While the 2018 Cleveland Indians didn’t have quite the regular season that they did in 2017 when they had the greatest overall pitching staff in baseball history (according to fWAR), they still had some pretty impressive individual performances in addition to the accomplishments of the team as a whole, including winning their tenth Central Division championship. The following are some of the individual and team single season and career marks set during the 2018 season.
Bringing Back the Steal
The Indians have been pretty conservative on the bases ever since the combination of Kenny Lofton, Roberto Alomar and Omar Vizquel lead the Indians to 147 steals in 1999, but things have been slowly changing thanks to both the maturing of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor as well as the addition of Rajai Davis. This year, the 135 steals were the most for the Indians since 1999, one more than Davis helped them reach in 2016.
As far as actual milestones, no one had the prodigious numbers of Lofton back in the day, but Ramirez did have the 9th most efficient base stealing season for an Indian, reaching safely in 85% of his 40 attempts. Those 40 attempts were the second most in a season (after Davis in 2016) since Grady Sizemore in 2008.
Efficiency really is the most impressive part of the current Indians base stealing efforts. Among those with at least 50 career attempts, the list that follows shows the top 10 most successful base stealers in Indians history:
This list features the Indians greatest career base stealer (Lofton), two of the best short term stealers (Alomar and Dilone) and a few more conservative base runners who lasted a long time (Carter and Harrah). It also features five members of the 2018 Indians, blending a mix of old and new. While the bulk of steals came from the younger players, Brantley and Kipnis didn’t hurt their career marks, stealing successfully in 19 of 23 attempts.
Lindor & The Rest of the Offense
While the Indians incredibly scored the exact same amount of runs (818) as last year for the second time in the last five years (669 in 2014 and 2015), that’s more peculiar than impressive. What is impressive is that with all that speed, the Indians still hit the fourth most home runs in franchise history with 216 (four more than in 2017). They did this without a 40 home run hitter, something that two of the three teams ahead of them had. Only in 2000 (team record 221) did the Indians hit more home runs without one player hitting the lion’s share. Instead, it was a three way split between Lindor (38), Ramirez (39) and Edwin Encarnacion (32) that lead the way.
Speaking of Lindor, you would think that leading off with 42 doubles, 38 home runs and 25 steals that he might have scored a few times and you would have been right. His 129 runs scored were tenth most in Indians history. He also broke into the top ten with 661 at bats, third most in Indians history and most since Lofton in 1996 (662).
While I hate arbitrary elimination stats, I’ll give one here. Only five players in Indians history have hit both 35 home runs and 35 doubles: Albert Belle (1993-96), Hal Trosky (1934 & 36), Manny Ramirez (1998) and the 2018 duo of Lindor and Ramirez. Of those, the highest steal total was 23 by Belle in 1993, so if we like, we can make a new club. The 35-35-25 club now officially has two members, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Meetings will take place around short stop during pitching changes.
One Last Hurrah for the Bullpen
While the bullpen was a disaster this year and thus had no single season marks, this season could be the last one for Cody Allen in Cleveland and he was able to hit all the necessary milestones to be cemented as the top closer in Indians history.
Allen now ranks first in franchise saves with 139, ten more than previous leader Bob Wickman. He not only has now had more opportunities to save games (172, nine more than Doug Jones) than any other Indians reliever, but has been used in relief more times than any other pitcher (386 times, surpassing Bryan Shaw‘s 378). In addition, that same number makes him the 7th most used pitcher of any kind in Indians history. The next closest active pitchers are Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber who each recently passed 200 games.
For those who hate Cody Allen and wrongly think he was untrustworthy, I have to wonder of which other Indians closers you are comparing him. Allen ranks fourth in career save conversion percent (87%) with Mike Jackson (94 of 105) the only Indians closer with at least 25 chances to reach the 90% mark. In addition, when you add in holds (which is only fair because a blown hold is considered a blown save), he has converted 88.7%, which ranks 7th in Indians history. His teammate, Andrew Miller (91%), moved into second place in this stat this season, behind Tony Sipp. Marc Rzcepcynski pitched briefly with the Indians, but moved up to 10th place on this list (88%) with two more holds. Allen also currently ranks 5th in Indians history for least amount of hits allowed per nine innings (7.2). A list his teammate Mike Clevinger has joined this year, coming in 9th at 7.4 per nine.
Speaking of Miller, he will likely leave the team with the 7th most holds in franchise history despite playing just three years in Cleveland. He has accrued 46 and here also sits behind Tony Sipp (60). The record is 110 held by Bryan Shaw thanks to both his longevity with the team and extreme level of use.
The Real Stars, The Starting Rotation
As mentioned in the opening, the 2017 pitching staff (both starters and relievers) set a new MLB record for fWAR and the 2018 staff is now second in Indians history behind that one, despite the poor performance of the bullpen. Everyone knows that the Indians are the first team ever with four starting pitchers with 200 strike outs each and, had Shane Bieber pitched a full slate of innings, they could have had five. Even so, when the relievers are removed, the 2018 staff ranks 18th in all of baseball history and second only to the 2017 staff among rotations with fewer than 1,000 innings pitched.
Starting with the top of the rotation, as if the two Cy Youngs weren’t enough, Corey Kluber has continued to push his way into the list of greatest Indians pitchers ever. He now ranks 7th in Indians history in WAR. Ahead of him are two Hall of Famers (Bob Feller and Stan Coveleski), a six time All-Star (Sam McDowell), a man who pitched 20 years for Cleveland (Mel Harder) as well as Mike Garcia and Willis Hudlin. Each of these pitchers threw more than 2,100 innings while Kluber currently sits just under 1,300.
He also has climbed to third in Indians history in career strike outs behind Feller and McDowell. Due to the longevity of their careers (and the increased innings thrown each season), it will be very difficult for Kluber (1,423) to surpass them, but if he continues to strike out 200 per year for the next three years (when his contract ends), he will be very close to McDowell. Carlos Carrasco has also made moves in the strike out rankings and now sits at 9th (1,127).
In addition to being among the leaders in strike outs, Kluber is now second in career WHIP behind only Addie Joss, who holds the MLB record. Kluber’s 1.07 mark is greater than all the pitchers who had the advantage of a dead ball in the 1910’s and the higher mound that lasted until the late 1960’s. His ability to avoid bats and base runners makes him an extremely unique pitcher in Indians history with only total innings keeping him from being mentioned as the greatest ever.
With all that said, Kluber wasn’t even the Indians best pitcher this year. Trevor Bauer allowed just 43 earned runs, the 5th fewest in a qualified season for an Indians pitcher. While his 175.1 innings keep him from being really considered with the greats (Addie Joss allowed 42 ER in 325 IP in 1908), this was the fewest earned runs allowed by a qualified Indians pitcher since Addie Joss in 1908. That includes 368 qualified seasons including 126 that had between 162 and 200 innings.
Now you may be thinking, “if he struck out more than 200 in only 175.1 innings, he probably had a pretty good K/9” and you would be right. His 11.4 K/9 was second ever among qualified pitchers behind some guy named Kluber way back in 2017 (11.7). Not to be left too far behind, Carrasco’s season now ranks third all time at 10.8. The modern rotation now can claim 12 of the top 19 seasons in K/9.
Now that could make you think that their career numbers look pretty good. The list below ranks the top ten in career K/9 with at least 300 IP:
This features the older mainstays of Allen, Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer and adds to that Mike Clevinger at number five. Just like the steal list, this list shows promise as it not only includes the veterans, but some up and coming players as well. While strike outs are up all around the league, all these players are still well above average and can be compared to some of the greatest pitchers in Indians history.