Let's Go Tribe's look at the history of the Indians lineup continues with the team's greatest hitters from near the bottom of the order.
This is the seventh (and eighth) entry in a series detailing the greatest players in Cleveland Indians history for each spot in the batting order. Here are links to the previous entries in the series: Batting 1st, Batting 2nd, Batting 3rd, Batting 4th, and Batting 5th, Batting 6th
I'm combining the next couple spots into one post because there simply isn't as much to work with this low in the order. Generally speaking, anyone batting 7th or 8th for an extended period of time is probably not that strong a hitter. I'm cutting down the lists from a top ten to a just five for each lineup spot, because beyond that we wouldn't be talking about hitters who were even a bit above average. In fact (as you'll see), even to go five players deep from the #8 spot mean including some below average hitters. Next week's look at the #9 spot may not include ANY average hitters!
In 2012 the Tribe had nineteen different players start at least one game in the #7 spot of the lineup, led by Casey Kotchman, who was there 40 times. His line was .201/.256/.282 in those games (Impressive, most impressive). The lineup ought to be better in 2013, so the production ought to be better than that (I think Julio Franco could come out of retirement and beat those numbers). My best guess is that Mark Reynolds or Michael Brantley spends the most time hitting seventh, but no one starts the majority of games there (it was 1982 the last time anyone started there 75+ times). According to Baseball-Reference, since 1916 (as far back as complete box scores go) 531 different players have started at least one game in the #7 spot for the Tribe, which is the most of any lineup spot. 26 of those players collected 500+ plate appearances in those starts (which is the requirement for making this list).
TOP #7 HITTERS IN INDIANS HISTORY
Honorable Mention: Ray Mack
Mack has started more games in the #7 spot than any other player in Indians' history (464), serving as the team's primary man out of that spot from late 1939 until the middle of 1944. His line of .229/.300/.321 was good for an OPS+ of only ~74, so he could not be considered one of the team's "best" #7 hitters, but he put in some serious time there.
5) Ken Keltner
302 G, 1238 PA, .263/.327/.453, .780 OPS, ~108 OPS+, 43 HR, 149 R, 181 RBI
Keltner was my choice as the best #6 hitter in team history, and that's where he spent the most time, but he also hit seventh a good number of times between 1938 and 1948, especially that first year. His 43 home runs while batting 7th are the most by any player in Tribe history.
4) Bob Kennedy
157 G, 640 PA, .304/.363/.455, .818 OPS, ~117 OPS+, 15 HR, 68 R, 91 RBI
Kennedy hit seventh for much of 1949 and occasionally in other years between 1948 and 1953. He put up the equivalent of one good season from this spot, which gives you an idea of how few good hitters there have been this low in the order.
3) Woodie Held
177 G, 695 PA, .271/.341/.464, .805 OPS, ~119 OPS+, 32 HR, 81 R, 88 RBI
Held spent time in the #7 between 1958 and 1964. He hit the third-most home runs from this lineup spot and also has the third-highest slugging percentage, making him one of the better power hitters from low in the order.
2) Jim Thome
148 G, 596 PA, .285/.389/.491, .880 OPS, ~125 OPS+, 21 HR, 88 R, 84 RBI
Thome has now appeared in the top five for every lineup spot from #3 to #7, including being named the best #5 hitter in franchise history. He didn't start in this spot as often (because he was too good a hitter), but while he did, his numbers were strong.
144 G, 603 PA, .280/.376/.514, .890 OPS, ~126 OPS+, 29 HR, 89 R, 101 RBI
This is Ramirez's fourth list of the series, but his first time in the #1 spot. Like Thome, he didn't spend a lot of time here, because (like Thome) he was too good for it. But his OPS and OPS+ while starting in the #7 spot are the best of any player in Indians history.
In 2012 the Tribe had seventeen different players start at least one game in the #8 spot of the lineup, led by Casey Kotchman, who was there 50 times. I would guess Lonnie Chisenhall sees a lot of time hitting 8th, but again, most likely no one will start the majority of games there (it was 1993 the last time anyone started there 75+ times). According to Baseball-Reference, since 1916 (as far back as complete box scores go) 463 different players have started at least one game in the #8 spot for the Tribe, but only 19 of those players collected 500+ plate appearances in those starts (which is the requirement for making this list).
TOP #8 HITTERS IN INDIANS HISTORY
Honorable Mention: Jim Hegan
Hegan started in the #8 spot 1222 times in his career, batting there in almost every game he started for the Tribe in his fourteen seasons with the team. His line was only .233/.301/.353, good for an OPS+ of only ~78, but (since at least 1916) only Tris Speaker (batting third) has spent more time in one lineup spot for the Indians than Hegan spent batting eighth.
5) Travis Fryman
132 G, 506 PA, .269/.316/.440, .756 OPS, ~94 OPS+, 18 HR, 57 R, 86 RBI
Fryman hit eighth for stretches of every season from 1998 to 2002. His numbers there weren't all that good, below league average in fact, but there simply isn't a lot of strong production from the #8 spot in the lineup.
4) Frankie Pytlak
291 G, 1140 PA, .302/.392/.387, .778 OPS, ~99 OPS+, 3 HR, 136 R, 122 RBI
Basically a league average hitter in his time starting in the #8 spot (between 1932 and 1940, especially in 1937), and that's actually very solid production to get from so low in the order.
3) Steve O'Neill
924 G, 3441 PA, .272/.368/.356, .724 OPS, ~99 OPS+, 8 HR, 281 R, 300 RBI
O'Neill was in the #8 spot for most of 1916 to 1923 (and probably before then too, but there aren't complete records). He was profiled in our Top 100 countdown last week and really improved as a hitter as his career went along, no power, but a solid average and good eye.
2) Woodie Held
221 G, 843 PA, .249/.358/.446, .805 OPS, ~119 OPS+, 34 HR, 95 R, 105 RBI
Held was 3rd on the list for #7 hitters just above, and had almost identical numbers from the #8 spot, with a bit more time spent there. he'd be #1 on either list had he spent all his time there, with very solid bottom-of-the-order production.
1) Brook Jacoby
180 G, 681 PA, .314/.364/.464, .828 OPS, ~125 OPS+, 17 HR, 91 R, 74 RBI
Jacoby started in the #8 spot occasionally throughout his time with the Indians (1984-1992) and hit better from that spot than from any other, with the highest batting average and slugging percentage of any #8 hitters the Indians have ever had.
That's some impressive stuff, isn't it?! Tune in next week for the #9 spot, in which I'll examine both the best-hitting pitchers in Tribes history and the best position players to fill the spot since the creation of the designated hitter.