LGT's look at the best hitters from each lineup spot concludes with the #9 spot, home to pitchers until 1973 and a lot of weak-hitting position players since then.
This is the final 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, Batting 7th and 8th
For the #9 spot in the order, I'm going to split things into two separate lists, one for the position players who've had the greatest success while hitting ninth over the last forty seasons and one for the best-hitting pitchers the Indians had in that spot before the designated hitter was created in 1973. Between the two groups, there have been 476 different players to start at least one game for the franchise (all figures here date back to 1916, which is as far back as complete box score records go). 22 of those players started often enough in the #9 spot to collect 500+ plate appearances in those games (which was the benchmark for making these lists).
POSITION PLAYERS BATTING 9TH
In 2012 the Tribe had nineteen different players start at least one game in the #9 spot of the lineup, led by Lou Marson (44 starts) and Jack Hannahan (33 starts). The last time any one player started 80+ games in the #9 spot was 2001, so odds are it will be a timeshare again in 2013, though Drew Stubbs seems a good bet to start there more frequently than anyone else (with Marson there again when he spells Santana behind the plate). Of the 476 different players to have started in the #9 spot, 201 were position players. Just ten of those players started there often enough to accumulate 500+ PA. As you'd expect, they are a largely unimpressive bunch when it comes to their offense, but here goes nothing:
5) Frank Duffy
432 G, 1484 PA, .226/.273/.316, .589 OPS, ~69 OPS+, 17 HR, 125 R, 128 RBI
Duffy was the Indians' primary #9 hitter from 1973 to 1977, the first five season after the designated hitter rule was established. If you're puzzled by a player with suck weak hitting numbers making this list, understand this is the nature of the (#9 hitter) beast.
4) Mike Fischlin
212 G, 695 PA, .243/.323/.310, .633 OPS, ~75 OPS+, 3 HR, 68 R, 54 RBI
Fischlin hitting 9th for parts of each season from 1981 to 1985. He almost no power, but could draw a walk, and his .243 batting average is not quite as bad as it might look, given the era he played in.
3) Einar Diaz
320 G, 1192 PA, .269/.315/.368, .683 OPS, ~78 OPS+, 12 HR, 126 R, 100 RBI
Diaz hit ninth regularly from 1999 to 2002, especially in '99 and '01. His 126 runs scored and 82 extra-base hits both rank 2nd all-time among #9 hitters for the Indians. Who knew we were watching such a legend?!
2) Omar Vizquel
185 G, 708 PA, .297/.360/.414, .774 OPS, ~100 OPS+, 9 HR, 96 R, 67 RBI
Vizquel hit ninth for big chunks of the '96, '97, and '98 seasons. He was a league average hitter in those games, which is great production from the #9 spot. It's not such good production from the #2 spot, which is where the Indians mostly insisted on letting him hit.
1) Sandy Alomar Jr.
268 G, 1046 PA, .302/.339/.460, .799 OPS, ~109 OPS+, 34 HR, 137 R, 147 RBI
Alomar started in the #9 spot at times between 1990 and 2000, though never for most of any one season. Of all the position players to bat ninth for the Indians, Alomar has the best BA, SLG, OPS, and ~OPS+, as well as the most runs, RBI, HR. And easy choice for this #1 spot.
PITCHERS BATTING 9TH
Of the 476 players who've started in the #9 spot for the Indians (going back to 1916), 275 of them were pitchers (234 of them before the DH existed, 41 of them since the beginning of Interleague Play). Twelve of those pitchers compiled 500+ PA in the games they started* for the Indians, most of them very poor hitters. Here are the best of them:
*Note that the numbers shown here are only for games in which a player started, and so hitting production during relief appearances or pinch-hitting spots are not included. That's been the rule for the entire series.
5) Jim Bagby
201 G, 601 PA, .227/.266/.316, .582 OPS, ~60 OPS+, 2 HR, 55 R, 48 RBI
Bagby was with the Indians from 1916 to 1922 and was one of the better hitting pitchers of his time, during the final days of the dead-ball era.
4) Joe Shaute
175 G, 530 PA, .273/.322/.349, .670 OPS, ~72 OPS+, 1 HR, 48 R, 41 RBI
With the team from 1922 to 1930, Shaute hit well for a pitcher, his .273 batting average in this spot is 3rd best of any pitcher in Tribe history.
3) George Uhle
267 G, 856 PA, .292/.335/.385, .720 OPS, ~86 OPS+, 3 HR, 103 R, 102 RBI
Uhle was an Indian from 1919 to 1928 (and again in 1936, but he didn't start then). His batting average leads all Tribe pitchers and despite playing in only the ninth-most games, he has more hits as a starting pitcher than anyone else in franchise history. His .361 BA and .391 OBP in 1923 are single-season bests for Tribe pitches (60+ PA).
2) Bob Lemon
347 G, 1084 PA, .234/.293/.398, .691 OPS, ~87 OPS+, 32 HR, 120 R, 117 RBI
Lemon played his entire career (1946 to 1958) with the Indians and holds just about all the franchise counting-records for hitting by pitchers (2B, HR, XBH, R, RBI). Of the nine seasons in team history in which a pitcher (60+ PA) had an OPS+ of 100 or better, Lemon was responsible for four of them. In 1947 his OPS+ was 177. Among qualified position players in team history, that figure has been bested by only Nap Lajoie, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Joe Jackson,Manny Ramirez, Tris Speaker, Travis Hafner, Rocky Colavito, Al Rosen. Lemon could hit!
1) Wes Ferrell
157 G, 523 PA, .287/.340/.486, .826 OPS, ~109 OPS+, 18 HR, 80 R, 83 RBI
Ferrell is often cited as the greatest-hitting pitcher ever (among players who actually remained pitchers), his lifetime BA ranks 3rd, his OBP ranks 2nd, and his SLG and OPS are both the best of any pitcher in modern history, as are his 38 career home runs. He was with the Indians from 1927 to 1933 (roughly half his career) and his rate stats are the tops among pitchers in team history (except in BA, where he ranks 2nd to Uhle).
Next week I'll do a recap for this series, with a rundown on some of the totals from each lineup spot, a quick look back at the best player in each spot (and the worst one as well).