
212 G, 886 PA, .280/.412/.524, .937 OPS, ~142 OPS+, 41 HR, 125 R, 124 RBI
Thome one-ups Manny, because this is his fourth appearance in the series (5th among #3 hitters, 4th among #4 hitters, and 1st among #5 hitters)! Put him where you want and Jim will hit the ball hard and get on base.
2) Hal Trosky
178 G, 759 PA, .289/.397/.524, .921 OPS, ~150 OPS+, 35 HR, 123 R, 155 RBI
Trosky hit the ball better from the #6 spot than anywhere else. He spent most of 1938 and parts of other seasons there. His per game production while batting sixth was better than that of any other Indian in history.
1) Ken Keltner
600 G, 2488 PA, .295/.356/.472, .828 OPS, ~124 OPS+, 70 HR, 281 R, 378 RBI
Keltner is the all-time leader in games played from the #6 spot, as well as in just about all of the counting stats. He's the only player to have started there for a majority of games in multiples seasons (1939, 1940, and 1944). He had strong rate stats too, with a very healthy ~OPS+. The combination of strong rates and extensive playing time is enough to land him this crown.
Michael Brantley has started in the #6 spot 19 times in his career, and has a stellar OPS of .957 there. He's not likely to bat there for most of the 2013 season (and he's even less likely to keep up that kind of production), but if he did, he could crack this list. Another 110 starts with an OPS of .775 or so would do the trick. Jason Kipnis or Mark Reynolds could even crack the list, despite having basically never hit there for the team before, if given playing time (and with strong production). More likely though, those three (and others) split time there, and the list remains the same.