The 1995 Cleveland Indians were an incredible team. They are rightfully famed for their other-worldly offense, but their pitching was excellent as well. As we all know, they fell in the World Series that October, making them arguably the best team ever among those that didn't win the Fall Classic.
It's been 20 years since that team brought the city of Cleveland to its feet and ended decades of frustration. Throughout this anniversary year we'll be celebrating them, as the current version of the Tribe hopefully makes its own run to the American League pennant. Each week I'll look back at one of the key players from that season, counting down to the very best of them.
#24: Alan Embree
When I think of Alan Embree, I think of a reliever for the Red Sox in the years leading up to and including their first World Series victory in decade. I hardly remember that he helped another American League team come awfully close to ending it s own title drought.
Embree was the Indians' 5th round pick in 1989 (a round that also included Ryan Klesko and J.T. Snow). A left-handed starting pitcher, he had an excellent Minor League season in 1992, was called up to make four starts for the Indians that September, and was named the #49 prospect in baseball by Baseball America that offseason. The following spring though, in his first game of the Minor League season, he his elbow gave out, and he missed the rest of the year after having Tommy John surgery.
'95 Indians countdown
'95 Indians countdown
When he returned in 1994, he wasn't striking guys out the way he had been before the injury, and he was giving up a lot more hits. He was moved to a relief role for 1995, had much better results (a 0.89 ERA in 40.2 innings in Triple-A) and was called up to join the Tribe bullpen in July. Over the next two months Embree appeared in 17 games for the Indians, posting a 1.31 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning pitched. In his first few weeks up, he usually pitched in the middle innings of games, but by mid August he was being used primarily as an 8th-inning pitcher.
Two bad outings in September sent his ERA for the season all the way up to an ugly 5.11, but his WPA (win probability added) was 0.98, fourth best among Tribe relievers that season.
Embree appeared in four of the six World Series games that October, clearly having become one of manager Mike Hargrove's most trusted bullpen arms. In Game 6, with the Indians down a run, Embree was brought in to face the heart of Atlanta's order in the 7th inning.
To the extent that Embree is remembered for his time with the Indians, I suspect it is primarily as the guy who was added to the trade that sent Kenny Lofton to Atlanta just days before the 1997 season would begin. He received greater fame (insofar as middle relievers are famous) with Boston, and became among the most traveled players in baseball at the end of his career. It started with the Indians though, helping to further solidify an already solid bullpen.