Last season, we took at look at the best Indians performers by round and, while that deserves another check after impressive performances by players like Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Roberto Perez in 2016, we’ll take a more all encompassing look this season. This top ten includes every post-season game ever played by a player, so it favors the recent seasons more than those before the expansion era in the 1960’s, but that doesn’t mean they are excluded. With another extended run expected this year, this one will probably need major updates in a month or so.
10. Omar Vizquel – 1995-99, 2001
It may be surprising to see Omar so low on this list, but literally no player has had more chances in the play-offs than Vizquel as he holds the team records for seasons, series, games and at bats. Despite this, he hit just .250/.327/.316 compared to .286/.357/.378 during the same time span with the Indians in the regular season.
He still deserves inclusion for holding the team records for hits and steals, although Lofton tied his record for steals in 2007 and stole at a higher rate. Rajai Davis also stole bases more often in 2016 despite reaching base much less often. He was a greater performer than some of the long term players like Sandy Alomar, David Justice, Travis Fryman and Brian Giles, but was outperformed by many who played a significantly fewer amount of games.
9. Matt Williams – 1997
Williams earned himself a giant headed mascot in Arizona after his 2001 post-season performance, but long before that he had one of the best play-off seasons in Indians history in 1997. He slugged .471 in the ALDS against the Yankees, possible leading to his seven walks in the World Series. Overall, he hit three doubles and two home runs, knocking in 8 and scoring 13 through all three series. His 13 walks were also the most ever by an Indians player who only had one trip to the post-season.
8. Victor Martinez – 2007
For a player who didn’t walk much during his career, Martinez found his patience in the 2007 post-season, walking four times. Of course, his presence on this list has more to do with his crushing of the Yankees in the ALDS when he hit a home run and a double, knocking in four. He repeated the feat against Boston, although in a greater number of at bats, scoring four while hitting another home run and double.
7. Juan Gonzalez – 2001
In addition to being deserving of the MVP for the 2001 regular season, Gonzalez put up solid numbers in the ALDS even though it was a one and done for the Tribe against Seattle. In just five games, he hit two home runs and three doubles, slugging .739 and knocking in five.
6. Francisco Lindor – 2016
The only player on this list who can increase his career postseason production this year (although Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis have a good start and could easily jump onto the list with another good series), Lindor doubled in all three series last year and hit home runs in two, batting .310/.355/.466 for the entire post-season. Like Vizquel, Lindor also provided stellar defense, something that didn’t come into consideration when making this list, but deserves note.
5. Jhonny Peralta – 2007
Peralta only had one chance at October with the Indians before playing multiple times in the post-season with Detroit and St. Louis, but he made the most of it. In each of the two series he had seven hits and he smashed five doubles and two home runs (both in the ALCS against Boston). His .595 slugging percent has been the best in Indians history among players with at least 25 play-off at bats and his 10 RBI rank 8th. That being said, knocking in 10 in 11 games is by far the most run production
4. Manny Ramirez – 1995-99
Ramirez played significantly worse than his career averages during the post-season with the Indians, but still accumulated some serious stats over his five trips to the play-offs. Of course, this would completely change once he went to Boston and later Los Angeles, but he ended up playing more games (52) and hitting more home runs (13) than he would with either of his future franchises.
Ramirez also holds the team record for post-season walks (28) and had one of the top slugging percents (.473) while coming in second in doubles to Sandy Alomar.
3. Vic Wertz – 1954
It’s hard to compare players who have 50+ games in the postseason to those who played just a single series, especially when that series was a four game sweep, but Wertz needs inclusion somewhere near the top. Wertz played just those four games against the Giants, but put up numbers that blow away nearly every hitter since. He went 8 for 16, slugging .938 with two doubles, a triple and a home run.
Of course, Wertz is most famous for a hit he didn’t get as his long fly ball to center that was caught by Willie Mays is now the one play in baseball history known as “the catch.” The play kept Larry Doby from scoring from second and the Indians from taking a 1-0 lead in the series. The Indians would score 9 runs in the series and Wertz would be responsible for four of those.
2. Jim Thome – 1995-99, 2001
In addition to holding the Indians career record for home runs and strike outs, Thome’s six seasons in the play-offs allowed him to obtain those for October as well. Not just this, but his 17 home runs are 11 more than the next non-Manny Ramirez hitter. He also incredibly increased his rate from the regular season, hitting one out every 11 at bats instead of every 14 with the highest slugging percent among Indians with at least 20 post season games and second highest among those with at least 12 (behind Albert Belle).
1. Kenny Lofton – 1995-96, 1998-99, 2001 & 2007
Few players have had more exciting moments in the postseason than Lofton, including scoring from second on a wild pitch, and no one has played more seasons (6) for the Indians in the play-offs. While he was just a shell of his former self in his return in 2007, but he still added a couple steals and a home run, tying Vizquel for most steals in Indians postseason history and moving him into 5th in total home runs.
In addition to the career numbers (including the team record for runs scored of 34), Lofton had some of the greatest individual performances as well with his 1.142 OPS in the 1995 ALCS against Seattle, 1.224 OPS in the 1998 ALDS against Boston and .882 OPS in the 2007 ALDS against New York.