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.
#23: Albie Lopez
After being a modest 20th round draft pick in 1991, Albie Lopez pitched very well in the Minors for the next couple years, and was named the #93 prospect in all of baseball in 1993. He exhausted his rookie eligibility in 1994, so that was it for prospect lists, but he was a very promising 23-year-old righty entering the 1995 season. He was called up in June and appeared as long reliever on the 24th of that month. He did well, but it was three weeks before he got another chance to pitch for the Tribe.
'95 Indians countdown
'95 Indians countdown
On July 14, in the first game of a doubleheader, Lopez mad his first MLB start. The Indians were at home against the A's; Lopez pitches 5.2 shutout innings, with 5 strikeouts and only 3 base runners. For most teams, a pitching prospect having that kind of game would have won him a spot in the rotation, but (because the offense was so incredible) people often forget that the Tribe had a great group of pitchers in 1995, and Lopez was moved to a relief role, and only appeared in three more games before being sent back down to Triple-A.
Lopez made one other spot start for the team, in September, and finished the season with a 3.13 ERA in 23 innings of work. Among the 15 pitchers who threw 20+ innings for the Indians that year, Lopez's .272 OBP allowed ranked second behind only closer Jose Mesa. Lopez wasn't placed on the postseason roster, and in 1996, as a member of the rotation early in the season, he struggled.
Lopez was later taken by the Devil Rays in the expansion draft, and went on to have some pretty decent years with them. He also won a World Series ring with the Diamondbacks in 2001. His time with the Indians wound up something of a disappointment, but in 1995 he looked like he might be a key part of the team for years.