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Best and Worst Hitters in Cleveland Indians History

Let's Go Tribe's look at the batting order concludes with a recap and bonus goodies, including the WORST hitter ever from every spot!

David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

I am here today to recap the batting order series I began nine weeks ago. You love the lead-off hitter entry! You were sort of interested in the cleanup hitters, and by the #7 spot you wondered, "Why is he still doing this?" The answer: I DON'T KNOW! I'm a completist, I suppose (you should see my impressive collection of Harper's Bazaar). In any event, the series proper ended last week, but I know you're still wondering about the WORST hitter at each spot, the best pinch hitters in Tribe history, and what happened when Jim Thome started in the #2 spot (which DID happen). I'll give you those answers and more, all you have to do is keep reading (and scroll down a bit)!

Here are links to the other entries in the series: Batting 1st... Batting 2nd... Batting 3rd...Batting 4th... Batting 5th... Batting 6th... Batting 7th and 8th... Batting 9th

Alright, let's take a look at the best pinch hitters in Indians history (from 1916 on). The guidelines for this are more complicated than they might seem (in as much as guidelines I'm making up myself can be complicated for me). I could go strictly off appearances in which a player entered a game specifically as a pinch hitter, or I could include all appearances in which a player appeared as a substitute and eventually batted, whether he first entered to hit, or to run, or to field. I decided to go with the latter, partially because it allows for mildly larger samples and partially because I want to give relief pitchers a chance to make the list. If you disapprove of this methodology I invite you to create a companion list and post it in the comments (where I will swiftly delete it!).

There have been 1,212 different players to bat for the Indians in a game they didn't start. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of them have gotten 500+ PA in those games (Glenn Myatt leads the way with 378), so I'm dropping the cutoff for this list to 100 PA.

Top Hitting as Substitutes in Indians History:

5) Smoky Joe Wood (1917-1922)

108 PA, .291/.396/.395, .791 OPS, ~116 OPS+, 1 HR, 20 R, 17 RBI

Wood, you may recall, was a great pitcher who eventually transitioned into a fine-hitting outfielder.

4) Bob Kennedy (1948-1954)

115 PA, .301/.363/.456, .819 OPS, ~118 OPS+, 2 HR, 18 R, 14 RBI

Kennedy hit better as an Indian in his time off the bench than he did as a starter.

3) Tito Francona (1959-1964)

115 PA, .258/.377/.419, .797 OPS, ~119 OPS+, 3 HR, 17 R, 16 RBI

If Terry can get players to hit as well off the bench as his old man did, it'd be a step in the right directions.

2) Jack Graney (1916-1922)

151 PA, .287/.427/.383, .809 OPS, ~128 OPS+, 0 HR, 15 R, 13 RBI

No power, but there was a dead ball era on for much of his time and that .427 OBP sparkles.

1) Fred Whitfield (1963-67)

145 PA, .279/.347/.574, .921 OPS, ~157 OPS+, 10 HR, 13 R, 29 RBI

That OPS+ is not a typo, Whitfield DESTROYED the ball coming off the bench with the Tribe. That was a pitcher's era, and the only everyday players in MLB with an OPS+ that good over those years were Frank Robinson, Dick Allen, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. THAT, my friends, is what is known in the business as "good company."

Alright, a brief recap of the lineup spots, along with my choice for the best and worst player (500+ PA) from each of them:


1+ PA

500+ PA

Most Starts






Kenny Lofton (1175)

Kenny Lofton

George Case




Omar Vizquel (1141)

Ray Chapman

Felix Fermin




Tris Speaker (1428)

Tris Speaker

Julio Franco




Andre Thornton (1035)

Albert Belle

Graig Nettles




Larry Gardner (441)

Jim Thome

Brook Jacoby




Ken Keltner (600)

Ken Keltner

Willie Kamm




Ray Mack (464)

Manny Ramirez

Joe Evans




Jim Hegan (1222)

Brook Jacoby

Jack Heidemann




Bob Feller (484)

Wes Ferrell

Sam McDowell

It's strange to see Brook Jacoby appear as the best hitter in one spot and the worst in another. SOme of that difference is due to the standard for the #5 list being much higher than that of the #8 list, but mostly there was just a massive difference in his production between the two spots. While batting eighth, Jacoby's OPS was .828, but while batting fifth it was only .660. I guess Jacoby was just born to bat eighth.

It pains me to see Julio Franco there as the worst #3 hitter in franchise history, because he was my first favorite Indian. I thought about putting the second-worst guy instead, to protect Franco's reputation (because what were you going to do, CHECK?!?!), but I'm a stickler for honesty, and Julio didn't have much success in his days of batting third (261 starts spread over his time with the Tribe). He wasn't bad, per se, but he was below league average, and for a #3 hitter, that's bad (the same is true of Nettles in the #4 spot, he wasn't bad, just bad for hitting cleanup).

I don't feel as bad pointing out what a terrible hitter Jack Heidemann was, because I never tried to copy his batting stance. His OPS+ with the Indians was 43, which is the worst by any position player with 500+ PA in franchise history. Bravo! Sam McDowell was terrible at the plate too. He was a great pitcher, so who really cares, but McDowell's OPS+ with the Indians was 1 (and for his career it was -2). That didn't even compute in my brain at first, but it means he was 99% worse than an average hitter (or 102% worse for his career), just awful.

On the positive side of the ledger, you've got many of the greatest hitters in franchise history, which is probably just what you should have expected, but it's still fun to see them all together like that. Move Jacoby over to 2B and let Manny player catcher, and they could even take the field together (how much worse could Manny's defense really be than it already was in the outfield???)!

Alright, that's all I've got for you. Move along, move a--- Wait! I promised you one other thing: Jim Thome started in the #2 spot twice in his career, both during his first month in the big leagues. On September 27, 1991, Thome went 1 for 3, with a single and a walk. On September 29, 1991, Thome went 0 for 3, with a walk.