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 with an AL Pennant. Throughout this anniversary year we'll be celebrating them, as the current version of the Tribe hopefully makes its own run to the postseason. Each week I'll look back at one of the key players from that season, counting down to the very best of them.
- 25. Wayne Kirby
- 24. Alan Embree
- 23. Albie Lopez
- 22. Jim Poole
- 21. Tony Pena
- 20. Herbert Perry
- 19. Mark Clark
- 18. Paul Assenmacher
- 17. Paul Sorrento
- 16. Eric Plunk
#15: Ken Hill
Ken Hill made his MLB debut at age 22 with the Cardinals, but the most notable thing he did while with St. Louis was lead the National League in losses and walks in 1989. Following the 1991 season he was traded to the Expos, and immediately became a very good pitcher, posting a 2.68 ERA for Montreal in 1992. In 1994, when the Expos were the best team in baseball until the labor stoppage ended the season, Hill tied for the league lead in wins and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting. (Greg Maddux was the unanimous winner, after averaging ore than 8 innings a start and posting an unbelievable 1.56 ERA.) Just before the start of the 1995 season, Hill was dealt back to St. Louis, but the Cardinals were to have a disappointing season, and when the Indians offered some young talent in an effort to bolster their rotation for the stretch drive and eventual postseason, Ken Hill was on his way to Cleveland.
Hill won his first game with the Tribe, then set a very random franchise "record" during his next five games, becoming the only pitcher in Indians history to pitch 5+ innings in five straight starts while not receiving the decision for any of them. The Indians won 4 of those 5 games though, and won 9 of the 11 regular season games Hill pitched in.
His 3.98 ERA in 74.1 innings for the Tribe doesn't look impressive by today's standards, but keep in mind that the collective ERA for all American League starters in 1995 was 4.85. Hill was quite a bit better than average that year, with an ERA+ of 118.
Hill's best game with the Indians came on September 18 in Chicago, against the White Sox. Hill pitched all 9 innings, allowing only an unearned run while striking out a season high 8, including the hated Frank Thomas twice. (What I remember is Albert Belle hitting two home runs and Jim Thome hitting two triples, unsurprisingly the only time he did that in his career.)
In Game 1 of the ALDS against Boston, Hill entered the game in the top of the 12th inning, with two batters already on base, and ended the threat by striking out Jose Canseco. He then pitched a scoreless 13th inning, and was credited with the W when Tony Pena ended the game with a home run. Hill's next appearance was as the starter for Game 4 of the ALCS. He pitched 7 shutout innings as the Indians won the game and tied the series at two games apiece. Hill started Game 4 of the World Series, giving up 3 runs in 6.1 innings after being left in one batter too long. Hill then came out of the bullpen and pitched to one batter in Game 6, finishing the postseason with a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings.