clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

75 Years and Counting: The Story of the 1988 Cleveland Indians

A hot start, but nothing materializes

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

After the disaster that was the 1987, Dick Jacobs made some major adjustments to the Indians’ organizational structure. Starting with the hiring of Hank Peters as general manager. Peters made a flurry of moves that offseason, while none were particularly high profile, they were impactful in a different sense. That offseason Peters signed a journeyman utility infielder named Ron Washington, and a veteran first baseman by the name of Terry “Tito” Francona. You think Austin Hedges represents a good culture fit? Try having a roster with 4 future managers on it, Francona, Wash, Bud Black, and John Farrell, plus a long time coach in Dave Clark. If building a culture is your goal, those are the types of guys to do it with!

The ‘88 squad got off to a blistering start going 11-2 to start the campaign. They found themselves sitting at 36-21 on June 8th and only a half game out of first place. Not to mention that was with a 1-8 skid mixed in there. Had they gone even .500 in that stretch they could’ve very feasibly been like 40-18 or something ridiculous like that. Their offense was remarkably consistent the entire year, solid but unspectacular. But let’s see if you can figure out the cause of their 78-84 finish despite a 36-21 start

Team ERA By Month:

April: 3.14

May: 3.89

June: 5.03

July: 5.18

August 4.00

September/October: 3.72

If you guessed “the wheels came off the pitching” then you win. Congratulations.

While the pitching staff as a whole was much improved over the 1987 season, additions like Farrell helped, as well as a bounce back season by Tom Candiotti. Greg Swindell also appeared to be figuring it out, leading the team with a 3.20 ERA. But the team would continue to learn that consistent pitching is the formula for long term success in the major leagues.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be a Cleveland Indians’ season without at least one player who appeared headed towards stardom completely falling apart for no discernable reason. (Seriously, if you know what happened here, comment below, because I can’t find anything on it) Brook Jacoby, who appeared to be the second coming of Al Rosen, absolutely fell off a cliff in production. The season before he hit .300 with a .540 slugging percentage and 75 walks to only 73 strikeouts. In 1988 his average fell to .240, his slugging percentage fell by over .200 points to .335, and his strikeout rate ballooned while his walk totals completely diminished 48 BB:101 K. He would rebound with solid seasons in ‘89 and ‘90 but would never rediscover the power that he showed in ‘87. An elbow injury and diminished production would lead to him being traded to Oakland midway through the 1991 season.

One bright spot in the 1988 season was found in Kinston, North Carolina as a young outfielder named Albert “Joey” Belle posted a .900 OPS with 10 Home runs in only 50 games as a 20 year old in A-Ball. Belle would open the following season in AA but skip AAA entirely, joining the big league team by midseason. It would take him a couple years to catch on but he would go on to become one of the most feared hitters in the game.

Join us tomorrow as we break down the 1989 season