Indians by the Numbers — #37



European Roulette*

Step right up and place your bets, the wheel is turning. After spinning the thirty-three men to have worn the unifrom, the ball dropped into the slot of Jacob Cauthen Westbrook.

Born in Athens, Georgia, Jake was a star pitcher at Madison County High School, tossing 5 no-hitters and one perfect game. He had signed a letter of intent to follow his father’s steps at the University of Georgia, but because his senior season was so dominant (9-1, 1.11 ERA, 110 K in 63 IP), he was the 21st overall pick by the Rockies in 1996.

After signing his contract, he made 11 starts (2.87 ERA) for the Mesa Rockies (Arizona League-Rookie) before a late season appearance for the Portland (OR) Rockies (Northwest League-A-). As he was a top draft pick and pitched well in his debut, Baseball America had him rated as the #75 prospect heading into 1997. He moved up to the Asheville (NC) Tourists (South Atlantic League-A). His numbers ballooned to a 4.29 ERA in 27 starts, tarnishing his luster just a bit.

After the 1997 season, he was packaged with John Nicholson and Mark Hamlin when the Expos dealt for Mike Lansing. The Expos moved him up to the Jupiter (FL) Hammerheads (Florida League-A+). Although his peripherals did not change much in Jupiter, his ERA dropped to 3.26 and he finished 11-6 in 27 starts. Montreal would bump him up the ladder one more time in 1999, heading to Harrisburg (PA) Senators (Eastern League-AA). Again his peripherals remained steady and he finished at 11-5 in 27 starts, with a 3.92 ERA.

Shortly before the millennium, the Yankees had tired of the Hideki Irabu experiment and were looking for takers. Montreal stepped up and offered Westbrook with two players yet to be named, Ted Lilly and Christian Parker. Jake would get his first taste of Ohio, starting 2000 as a Clipper in Columbus (International-AAA). He made 15 starts, with a pedestrian 4.65 ERA. But, New York needed a starter when Clemens missed a couple of June starts. Jake had an inauspicious debut, only lasting 1.2 innings, giving up 7 earned runs to the White Sox. His second start was better but not good, 4 earned runs in 2.2 innings against the Red Sox.

The Yankees were desperate for a bat that summer, using Shane Spencer, Jim Leyritz and Chuck Knoblauch as their main DHs. The Indians were a distant 8 games back in late June 2000 and had decided to trade Justice. The Yankees offered Ricky Ledee, Zach Day and Westbrook for him. Unfortunately, Jake had cracked a rib in one of those starts for the Yankees and his 2000 season was done.

Receiving an invite to spring training, Jake pitched well enough to make the team as a reliever. He would only get into one game before heading to the Buffalo Bisons (International-AAA). He was recalled May 30 an stuck around through July, heading back to Buffalo for a few starts before getting his last call back on August 25. He was very good in his 12 Buffalo starts, 8-1, 3.20 ERA. But in Cleveland he was mainly a reliever, only starting 6 games in 23 appearances. His 5.85 ERA would only be good enough for a 77 ERA+. In 2002, he only made 4 starts in the minors (3 in Akron, 1 in Buffalo) and only 11 appearances for the Indians while battling injuries.

Westbrook would make 9 starts in early 2003, before landing in the bullpen with 5.32 ERA. After spending all of june in the pen, he would be sent back down to Buffalo for 2 quick starts near the All-Star break. Upon his return on July 12, he would finish the rest of season in the rotation. He finished the season with a 4.33 ERA (102 ERA+). From 2004 through 2007, Westbrook would make 121 starts, becoming a mainstay in the rotation. His best season was 2004. He went 14-9 in 30 starts leading the AL in complete games with 5. His 3.38 ERA would be good enough for a 129 ERA+. He also got a nod as an All-Star in 2004.

Prior to 2007, Westbrook signed a 3year, $33M extension. After a consistent 2007 season (105 ERA+), Jake was off to a great start in 2008. He made 4 starts in April, accumulating a 2.73 ER in 29.2 innings. But he ended up on the DL shortly thereafter. After 2 quick rehab starts at Lake County and Akron, Jake returned on May 28 in his 200th MLB game, he faced the White Sox, needing 92 pitches to get through 5 innings. He felt soreness the day after his start, was checked out and scheduled for Tommy John surgery. After missing all of 2009, he made 21 starts in 2010 before being traded to the Cardinals in a 3-team deal at the July deadline. The Cardinals sent former Indian Ryan Ludwick to San Diego, the Padres sent Nick Greenwood to the Cardinals and Corey Kluber to the Indians.

Westbrook concluded his Cleveland career with a 69-69 record in 179 starts (218 appearances) and 13 complete games. His 4.29 ERA in 1191.1 innings was good enough for a 101 ERA+. He was able to accumulate a 10.6 WAR over those 9 seasons.

*The European Roulette wheel does not use the 00, so it has 37 slots, 0-36. Interesting mathematical note: all triple repdigits (111, 222 … 999) when the digits are summed together (1+1+1=3, 2+2+2=6 … 9+9+9=27) and then multiplied by 37 equals the original number (3*37=111, 6*37=222 … 27*37=999).

A Brief History

Our winner of best #14, Larry Doby for some odd reason, switched to the #37 jersey in 1949 after 2 seasons. It wasn’t because some veteran asked for it either as nobody wore #14 in 1949. But, his sole season in #37 was still very productive. He made the All-Star team while hitting 280/389/468 128 OPS+ in 650 PA. This was good enough for a 3.6 WAR He switched back to #14 and led the league in OPS+, 156.

The career leader in PA while wearing #37 is Jim Piersall. After being from the Red Sox for Vic Wertz and Gary Geiger, Piersall would man center field from 1959-1961, hitting 288/335/413 104 OPS+ in 1413 PA. In 1960, Piersall would hit 282/313/434 103 OPS+ with 18 HR in 523 PA, earning him a few votes in the MVP race, finishing 28th. But in 1961, he was even better, 322/378/442 122 OPS+ in 536 PA, finishing 13th in MVP voting and garnering a Gold Glove. This promptly earned him a ticket to the nation’s capital for Dick Donovan, Gene Green and Jim Mahoney. For once, the Tribe brass made the right call, he slumped to a 70 OPS+ in 1962 and was never a full time player after that.

Originally a 3rd round pick from Washington High in Fremont, CA, Dennis Eckersley would zoom through the Cleveland farm system. After signing as a 17 year old, Eck would report to the Reno Silver Sox (California-A). After a year an d a half there, he would debut with the San Antonio Brewers (Texas-AA) as a 19 year old. After going 14-3 in 23 starts with a 3.40 ERA he would get an invite to spring training in 1975. He either pitched well enough that spring, or the Tribe pitchers that year were terrible. In any case he made the team as 20 year old and pitched out of the bullpen for the first month without allowing an earned run in 14.1 innings.

In need of a starter for the first game of a doubleheader on May 25, Eckersley would get his first chance as a starter and threw a 3 hit shutout against Oakland. He stayed in the rotation the rest of the year, finishing at 13-7 with 6 complete games in 24 starts and a 2.60 ERA (144 ERA+) in 186.2 IP. Oddly enough he did not receive any Rookie of the Year or Cy Young votes. He would return back to the mean a bit in 1976 and 1977, 101 and 112 ERA+, but he did throw a no hitter in May 1977 and also made the All-Star team. After the 1977 season, Eckersley was dealt with Fred Kendall to the Red Sox for Rick Wise, Bo Diaz, Ted Cox and Mike Paxton. The scuttlebutt on the reason for the trade was that Eckersley’s wife had left him for Rick Manning. Eckersley did accumulate 12.6 WAR in his three seasons with the Tribe.

In 1978, Dan Spillner would inherit #37 and wear it for the next 6+ seasons. Spillner had one great season, 1982, where he somehow got 22 decisions in 65 appearances, all in relief. He finished 12-10 and 21 Saves with a 2.49 ERA (166 ERA+) in 133.2 IP. But he had two mediocre seasons, 1978-1979 (103 and 93 ERA+), and the rest were less than mediocre (85 ERA+ or worse). Midway in 1984, he was shipped off to the White Sox for the infamous PTBNL, who ended up being Jim Siwy.

Another notable guy to wear #37 was Chad Ogea from 1994-1998. Ogea was originally a 3rd round pick out of LSU in 1991. After a cup of coffee in 1994, Ogea would have his best year in 1995. He was 8-3 in 20 games, 14 starts and a 3.05 ERA (154 ERA+) in 106.1 IP. As a back end rotation guy in 1996 and 1997, Ogea would be close to average, 102 and 94 ERA+. But by the end of 1998, his luster was off (85 ERA+) and he was shipped to the Phillies for Jerry Spradlin. Ogea did make 5 career starts and two mop-up appearance of 5.1 innings each for the Tribe in the postseason.

The One Year Wonders

Steve Biras, Ed Klieman, Larry Doby, Dick Weik, Rocky Nelson, Billy Harrell, Johnny Gray, Bob Kelly, Jim Constable, Bob Heffner, Gary Kroll, Dennis Riddleberger, Mark Huismann, Chris Codiroli, Steve Davis, Jose Gonzalez, Beau Allred, Dave Mlicki, Denis Boucher, Paul Wagner, Bobby Witt, Jaime Navarro, Earl Snyder and Chad Durbin all wore uniform #37 for only one season.

The All-Time List

Bruce Connatser 1B, PH (1931-1932) 257/302/330, 60 OPS+, 116 PA; traded with Jack Russell to Senators for Harley Boss

Steve Biras 2B, PH (1944) 1000/1000/1000, 482 OPS+, 2 PA

Ed Klieman RP (1946) 0-0, 9 G, 0 GS, 6.60 ERA, 15 IP, 51 ERA+; also #33 in 1946; was #39 in 1945; switched to #16 in 1947

Larry Doby CF, RF (1949) 280/389/468, 128 OPS+, 650 PA; All-Star in 1949; was #14 in 1948; switched back to #14 in 1950

Dick Weik PR (1953) 000/000/000, 0 OPS+, 0 PA; was #28, #31 and #48 in 1950; traded with Steve Gromek, Ray Boone and Al Aber to Tigers for Art Houtteman, Bill Wight, Joe Ginsberg and Owen Friend

Rocky Nelson PH, 1B (1954) 000/000/000, -100 OPS+, 4 PA; traded by Dodgers for Bill Abernathie; sold to Dodgers

Billy Harrell SS, 3B (1957) 263/311/368, 86 OPS+, 62 PA; also #6 in 1957; was #57 in 1955; switched to #38 in 1958

Johnny Gray RP, SP (1957) 1-3, 7 G, 3 GS, 5.85 ERA, 20 IP, 65 ERA+; also #6 in 1957; purchased from Athletics; Rule 5 draftee by Phillies

Bob Kelly RP (1958) 0-2, 13 G, 3 GS, 5.20 ERA, 27.2 IP, 72 ERA+; traded by Redlegs for Fred Hatfield

Jim Constable RP, SP (1958) 0-1, 6 G, 2 GS, 11.57 ERA, 9.1 IP, 33 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Giants; lost on waivers to Senators

Jim Piersall CF, PH (1959-1961) 288/335/413, 104 OPS+, 1413 PA; Gold Glove in 1961; 28th in 1960 and 13th in 1961 in MVP voting; traded by Red Sox for Vic Wertz and Gary Geiger; traded to Senators for Dick Donovan, Gene Green and Jim Mahoney

Tommy John SP, RP (1963-1964) 2-11, 31 G, 17 GS, 3.61 ERA, 114.2 IP, 100 ERA+; traded as part of 3 team deal, traded with Tommie Agee and John Romano to White Sox, the White Sox sent Cam Carreon to Indians and the Athletics sent Rocky Colavito to Indians

Bob Heffner RP (1966) 0-1, 5 G, 1 GS, 3.46 ERA, 13 IP, 103 ERA+; rule 5 draftee from Red Sox; sold to Mets

Steve Bailey RP (1967-1968) 2-6, 34 G, 2 GS, 3.88 ERA, 69.2 IP, 86 ERA+

Gary Kroll RP (1969) 0-0, 19 G, 0 GS, 4.13 ERA, 24 IP, 92 ERA+; purchased from Astros

Dennis Riddleberger RP (1972) 1-3, 38 G, 0 GS, 2.50 ERA, 54 IP, 131 ERA+; traded with Del Unser, Terry Ley and Gary Jones by Rangers for Roy Foster, Rich Hand, Mike Paul and Ken Suarez

Dennis Eckersley SP (1975-1977) 40-32, 103 G, 87 GS, 3.23 ERA, 633.1 IP, 116 ERA+; All-Star in 1977; traded with Fred Kendall to Red Sox for Rick Wise, Bo Diaz, Ted Cox and Mike Paxton

Dan Spillner RP, SP (1978-1984) 46-45, 290 G, 56 GS, 4.29 ERA, 782.2 IP, 96 ERA+; traded by Padres for Dennis Kinney; traded to White Sox for Jim Siwy (PTBNL)

Don Schulze SP, RP (1984-1986) 11-20, 57 G, 45 GS, 5.30 ERA, 264.2 IP, 78 ERA+; traded with Joe Carter, Mel Hall and Darryl Banks by Cubs for Rick Sutcliffe, Ron Hassey and George Frazier; traded to Mets for Ricky Nelson

Mark Huismann RP (1987) 2-3, 20 G, 0 GS, 5.09 ERA, 35.1 IP, 90 ERA+; traded by Mariners for Dave Gallagher

Chris Codiroli RP (1988) 0-4, 14 G, 2 GS, 9.31 ERA, 19.1 IP, 45 ERA+

Steve Davis RP (1989) 1-1, 12 G, 2 GS, 8.06 ERA, 25.2 IP, 50 ERA+; traded to Dodgers for Joe Kesselmark and Manny Francois

Beau Allred RF, LF, PH (1991) 232/359/328, 92 OPS+, 156 PA; was #55 in 1990

Jose Gonzalez RF, CF, LF (1991) 159/284/261, 52 OPS+, 81 PA; claimed off waivers from Pirates

Denis Boucher SP (1992) 2-2, 8 G, 7 GS, 6.37 ERA, 41 IP, 63 ERA+; also #49 in 1992; was #49 and #23 in 1991; drafted by Rockies in expansion draft

Dave Mlicki SP (1992) 0-2, 4 G, 4 GS, 4.98 ERA, 21.2 IP, 81 ERA+; also #36 in 1992; switched to #23 in 1993

Chad Ogea SP, RP (1994-1998) 31-23, 93 G, 66 GS, 4.61 ERA, 464.2 IP, 103 ERA+; traded to Phillies for Jerry Spradlin

Paul Wagner RP (1999) 1-0, 3 G, 0 GS, 4.15 ERA, 4.1 IP, 129 ERA+

Bobby Witt RP, SP (2000) 0-1, 7 G, 2 GS, 7.63 ERA, 15.1 IP, 77 ERA+

Jaime Navarro RP, SP (2000) 0-1, 7 G, 2 GS, 7.98 ERA, 14.2 IP, 63 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Reds

Jake Westbrook SP, RP (2001-2008, 2010) 69-69, 218 G, 179 GS, 4.29 ERA, 1191.1 IP, 101 ERA+; All-Star in 2004; traded with Ricky Ledee and Zach Day by Yankees for David Justice; traded in 3-team deal to Cardinals, Padres sent Corey Kluber to Indians

Earl Snyder 1B, PH (2002) 200/279/291, 54 OPS+, 62 PA; traded as PTBNL with Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, Jerrod Riggan and Billy Traber (PTBNL) by Mets for Roberto Alomar, Mike Bascik and Danny Peoples; claimed off waivers by Red Sox

Chad Durbin RP (2011) 2-2, 56 G, 0 GS, 5.53 ERA, 68.1 IP, 72 ERA+

Statistics and such

Other fun facts, the uniform #37 has been worn 60 times by 33 different players covering 53 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #37 was shared in a season seven times, 1957, 1958, 1984, 1991, 1992, 2000, and 2002.

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