Michael Brantley was awesome in 2014. Having previously been a solid, touch better than average player, suddenly his batting average shot up, his walk rate climbed, and his power numbers exploded. Most expected some downward regression, because that's what usually happens after a player has the kind of breakout Brantley experienced.
A back injury slowed him at the beginning of 2015, and for a while his numbers were well below where they were a year ago. Since the All-Star break, it's been a different story. Since the All-Star break, Brantley has been even more awesome than he was last year. So far in the second half, Brantley is batting .363/.428/.603, with 8 home runs in 201 plate appearances. His wRC+ 184.
Somewhat quietly, his numbers for the season are only a small step below what they were a year ago:
Brantley's 2014 clearly was not a fluke, and he's wrapping up one of the best two-season stretches the Indians have had in the 2000s.
Brantley's 2014 and 2105 batting line: .323/.386/.498, with a wRC+ of 148.
Top Cleveland Indians two-season wRC+ (2000-2015, minimum 1,000 PA):
- 1. Jim Thome (2001-02): 178
- 2. Travis Hafner (2005-06): 171
- 3. Travis Hafner (2004-05): 162
- 4. Jim Thome (2000-01): 149
- 5. Michael Brantley (2014-15): 148
- 6. Travis Hafner (2006-07): 147
- t7. Shin-Soo Choo (2008-09): 139
- t7. Shin-Soo Choo (2009-10): 139
- 9. Roberto Alomar (2000-01): 132
- t10. Grady Sizemore (2006-07): 131
- t10. Shin-Soo Choo (2010-11): 131
When your only company as a hitter is Jim Thome and Travis Hafner, you're doing things right.
Factoring in base running and defense, and Brantley has been worth more than 10 WAR during the last two season. (10.6 at Baseball-Reference, 10.1 at FanGraphs). The only other Indians with a two-season stretch that good during the 2000s are Thome, Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Roberto Alomar, and Shin-Soo Choo.
If you average the two site's versions of WAR...
Top Cleveland Indians two-season WAR totals (2000-2015):
- 1. Grady Sizemore (2005-06): 13.4
- 2. Grady Sizemore (2006-07): 13.2
- 3. Jim Thome (2001-02): 12.9
- 4. Grady Sizemore (2007-08): 12.6
- 5. Roberto Alomar (2000-01): 12.3
- 6. Travis Hafner (2005-06): 11.3
- 7. Shin-Soo Choo (2009-10): 11.2
- 8. Michael Brantley (2014-15): 10.4
- 9. Travis Hafner (2004-05): 10.2
- 10. Jim Thome (2000-01): 10.1
Brantley has been tremendous, and he's under team control through 2018 at an average cost of under $9 million a year, so we'll get to watch Doc Smooth do his thing at Progressive Field for quite some time.