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.
- 25. Wayne Kirby
- 24. Alan Embree
- 23. Albie Lopez
- 22. Jim Poole
- 21. Tony Pena
- 20. Herbert Perry
- 19. Mark Clark
#18: Paul Assenmacher
Paul Assenmacher had been a successful MLB reliever for most of a decade by the time he signed with the Indians a couple weeks before the start of the 1995 season. He'd had a couple seasons with more than 100 innings pitched; he wouldn't come anywhere near that total with the Indians, but on a per-inning basis, 1995 would turn out to be arguably the best of his career.
Assenmacher wasn't charged with an earned run in any of his first 14 games of the year, which is tied for the 3rd-longest scoreless appearance streak to start a season in franchise history. (The longest such streak is 17, by Ricardo Rincon in 1999. The longest such streak for any point in a season is 31, which was done in 1997 by… Paul Assenmacher.) By that point he'd established himself as the go-to lefty in the 'pen. Only 4 of his 47 appearances that regular season came before the 7th inning, with more than 70% of them coming in the 8th inning or later, sometimes to face the opponent's top left-handed hitter, sometimes to work a full inning or more.
Assenmacher never gave up more than one run in a game until the final afternoon of the regular season, when he was charged with two during the 6th inning of a blowout victory, as Mike Hargrove looked to get him a little more work before the postseason. He finished the regular season with a 2.82 ERA, good for a career-best 167 ERA+. His 9.4 strikeouts per 9 innings were second-highest on the team.
He appeared in all three ALDS victories against Boston, and in three games of the ALCS against Seattle. He didn't allow any runs in any of those six contests. With the ALCS tied at two games apiece, the Tribe held a slim one-run lead in the 7th inning of Game 5. There were runners on 1st and 3rd with one out and Ken Griffey coming to the plate. Enter Assenmacher, who promptly struck out the league's biggest star; he then struck out the powerful Jay Buhner to end the inning. The Mariners would not threaten again.
Assenmacher finally allowed a run in Game 3 of the World Series, but finished the postseason with a 2.08 ERA in 10 appearances, during which he limited batters to just 1 hit in 15 at bats. He had three more strong seasons with the Tribe, then a rough 1999, which would be the final season of his career.