The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Cleveland Indians

Grady Sizemore was one of the best outfielders in Cleveland history. (via Keith Allison)

Grady Sizemore was one of the best outfielders in Cleveland history. (via Keith Allison)

Paul Moehringer’s Pyramid Rating System & All-Time Teams

Aug. 27, 2015: The Pyramid Rating System: JAWS on a Career Scale

March 15, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System: The Results

Aug. 12, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System All-Time League and the All-Time Baltimore Orioles

Sept. 2, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Boston Red Sox

Sept. 28, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Texas Rangers

Oct. 19, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Brooklyn Dodgers

Nov. 30, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Cincinnati Reds

Dec. 15, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System’s 2016 Season Update

Dec. 20, 2016: The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Seattle Mariners

Jan. 25, 2017: The Pyramid Rating System’s All-Time Milwaukee Brewers/Braves

In our latest installment of the Pyramid Rating System all-time team series, we stay in the American League Central and head east to the shores of Lake Erie and one of the original American League teams, the Cleveland Indians.

Because of the city-centric nature of this exercise, the Indians also get credit for the franchise history of the Cleveland Spiders, making them effectively the oldest team in the American League, missing out on only the 1900 season.

Although the Spiders are best remembered for fielding the worst squad in major league history, the 1899 team which went 20-134, it’s worth noting that 1899 snapped a streak of seven consecutive winning seasons. Even though the Spiders never won the pennant outright, they did finish second in the National League three times during that seven year stretch. Like the Orioles, they were were one of the most dominant teams in the National League right up until their demise. As we will soon see, the Spiders have an impact on this roster, which winds up being one of the most dominant teams in this series.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Even though Cleveland has won only two World Series, this all-time team could realistically win the American League pennant. Aside from the relievers, you needed to be a multiple time all-star or the equivalent of one just to be considered for this squad.

As mentioned in the 2016 season update, even with a second Cy Young-caliber season, Corey Kluber still hasn’t done enough to garner a spot in the Indians rotation. For most teams in the American League he would be no worse than a No. 3 starter. Omar Vizquel played 11 years with the club, won eight Gold Gloves, but at best was the third best shortstop in the team’s history.

While there will be debate over who was and wasn’t selected for the 40- and 25-man teams, any way you cut it Cleveland has one of the deepest and most talented teams that will be seen in this series.

Franchises included: Cleveland Spiders (1890-1899); Cleveland Blues (1901); Cleveland Bronchos (1902); Cleveland Naps (1903-1914); Cleveland Indians (1915-Present).
Hall of Famers on 25-man roster: 9.
Manager: Mike Hargrove

A few may argue that the manager should be Al López, and with good reason. López ran the club through most of the 1950s, posting five consecutive 90-plus win seasons and never finishing below .500. Perhaps most famously, he managed the 1954 team that set an American League record with 111 wins and broke the Yankees’ streak of five consecutive pennants.

Despite all this, the job falls to Mike Hargrove for his 721 regular season wins and his 27 postseason victories, as many playoff wins as every other Indians manger combined. It was under Hargrove that the Indians went from being a running joke across baseball to a perennial postseason powerhouse, winning five consecutive division titles between 1995 and 1999 and experiencing the best run of success in team history since López’s day.

Best Overall Player, Position Player and Hitter: Nap Lajoie

When Major League Baseball conducted a vote for all-century team in 1999, Nap Lajoie was far behind the fourth place finisher at second base, Rod Carew. When Cleveland held a “franchise four” vote in 2015, Lajoie didn’t place in the top four. But he had a career that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

How great was Nap Lajoie? Well, the fact that they named the team after him should be pretty telling not just of his talent, but also his popularity. It was Lajoie who helped give the American League legitimacy; he was among the first superstars to jump to the new league. Following a triple crown season with Connie Mack’s A’s, Lajoie was dealt to Cleveland after a court case involving the reserve clause.

When Lajoie arrived in Cleveland, he came to a club that had finished seventh the previous season, and last in attendance. This was off the heels of the Spiders posting the worst season in National League history in 1899. Without Lajoie, Cleveland could have suffered the same fate as Baltimore and Milwaukee, which lost their American League teams after poor box office showings. In his first game with his new team, Cleveland drew 10,000 fans. Any thoughts of the franchise leaving or folding were quickly erased by the arrival of arguably the best player in baseball.

In 1903 and 1904, Lajoie won both the batting and OPS titles in the American League. His career nearly came to a sudden end in 1905 after an untreated spike injury led to sepsis, which nearly caused his leg to be amputated. But Lajoie made a full recovery and in 1906 batted .355, while leading the American League in both hits and doubles.

It was Lajoie who presented the greatest challenge to Ty Cobb’s dominance of the American League, consistently finishing in the top 10 in batting average and OPS throughout his tenure in Cleveland, while playing at least above-average defense.

How good a defensive second baseman Lajoie really was is probably the greatest unknown of his career. In range factor, fielding percentage and double plays turned, Lajoie often led the league, but he had a habit of always covering second base no matter what the situation, which no doubt helped inflate his defensive numbers.

In a value based system, Lajoie ranks as a serious Gold Glove threat. Because he played in an era when so much more of the game was played on the infield, he’s going to rank as an inherently better player than many modern day second basemen.

There’s no denying his offensive skills. In a league such as this I would expect Lajoie to be the odds on favorite to win the Silver Slugger and make the All-Star team, possibly even into the starting lineup.

The greater mystery is why a player like Lajoie seems to have been lost to time. Any serious list would have him among the top five second basemen of all-time. At the height of his career he was the best and most popular player in the American League. I hope Cleveland will one day show Lajoie the kind of appreciation he deserves.

Best Pitcher: Bob Feller

Some teams have debates over who the best pitcher in franchise history is, while others don’t. The Indians fall into the latter category. As we will see, the Indians have had no shortage of great pitchers, but Bob Feller stands head and shoulders above everyone else.

At his peak, Feller was the best pitcher in the game. Between 1939 and 1947, he would go on one of the most dominating tears in baseball history, winning 20 or more games in every non-war-affected season, leading the league in innings pitched and strikeouts. Feller finished no lower than third in the American League in ERA during this stretch.

In am all-time league such as this I would have Feller’s name penciled in on the All-Star team and would expect him to be a Cy Young award contender and a No. 1 starter capable of shutting down any offense.

Where I have Feller ranked all-time, though is probably a bit lower than where most would have him. I’m not disputing Feller being a Hall of Famer, but he was also essentially finished as a front line starter by the time he turned 30.

Although he continued to be one of the most durable starters in the game, it is very clear that Feller from the age of 30 on was a power pitcher who had lost his fastball. From 1949 on, Feller never struck out more than 120 batters in a season, while his ERA+ from 1949 on was only a pedestrian 104.

In hindsight, Feller’s second half career decline was at least somewhat a result of his work load early in his career. To this day, no pitcher has accomplished more by the time the was 22 than Bob Feller, but no other 22-year-old has had the type of demands that were placed on him by his team. In in addition to consistently leading the AL in strikeouts and innings pitched, Feller was also among the league leaders in walks issued and, as you might infer, batters faced.

Even though Feller was just as dominant after he got back from World War II as he was before, it’s likely that if the Indians had kept pitching him at the rate they had been, he may not have even been in baseball by the time 1950 came around.

It’s worth appreciating the type of sacrifices Feller and others made during this era, not just with their career numbers but on the battlefield. Missed years due to WWII were not credited and as a result the early and mid-’40s is the most underrepresented era in this series. Aside from Negro league players, there is no other group of players that this system treats more unfairly or unjustly, but it’s also why you can’t view stats as the be-all, end-all of a player’s career or legacy.

Best Player Not on the Roster Due to the One-Team-Only Rule: Tris Speaker

When I decided to give Tris Speaker to the Red Sox, it was with full knowledge that Speaker had an OPS+ of 158 with Cleveland over an 11-year career that on its own could be considered Hall of Fame-worthy. Of every player excluded by this rule, I have only one player’s tenure (Barry Bonds‘) considered better than Speaker’s tenure in Cleveland, and it’s not by much.

Most consider Speaker the greatest outfielder in Cleveland history and I agree. As loaded as the outfield is even without Speaker, his inclusion would put it in the conversation for the best outfield in the American League. While Speaker was a better hitter with Cleveland, I feel he was slightly more well-rounded player with Boston in terms of base stealing and defense. which is why I gave his tenure in Boston the edge. Of every call I had to make in this series with regard to this rule, this and the A-Rod decision were by far the toughest.

Aside from Speaker, Cleveland loses no significant player to this rule. Even players who had their best years of their careers in Cleveland, such as Omar Vizquel (who is on the Mariners squad) and Roberto Alomar (who you’ll see on another team.), are simply muscled out by other greats in team history.

Aside from a few bench and 40-man selections, with the exception of Speaker the Cleveland roster is nearly identical to what it would be without the one-team-only rule. And as we’ll see, the rule means the Indians get the benefit of three Hall of Fame caliber players who are more associated with other teams.

Position Person
Manager Mike Hargrove
Bench Coach Patsy Tebeau
First Base Coach Miguel Diloné
Third Base Coach Charlie Jamieson
Hitting Coach Dale Mitchell
Pitching Coach Carl Willis
Bullpen Coach Don Hood
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
RF L R Shoeless Joe Jackson CF L L Kenny Lofton
3B L R Jim Thome RF L R Shoeless Joe Jackson
1B L R Hal Trosky  C S R Carlos Santana
CF L R Larry Doby DH R R Albert Belle
DH R R Albert Belle 2B R R Nap Lajoie
 C S R Víctor Martínez LF L R Larry Doby
2B R R Nap Lajoie 3B L R Joe Sewell
LF L L Grady Sizemore 1B L R Jim Thome
SS R R Lou Boudreau SS R R Lou Boudreau
vs RHP vs LHP
Pos B T Name Pos B T Name
RF L R Shoeless Joe Jackson CF L L Kenny Lofton
3B L R Jim Thome RF L R Shoeless Joe Jackson
2B R R Nap Lajoie  C S R Carlos Santana
CF L R Larry Doby LF R R Albert Belle
LF R R Albert Belle 2B R R Nap Lajoie
 C S R Víctor Martínez SS R R Lou Boudreau
SS R R Lou Boudreau 3B L R Joe Sewell
1B L R Hal Trosky 1B L R Jim Thome
 P R R Bob Feller  P R R Bob Feller
Pos B T Name
 C R R Steve O’Neill
1B R R Andre Thornton
2B R R Bobby Avila
3B R R Bill Bradley
3B R R Al Rosen
SS R R Ray Chapman
OF L R Earl Averill
OF L R Elmer Flick
SP R R Wes Ferrell
SP R R Mel Harder
SP R R Corey Kluber
SP L R Charles Nagy
RP R R Rafael Betancourt
RP R R Michael Jackson
RP L L Don Mossi


The two biggest things that stand out to me on this club are the starting pitching, and the amount of left-handed hitting.

The Indians have what I feel is the deepest rotation in the American League. Four Hall of Famers headline it. A fifth, Early Wynn, is listed as the spot starter, and six-time All-Star Sam McDowell is the No. 5 five starter.

In the all-time Red Sox article, I explained that the “city-centric” nature of this series and the one-team-only-rule kept Cy Young from the all-time Boston team. As good as Young was in Boston, leading the AL in wins three straight years from 1901-1903, it was with the Cleveland Spiders that Young established himself as the most dominating pitcher in the game. The driving force behind those 1890s teams mentioned earlier teams was Cy Young. Between 1892 and 1898, he finished in the top five in innings pitched seven times, top five in ERA six times, and no lower than third in strikeout to walk ratio.

The third starter in the rotation will probably be among the controversial one-team only picks that will be featured in this series, Gaylord Perry.

Most associate Perry with the San Francisco Giants, where he spent 10 of his 22 seasons in the majors, and Perry had nearly double the innings pitched and wins with the Giants than in Cleveland. But Cleveland gets the nod over San Francisco because three of Perry’s four best seasons came with the Indians and in a system that puts an extreme value on peak performance, Perry’s three and a half year run of almost total dominance puts him past his 10-year run with San Francisco.

One reason I considered only what players did during their time with a particular franchise is because of guys like Perry. All-time, I feel Perry was a better pitcher than Bob Feller, but in terms of what they did with the Indians, no Cleveland pitcher aside from Cy Young can hold a candle to what Feller did.

On offense, the Indians are pretty well set at each position, including DH, but because the Indians are so loaded with left-handed hitting they would have a far more offensive-minded lineup sent out against righties, a more defense and speed-oriented team taking the field against lefties.

Most people associate Shoeless Joe Jackson with the White Sox, largely due to the 1919 Black Sox scandal, but like Cy Young, Jackson had already established himself as one of the game’s premier stars before he left Cuyahoga County, posting an ungodly OPS+ of 192 between 1911 and 1913, finishing first or second in the category every year. Jackson’s career .375 batting average with Indians remains the highest average in team history, as well as the highest batting team batting average of any position player that will be featured in this series.

A lack of longevity with the club may prevent him from being considered in the same category as outfielders like Ted Williams and Ken Griffey, but his incredible dominance is still enough to make him a serious threat to make the all-star team in this league.

For these reasons I have Jackson listed along with Kenny Lofton as the leadoff hitters for this team. Even with Speaker in he outfield, Lofton’s only a platoon starter for several reasons. Aside from Albert Belle, every Indians outfielder on the 25-man roster, like Lofton, bats from the left-handed side of the plate. While Lofton’s splits from both sides of the plate are fairly equal, the same cannot be said for Grady Sizemore, who has posted a career OPS of .857 against righties and .682 against lefties.

Although few would argue that Sizemore was as good a player as Lofton was with the Indians, this is a situation where match-ups override the rankings. With five outfielders on the team, Sizemore rarely has to see a lefty on the mound and with two-time home run champion and Hall of Famer Larry Doby hitting from his strong side of the plate, and without the bat to justify being ahead of Belle as a DH, Lofton just gets squeezed out of a regular starting job.

Even so, with his combination of speed, defense and contact ability, I would expect Lofton to be one of the most dangerous and versatile bench players in either league.

On the infield, it’s hard to pick out any real weakness. With Joe Sewell and Jim Thome possessing the ability to play both third base and another infield position, the Indians can go without a natural third baseman on the roster, which is what enables them to carry Sizemore as the team’s fifth outfielder.

It also allows for a platoon at both corner infield positions, with Thome being the only constant. Although less than a desirable option at third base, with a former RBI champion and career .313 hitter with the Indians Hal Trosky playing opposite Thome and both hitting from their strong side, I think it’s enough offense to justify any defensive shortcomings.

With a lefty on the mound, the Indians do take a hit in losing Trosky, but the left side infield combination of Sewell and Lou Boudreau is as good defensively as you’ll find in either league.

Behind the plate, neither Víctor Martínez or Carlos Santana present great defensive options. Both players were moved from behind the plate in large part because of the defensive inadequacies. In fact I would expect the Indians to be near the top of the league in stolen bases allowed, but the other reason they were moved is because both players could flat out mash, and that’s what I’m expecting here.

Although both are switch hitters, each has a preferred side of the plate. Even though Martínez has a career OPS of .859 against lefties to just .822 against righties, a major reason for this split was his 2010 season with the Red Sox where he posted OPS splits of 1.173 against lefties and .694 against righties, no doubt helped out by Fenway’s Green Monster. Beyond that one season, Martínez has consistently had as good or better numbers from the right side of the plat. That’s why I have him platooned with Carlos Santana, who sees action against lefties.


It’s a good thing the Indians starting staff is as strong and as deep as it is, because Cleveland’s bullpen leaves much to be desired.

Although José Mesa is listed as the club’s closer, his hold on the role would be tenuous, with Doug Jones and Ray Narleski also making decent arguments to be the club’s closer. A “closer by committee” situation could occur.

As much as the Indians upgrade themselves defensively against lefties, the lineup doesn’t pack the same type of punch that it does against right-handers. A big part of this is Thome, who had one of the most extreme splits in major league history. Even so, Thome presents a better option than Trosky, who posted similar extreme splits, but worse numbers across the board.

I don’t think the Indians being so left-handed heavy with hitting will cost them, but against teams loaded with quality left-handed pitching like the Yankees and White Sox, they could have problems.

Defensively the Indians are pretty solid all around, but catcher is an obvious weakness. Although both Martínez and Santana have the bat to justify them being on the team, neither presents the kind of defensive option you would be hoping for in a league like this. Steve O’Neill was the best defensive catcher in Indians history, but he had a career OPS+ of just 91 with Cleveland. That’s not a pill the Indians could afford to swallow, especially in a division as tough as this one.


With a clear preference for facing righties as opposed to lefties, along with a dominant starting rotation and less than desirable bullpen, the Indians could make for the most inconsistent team in either league.

At worst the Indians would be a low-80s-win team, but also capable of sweeping any team in a three or four-game series. In spite of their vulnerabilities, if there’s any team capable of “pitching away their problems” it’s this one. Bob Feller and Cy Young make for one of the most dominating one-two combos that will be featured, and there isn’t much of a drop off between Feller and the team’s No. 5, Sam McDowell. Both are powerhouse workhorses that should be capable of striking out 10-plus batters against any lineup in either league.

Given all of this, the Indians could just as well be a high-90s-win team that gets swept in the first round, or a team that sneaks into the Wild Card but on the strength of the starting pitching and favorable postseason match-ups (i.e., not facing either the Yankees or White Sox) winds up going all the way.

Overall, the Indians are one of the 10 best teams that will be featured in this series, but with the one-team only rule also one of the more controversial rosters. Aside from the selection of Gaylord Perry to the team, many will may be surprised not to see Manny Ramirez’s name on the roster. He simply didn’t have the numbers to make either Cleveland’s or Boston’s 40-man roster, Still, along with David Ortiz, he rates as one of the best players not to be featured in this series.

Why Ramirez isn’t on either team has far more to do with the depth of options the Indians and Red Sox have at left field than his performance with either franchise. The Red Sox have three Hall of Fame left fielders who spent their entire career with the team, two of whom (Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski) got 90 percent of the Ha;; vote on their first ballot. Likewise, Cleveland has a parade of MVP, all-star and even Hall of Fame-caliber outfielders.

Had Ramirez spent the entire first 16 years of his career with either the Indians or the Red Sox, he would have made the 25-man roster for whichever team he was a part of, but that split takes him out of both teams’ 40-man rosters.

Even though the series will feature more than 1,400 names, it’s amazing that teams like the Red Sox and Indians have the depth to go without the contributions of all-star caliber players and still be among the league’s more dominating teams.

Paul Moehringer is a data analyst, a SABR member and inventor of the Pyramid Rating System; originally from Mount Olive, NJ, now living in Westwood, MA. Follow him on Twitter @PMoehringer.
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5 years ago


From a roster construction standpoint, putting many Ramirez in left field in stead of Grady Sizemore would help balance the lefty hitting component of the roster. Ramirez also has FAR superior numbers with Cleveland than Sizemore.

Ramirez was a 4x All Star with the Indians, (Sizemore a 3x All Star) and Ramirez’ career Cleveland OPS of .998 is far better than Sizemore’s .830. As far as peak, Sizemore had 2 seasons of 133 OPS+ and one season with an OPS+ in excess of .900, while Ramirez exceeded that threshold in had 6 of his 8 seasons with the Indians. Ramirez’ Cleveland tenure includes 6 seasons of 900+ OPS and peaked at 11.05 and 1.154 . Both players played a similar number of games and had a similar number of plate appearances with the Indians, and Ramirez actually appeared in more games for Cleveland. Ramirez played in 967 games and had 4,095 plate appearances while the oft-injured Sizemore played in 892 games with Cleveland and had 4,047 plate appearances.

While no one other than Manny Ramirez’s mother would say her son was the better base runner or fielder, Ramirez’s bWAR with Cleveland of 29.9 exceeds Sizemore’s 27.5 bWAR with the Indians.

5 years ago
Reply to  Carl

I’m thinking Manny was either on the BoSox or the Dodgers. But that still leaves the question of Lofton vs Sizemore, and I think that I would prefer Lofton as an every day LF than Sizemore.

5 years ago
Reply to  Discogerbil

Boston’s list is already out an he is not on it. I can’t see him on the LA squad given he only put the uniform on 223 times for them. Thus, I am thinking Manny did not make the cut. I can’t justify Grady over Manny. Maybe Paul thought Manny would be a club house distraction. 😉

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Discogerbil

If I had to take one player between the two I would go with Lofton. I don’t think you gain a ton by having Sizemore in the lineup over Lofton against righties, but its enough for me to warrant him as the starter over Lofton.

Against lefties though Sizemore is pretty much useless, while Lofton really is basically the same hitter no matter who is on the mound on top of being one of the best defensive center fielders in either league. If Lofton was the full-time starting center fielder he would be a serious gold glove contender.

But you see him listed second on the depth chart for both center and right field and neither Doby or Jackson is going to play 162 games and he will see a lot of action against lefties, so you can probably pencil in Lofton for at least 250 plate appearances.

There’s also nothing stopping me from using Kenny Lofton as a pinch runner, a pinch hitter, or a defensive replacement for Joe Jackson. I have one run lead in the eight inning and Jackson gets on with a single, I’m immediately lifting him for Kenny Lofton and shifting Larry Doby over to right.

He may not be a full-time starter, but make no mistake Lofton is going to be a key player on this team and one of the most dangerous bench options you can have when he’s not in the starting lineup.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Carl

To put it bluntly, if Manny had cared at all about playing defense, or have developed his game to the point where he was even a remotely competent fielder, he would have been good enough to make both Boston and Cleveland.

But that’s what separates guys like him and Reggie Jackson who had HOF careers and numbers and guys like Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente who could do it all.

When it comes to the Indians, I wish I could have used Joe Jackson as a DH. Its hard to gauge how good of a fielder he was, but he was a righty which means he could have played on the infield and my guess is there’s probably a good reason why he wasn’t on the infield. I bring up Jackson because if you throw both him and Manny in the outfield together you now have the worst defensive corner outfield situation in either league.

As great as a hitter as Manny is, a good chunk of that offense gets returned with his defense.

Grady Sizemore may not be Andruw Jones in the field, but he did win a Gold Glove, which at the very least means his glove is dependable and not having him face lefties covers up his biggest weakness as a plyer.

Why this system values a guy like Sizemore so highly is because of what he did at his peak. From ’05-’08 a legitimate argument can be made that he was the best outfielder in baseball over that four year stretch. You mention Sizemore’s 27.5 bWAR, its almost entirely from those four seasons.

Manny’s ’99 season does rank better than any year Sizemore ever put up in Cleveland and in fact it ranks as the best season I have from Manny ever. But the next four best seasons all to go Grady Sizemore and these are the players I think this system does a great job of highlighting and picking out, because its not clear looking at Sizemore’s career numbers just how dominating he was at his peak. I think people forgot that he was the best player on a team that won 96 games and came within one game of reaching the World Series.

The guys that my system and the traditional JAWS are going to disagree on the most are going to be guys like Sizemore. Neither system would put him in HOF territory, but I have him ranked a lot higher than 83 amongst center fielders all-time, because I think his peak dominance is being undervalued and I consider him a dominant player for more than a couple of seasons.

Val Venus
5 years ago
Reply to  Carl

What retards voted on this?

5 years ago

This is one part of the series that I was anticipating the most, and it did not disappoint. The biggest surprises were Ramirez and Perry. I assumed that Manny would be on the team, and it never occurred to me that Perry would be anywhere other than the SF Giants.

After the Red Sox list was release, I knew that Speaker wouldn’t be here, but Young would. I probably would have had them reversed. I think Speaker’s superior hitting with Cleveland outweighed his other success with the Red Sox. Young was a much more interesting case. One is that the Red Sox have incorporated him into the history while the Indians’ haven’t to the same extent. But the larger one is that baseball in the nineteenth century was so different from even the deadball era. Young’s performance in both periods was outstanding, but so many of the best seasons in baseball history were in the 1880s and 1890s, leading me to discount them.

5 years ago

Thome at 3B over Al Rosen? All so that you could put Trosky at 1B? Thome was a horrible defensive 3B, and had 755 games at 1B as an Indian vs 493 games at 3B for his whole career. TZ has Rosen as a much better defender at 3B than Thome, and over his 5 year peak from ’50-’54, he averaged 6.26 fWAR, which is better than Trosky’s best individual season. Over that same span, Rosen was worth 31.3 fWAR, while Trosky’s career was only worth 31.8. You’ll probably make the argument about the war affecting Trosky’s numbers negatively, but again, Trosky’s best seasons came in ’34 and ’39 where he posted 5.4 and 5.3 fWAR. Trosky obviously had a much lower peak than Rosen, but Rosen is designated to a bench role.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Discogerbil

Rosen was an extremely difficult call to make, because you are right in pointing out the defensive shortcomings of Jim Thome at third base and Rosen is the better overall player than Trosky.

Against righties though which is the only time Thome is at third, he’s arguably the best hitter in the American League at that position, which makes it a little easier for me to forgive any defensive shortcomings. Plus with Lajoie and Boudreau on the infield, I can be confident that the Indians defense will at least be average.

Like Sizemore, I can cover up the biggest weakness Trosky has which is a vulnerability against left handed pitching. Rosen is pretty even from both sides of the plate, which in this instance actually works against him.

The other thing working against Rosen is the fact that the Indians have a much bigger need at first base than third. I already have a HOFer in Joe Sewell who’s perfectly capable of being the full time starter on top of Jim Thome as well as Bill Bradley who’s right there with Rosen in the argument for best Indians third baseman of all-time.

If Thome goes down for any reason, the Indians are going to take a major hit offensively because on top of losing Thome’s bat, it means Trosky is going to have to take a much bigger role on the team and the Indians don’t really have a lot of big name first baseman in their team’s history to turn to for a replacement.

Having Trosky on the team over Rosen was/is a gamble, but along with bringing in Sizemore it makes the lineup against righties absolutely frightening. As a right handed pitcher I would say find the easy in that lineup.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago

*easy out

Lawrence Friedman
5 years ago

How you can not include Ken Keltner at 3rd base and Joe Gordon at 2nd base amazes me. I am old enough to have seen them play. They were fabulous fielders and great hitters. Along with Lou Boudreau they were one of the great Indians infields. Those three along with Indians 1st baseman Eddie Robinson started for the American League in the 1948 All Star game and played as a unit for the first 5 innings. This was another American league victory. Also, another comment – Kenny Lofton was the finest center fielder I have seen in an Indians uniform.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago

I’ll have more to say on Gordon later, but Lajoie pretty much settles any debate about who should be the starting second baseman right there and Cupid Childs is one of the better players to come out of the 1890’s and has a very serious HOF case in his own right.

Keltner just gets knocked out by sheer depth. You already have Bradley and Rosen on the 40 on top of Sewell and Thome on the 25. How many third baseman does the team really need?

Lofton is outstanding and aside from Speaker is arguably the next best outfielder in Indians history, but the matchups dictate both Doby and Sizemore over Lofton against righties. That doesn’t necessarily mean that both are better players or that I view both as being better.

Pedro Ramirez
5 years ago

No Manny..??? No Sandy Alomar…??

Mike GS
5 years ago

Very interesting! But, Addie Joss isn’t even the 5th best starter?

Did he merit consideration?

Joe Pancake
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike GS

Yeah, the omission of Addie Joss doesn’t make sense. He was pretty clearly better than Wynn and probably better than McDowell. The only thing Joss didn’t have is a long career, but my biggest philosophical quibble with this series (which I’m definitely enjoying) is that Paul puts too much weight on a player’s absolute peak. (For example, I think Tris Speaker should qualify for the Indians, as being a shade worse on average with the Tribe shouldn’t outweigh a difference of nearly 500 games and over 2,00 PA, in my opinion.)

Although being that Joss didn’t even make the expanded roster, it could be an actual oversight… or maybe Paul doesn’t think Joss was that good. His career WAR vary greatly depending on whether or not you look at FanGraphs of BBRef.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike GS

Aside from Negro League players, there’s three players in history that I find almost impossible to evaluate in terms of their true greatness. One is White Ford. another is Three Finger Brown and the final one is Addie Joss and all three have the same issue. Dominating performances combined with limited use relative to other pitchers from their era, but not limited relative to today.

For a one game situation in terms of pitchers from that era Addie Joss is a good of a pitcher as you will find. His ERA from 1902-1909 comes in at 1.87. By comparison Christy Mathewson over that same period has an ERA of 1.88. The problem is Mathewson also has about 400 more innings pitched than Joss, and that’s where you start seeing the disconnect between his overall ability and how often he was actually used.

Going by ERA Joss in the top ten every year between 1902 and 1909 and more often than not he’s in the top five. When it comes to innings pitched, he’s only top ten twice. Lajoie and company were clearly picking their spots when Joss was sent out to the mound, but picking their spots in the sense that instead of starting 40 games a year he’s only going to start maybe 30 which is still a lot of starts relative to today’s game. Making things even stranger is the fact that he was in the top ten in complete games six times, meaning that when did pitch he acted the same as any other starter of that status who active at the time.

You can’t really equate Addie Joss to any modern day starter, because no starter in today’s game has that kind of disconnect between effectiveness and workload.

The only ones that do are relievers and for that reason if I were to put Addie Joss on this team it would be as a reliever and not as a starter. That in my opinion would go further in capturing the type of pitcher he really was. The Indians could certainly use it. He ranks far ahead of Jose Mesa all-time, but in terms of how effective Joss would be as a modern day reliever asked to pitch one inning every 2-3 days, I can’t tell you or even give you much of an idea because style of pitcher just simply didn’t exist in Joss’ time and wouldn’t for another 50+ years.

5 years ago

I’ve not done a lot of work looking into Joss’s history, but here’s some items of interest taken from SABR’s write up on Joss:

1. Joss seemed to battle health issues throughout his career. He was limited in 1904 for certain and later in his career, not sure about the middle portion.
2. Oct 2, 1907, Joss squared off against Big Ed Walsh. Walsh had a 1.6 ERA in 422 IP that season. Joss, 1.83 ERA in 338 IP. Joss had more wins…but back to the game:

Joss outpitched Walsh that day, throwing a 1-0 perfect game on just 74 pitches.

3. Joss had an interest in engineering and designed an electronic scoreboard that was actually used by Cleveland.

4. After this, he clearly battled various arm issues limiting his use.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  AaronB

Those health issue are no doubt the main issue why he’s not viewed higher.

General rule of thumb for that era is divide the average number of innings pitched by two and that’s about the maximum number of innings they’re good for over a 162 games season in this league. For Joss that comes out to about 140 and if that correlation holds true therein lies the problem.

You think you’re getting a dominating starter who can contend for the Cy Young, but the more likely outcome is a deadball era version of Mark Prior.

I wouldn’t take that comparison too literally, but the overall point is the same. A dominant but injury prone pitcher who can’t be counted on to take the ball every fifth day.

Everything about Joss screams starter who should be converted to a reliever and if his career had started any point after WWII, my guess is that’s what would have happened.

5 years ago

Agreed. Put Joss into today’s game and I think he’d be be a closer, or maybe a classic fireman type. From what I’ve gathered on his arm issues, he probably needed Tommy John, he was just 75 years too early for it!

Mike GS
5 years ago

Great explanation on why you didn’t include Joss, BUT, still, maybe 5+ with an asterisk!

Thanks for your work & insights!

5 years ago

I entirely forgot about Addie Joss, can’t believe I did that. Eight full seasons and one half season. 160/97 W/L record, .968 CAREER WHIP, 142 ERA+…he should probably be on the team, although I think that rotation is fantastic.

One other omission, and maybe you’ve got him slated for another team, but how about the Crab, Jesse Burkett? He’s a HOF OF who made those Spider teams go in the 1890’s, before getting moved by the Robinson brothers to St. Louis.

He’s got a career slash line of .338/.415/.446, OPS+ of 140. He’s got 2850 career hits and over 1700 runs. He checks in with just under 63 career bWAR. Also hit .400 twice.

Anyway, love the series Paul!

5 years ago

It bothers me when postseason wins and records are cited without noting the addition of one (or two) extra postseason rounds that were added fairly recently — Lopez would’ve had to win four World Series to seriously threaten Grover’s win total… but I have no issue with the selection of Grover

5 years ago
Reply to  CDawgg

er, 6

5 years ago

Where does Addie Joss fit in the rankings if he’s not on the 40 man? He’s kinda a forgotten player, but a HoF player.

5 years ago

Love the series! I understand not having Manny in the outfield but what about DH. Manny played more games with the tribe the belle and was the better hitter. Not to mention the Manny was by far the better player for his whole career.

Quinn Fields
5 years ago

This list has some potential for being a very entertaining squad that could really keep the gates pouring in on a consistent basis with guys like “Shoeless Joe”, “Nap”, “The Ladies Love Grady”, Albert “Vandalize This!” Belle, and the Great Larry Doby. But why not capitalize on that tantalizing marketing potential and eliminate some of the duds?

First, Thome has to be one of the more boring personalities in baseball history (naturally they built him a statue). So, 3rd base we go with Michael Martinez. What’s more entertaining than watching a guy try to run out weak ground balls every time he bats, equipped with the flowing locks to captivate the audience’s attention?

Second, we need Jason Grimsley on the roster to keep alive the hope of ceiling panel shenanigans at any time. He can take Corey Kluber’s robotic roster spot.

Third, get Cocoa Crisp on this team. Best name, best hair, postseason heroics. Sorry, Earl Averill.

Fourth, we need Trevor Bauer’s drone. My apologies, Don Hood.

Finally, we need Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn. This one is obvious, and your biggest snub, maybe of the whole series.

This team could lead the league in Ticket Sales, maybe even inspire a Major League 4.

87 Cards
5 years ago
Reply to  Quinn Fields

Major League 4: Back to Waveland

87 Cards
5 years ago

The article hammers home the rich, individual successes of the Tribe players.

Not on this list but on the Yankee Golden Talisman list: Oscar Gamble, Graig Nettles, Dick Tidrow, Chris Chambliss and general-manager Gabe Paul—1970s Indians who had parts in the 1977/78 Yankees’ World Series Championships.

John G.
5 years ago

1. Nicely written regarding Feller and Lajoie.

2. Steve Olin may have left us too early to be considered for a bullpen role in this series, but for Cleveland fans of a certain age, he is remembered through this comment, if only on general principle.

3. Related to the exclusion of Manny from both the Cleveland and Boston rosters, I promised my Tampa-area friends that I wouldn’t suggest that his 1-17 in 2011 might qualify him for a spot on the Rays franchise roster.

5 years ago

I really love this series, but I have a serious problem with your “city-centric” methodology. Or, let’s say the disconnect between your methodology and the titles of the individual articles. The Cleveland Spiders are not the Cleveland Indians. They never were. Their best players were absorbed by the Cardinals and the franchise was liquidated after the 1899 season. The Cleveland AL franchise started out as the Western League’s Grand Rapids team, and moved to northern Ohio in 1900 after the Spiders’ demise. The Fightin’ Arachnids played in a different league, and, honestly, occupied a different niche within that league than the Indians did in theirs: they were the “NL Baltimore Orioles West”, a tough, pissy team that pushed the rules to win any way they could before limits were set on what players could and could not do. The Indians are what they are–often good, often second- or third-best to the alpha team in the AL, but with a profile that has generally been totally different from their NL predecessors. If you want to include the Spiders in your series at all, it would be less of a stretch to put them in the Cardinals’ article: after all, the latter wouldn’t exist at all if the Robisons hadn’t been allowed to own both the Cleveland and St. Louis clubs and sabotage the latter for the benefit of the former. If you want, call the piece “All-Time Cleveland Players 1891-Present”–that is as valid an approach as anything. But don’t imply that these two teams are the same thing, when they clearly aren’t. (This despite your disclaimers in paragraphs 2 & 3.) [While we’re at it: why can’t people just acknowledge in some simple way that the post-1901 Cleveland Blues-Bronchos-Naps-Indians are the same team with different names?!? Paul, I’m not singling you out for criticism: lots of historians do it. Why can’t we agree to say something like: “… All-Time Cleveland AL team (Blues 1901, Bronchos 1902, Naps 1903-1914, Indians 1915-Present)”? The way you do it here makes it sound like there were four different AL teams in Cleveland.] I am writing here as a professional historian of many non-baseball things (European languages, East Central European culture, Russian literature*); imprecision like this would be blown out of the water in two seconds in these fields, and the entire premise of your piece would be called into question, fairly or not. [Again, Paul, this is not for you. But: if we’re going to excoriate baseball writers and execs for not using statistical data correctly, why should we excuse imprecise historical writing?] In the end, this isn’t that big a deal (and I like anything that gives the Cleveland Spiders their due), but again: why not be precise?

Anyway . . . The Manny-Grady Sizemore debate is interesting, and highlights a dilemma we all face when trying to compile an “All-time” team: do we go with the best players, regardless of skill set, or do we try to build more of a real-life roster, where you have to make do with what you can get and have stars and bench players, or a mix of offense-first and defense-first guys? Generally, the Indians are historically an interesting franchise–good but not great–and this article captures that well.

*I have gone so far as to compile an all-Russian literature baseball team, including reserves, front office and broadcasters. Details available upon request . . .

Pedro Cerrano
5 years ago


I get that you’re a stathead, but ‘m curious: Was longevity the major issue that swayed your decision in picking Lofton over Mays Hayes?
I get that Lofton has the OBP on him, but I mean, he hits like Mays and runs like Hayes. That has to count for something right?

Roger Dorn
5 years ago

Hargrove was a great manager, that can’t be denied. But picking him over Lou Brown?

Bush League, Paul. Bush league.

Harry Doyle
5 years ago


Am I right in assuming Jake Taylor didn’t make this list because he will be included for his All-star years in Boston?

5 years ago

I am curious why you consider Feller not just the best pitcher on a squad with Cy Young, but also head and shoulders above him and everyone else. Relative to their eras, and over Young’s career with the Indians, it seems to me an argument can be made for Cy as the better starter-certainly if you look at WAR as one factor. Cy had 5 seasons between 10.1-14.1 while Feller never reached 10.

In ERA+, Feller never led the league while Cy did once, and their overall numbers are similar, sometimes Bob is better, sometimes Cy. In FIP, Young led the league four times, Feller once, and again, they alternated having better ones. The same goes when you neutralize their ERA.

I only considered Young’s tenure with Cleveland and Feller’s peak years, and only their full seasons.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Bobr

The thing you have to keep in mind with stats like WAR is that you always need to keep things in perspective relative to the rest of the league at the time.

Aside from Young’s dominance the primary reason he has so many 10+ WAR seasons is because he’s pitching 300-400+ innings a year.

By my count there’s 16 seasons in history where a pitcher put up a WAR of at least 10 and didn’t pitch at least 300 innings. The lowest total is 217 innings by Pedro Martinez in 2000 and that season is considered by many including myself to be the greatest season put up by a pitcher in baseball history.

Its very easy to fall into the trap of overvaluing deadball era and turn of the century era pitchers. Some of the biggest statistical outliers with innings pitched and ERA come from this era. There’s a lot fewer active pitchers which means the dominating ones are going to be featured far more frequently on top ten lists, which is why that era is so disproportionately represented on career measures like black ink.

Guys like Mathewson and Cy Young are still going to rate as some of the most dominating pitchers that will be featured. What I don’t want and what you won’t see is a team like the Chicago Cubs pulling half of their rotation from their 1906 squad. But if you did no era adjustment and just went straight by what the numbers said without putting them in any kind of historical perspective, you could justify that.

5 years ago

Good point about WAR, but as I noted, there are other measures that suggest he was at least as good as Feller once adjustments were made for eras. I don’t necessarily disagree with you but think you may have overstated the gulf between Feller and Young. By ERA+, FIP and by neutralizing their numbers so each is measured against the same offensive numbers they worked against, they seem very close with Young perhaps having an edge in some ways.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  Bobr

The way I’m scoring this with Young and Feller is that Young is a top ten pitcher in the AL.

The closest comparison I can draw to him for a pitcher as good that’s been featured in this series is Dazzy Vance, who is the best pitcher in the National League for the second half of the 1920’s. He is an All-Star caliber pitcher.

With Feller you can count the number of better starters in the AL one hand and have fingers left over. This is a legitimate Cy Young award threat. He has more longevity with Cleveland and I have his ’39, ’40, and ’46 seasons rated better than any of Young’s seasons with Cleveland or otherwise. Ironically the difference is that Feller is more of a workhorse. He leads the league in innings all theee seasons, something Young never did with Cleveland.

That difference I feel would be noticeable. The knocks I have on Feller’s all-time status (longevity) really don’t apply here, because most of the pitchers better than him didn’t spent their entire career with one team. Two of them Cy Young and Gaylord Perry are teammates of his.

I would also say keep in mind this is Bob Feller compared to Cy Young essentially with one arm tied behind his back. Young was still going strong years after Feller retired by age comparison.

Val Venus
5 years ago

What retard wrote this piece of fiction?

Val Venus
5 years ago

Putting guys like Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana on this list,while omitting Hall of Fame careers like Bob Lemon and Omar Vazquez,should tell you this moron should be working at the Browns analytics department…. what a joke…

Snider Fan
5 years ago

I’m not sure I agree with the omission of Speaker, who also managed the club to its first championship in 1920. Your city-centric rule seems overly flexible in that players who only spent a few years with the team get credit for them being really GOOD years, while a player who had a great decade with the team is omitted.

Val Venus
5 years ago
Reply to  Snider Fan

Agreed…. This guy is Retarded…

Val Venus
5 years ago
Reply to  Val Venus

Omit the writer of this article..

Bob Stalnaker
5 years ago

Too many fans want somebody added but are unwilling to name who they would delete from the team.

Val Venus
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Stalnaker

Delete Sizemore and Santana, Add Lemon and Virtual, Dummy…..

5 years ago

I don’t know much about Ray Narelski, but I’m thinking Cody Allen would replace him nicely. Cody Allen would strengthen the bullpen nicely.

Paul Moehringer
5 years ago
Reply to  jason

Allen got fairly close to making the 40-man team and probably will make at least that if not the 25-man roster if he’s able to duplicate his performances from the past two seasons and remain healthy.

But there is a reason I have Ray Narleksi listed as the third best man out of the bullpen. One of the reasons the Indians had such dominating pitching in the mid-late 50’s is because from 1954-1956 they had arguably the best bullpen in the American League.

The best relief pitcher from those teams is Ray Narleski. The guy was a two-time all-star and regularly amongst the league leaders in appearances and saves.

His numbers don’t look that great in comparison to Cody Allen, but you’re also viewing Narleski in a modern context. Its not fair to compare the two head to head because there’s no pitcher like Cody Allen in 1955 and there’s no pitcher like Ray Narleski in 2017.

Comparing the two head to head to me wouldn’t be much different than trying to equate Johnny Unitas’ passing numbers to QB’s from today. Unitas had several seasons where he had more INT’s than he had TD’s. You do that today and you’ll probably be out of a starting job if not out of the league very quickly. It doesn’t mean that Unitas is overrated or that every QB from Unitas’ era is garbage compared to the QB’s we have today. It just means he played in a different era and the benchmarks for what could be considered successful or dominating are different from today.

All this is saying is that relative to the era’s they played in, Ray Narleski was a more dominating reliever than Cody Allen. But if you don’t know anything about Narleski or what the expectation out of relief pitchers was in the mid-late 50’s, that becomes a very difficult argument to make.

I would also caution against the “I’ve never heard of this guy, so how good can he possibly be” line of thinking. Odds that player you haven’t heard of probably isn’t a Hall of Famer, but your not even giving the guy a chance to prove otherwise, or prove anything at all for that matter.

5 years ago

Wow. I didn’t expect such a condescending reply. regardless…

Narleski has a career ERA- of 94 and FIP- of 108. Allen 65 and 75 respectively. That should account for the eras.

Narelski as a more dominant reliver for his era than Allen?? None of those seasons are even close to validating the statement you’ve made. You could maybe say his ERA of 1.52 in 1956 made him a “more dominant” reliever for one year but certainly not overall in any context, and his ERA- that year of 37 would be better than Allen’s best of 53. But that’s the only year in which his numbers are any better than Allen’s whereas he has several worse.

Also his career was 6 years? Not much in terms of longevity, with really only 4 good seasons? Allen already has more good seasons in his career than Narleski.

ANd you’ve got him coming out of the bullpen as a potential closer? He was clearly some sort of hybrid reliever/starter. Which, in this exercise, is exactly what the indians bullpen wouldn’t need. Given their SP strength.

I get it, you can say he’s like your great uncle or something. But outside of being related, i really don’t see any situation, even accounting for eras in proper context, where Cody Allen isn’t ahead of Narleski. Maybe there is some epic video or memory you have of this guy, and that’s fine. But he seems like a slightly above average RP who had a very short career and wanted to be a SP.

John G.
5 years ago
Reply to  jw

Wow, jw/jason, the author’s reply was entirely reasonable, and absolutely NOT condescending.

Regardless, the ERA- and FIP- that you cited include Narleski’s awful final MLB season, which was with Detroit and does not apply to this Cleveland-based exercise. Those two metrics don’t account for differences in bullpen *usage* between the eras, anyway. Narleski’s bWAR with Cleveland was 12.4 (fWAR is less favorable to him), compared to Allen’s bWAR of 7.0 (so far).