Top 100 Indians: #33 Travis Hafner

Travis Hafner - Jason Miller

Part project, part donkey, part Scary Monster, part what might have been.

Travis Lee Hafner (Pronk)

Designated Hitter, 2003-2012

Height: 6'3" Weight: 240 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Left

How Acquired: Trade, December 6, 2002:

Traded by the Texas Rangers with Aaron Myette for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese

Left Via: Free Agency, October 31, 2012

He was given the nickname "Pronk," which was an amalgamation of two other nicknames. Bill Selby, whose other claim to fame was his inexplicable grand slam off Mariano Rivera in 2002, was the amalgamator, deciding one Spring Training to combine "Donkey" and "The Project" into one name. A fan of professional wrestling, dry humor, jeans, black T-shirts, Lucky Charms, Rammstein, and ketchup, Pronk was also very good at hitting baseballs.

Hafner grew up on a farm in Wells County, North Dakota, and attended tiny Sykeston High School. The school didn't have a baseball team, so he instead played basketball and starred in track and field. He had played youth baseball, but his career really didn't take off until he participated in tryout camp for the Atlanta Braves after his senior year. Scouts like what they saw, but Hafner instead opted to attend Cowley County Community College, a school with a good baseball program. He excelled there, and the Rangers drafted him in the 31st round of the 1996 Draft. At that time, a team could still retain the rights to a player who went back to a junior college until the next draft in what was called "draft and follow." So Hafner returned to school in 1997, and was a key part of Cowley County's run to the JUCO World Series championship. The Rangers offered Hafner a sizable bonus, and he started his pro career later that summer.

Hafner started his first full season in Savannah of the South Atlantic League as a 21-year-old, and had a decent season, but the Rangers sent him back to Savannah in 1999. This time he clobbered the ball, hitting .292/.387/.546, although he was by that time old for the league. As a 23-year-old he hit an astounding .346/.447/.580 in the Florida State League. As a 24-year-old he hit .282/.396/.545 in the Southern League. Now by this team he wasn't really old for his level, and any skepticism about his ability to hit was quickly falling by the wayside.

He made his major-league debut for the Rangers in 2002, appearing in 23 games with the Rangers at the end of the season. The problem for Hafner was that the Rangers at this time was loaded with hitting talent. Rafael Palmeiro was ensconced at first base, and Mark Teixeira, who was almost universally acknowledged as the best prospect in baseball, was waiting in the wings. The thought was that Teixeira and Palmeiro would share between them first base and designated hitter, which meant that Hafner would be stuck in AAA again in 2003.

But the Rangers did have a hole that needed filled. Longtime star Ivan Rodriguez became a free agent after the 2002 season, and it was uncertain that they'd be able to re-sign him. So that in mind, when the Rangers asked about the Indians' Einar Diaz, they were willing to part with a talented hitter that wasn't going to play a part on their 2003 team. Einar Diaz for years had been an understudy for Sandy Alomar, and had only recently gotten to play everyday. His first full season as starting catcher (2001) had been a success, but in 2002 he really struggled, to the point where Josh Bard had taken over most of the playing time. And the Indians had a better prospect in Victor Martinez on the cusp of the big leagues. And with Jim Thome a free agent, the Indians needed a bat at first base.

So Travis Hafner was traded to the Indians on December 6, 2002. The same day, Jim Thome signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ten years later, the two would be teammates on the Indians, but for now Thome's departure opened the door for Hafner to make his own mark in the big leagues. The 2003 Indians were a team in full rebuild mode, with just a few players left over from the 1995-2001 run of a playoff baseball, and the roster was full of talented but young players. Hafner, who was 26, won the starting first base job but hurt his foot in early May, eventually lost playing time to Ben Broussard, and then end the season as the everyday DH. On August 14, he hit for the cycle in Minnesota, becoming the first Indian to accomplish that feat since Andre Thornton did it in 1978. No Indian has done it since.

Travis Hafner's patience at the plate and his prodigious power quickly made him one of the best hitters in the American League. In 2004 he led the AL with a 162 OPS+. In 2005 he was even better, and finished 5th in MVP voting. And in 2006 he led the AL in Slugging, OPS, and OPS+, and tied the MLB record for grand slams in a season (6). Hafner was not a pull hitter, often looking to drive the ball into the opposite field gap. Because he had that rare combination of eye and eye-hand coordination, there wasn't a lot opposing pitchers could do to get Hafner out. Well, until the shoulder injury.

Hafner had had some injuries (a sore elbow, a foot injury, a Mark Buehle beaning) but none of those were chronic injuries. During the 2007 All-Star break the Indians signed Hafner to a franchise-record $57M contract extension, a deal that would keep him in Cleveland through at least the 2012 season. The following season Hafner's right shoulder began to bother him, and it's continued to bother him up until the present day. After the 2008 season he had the shoulder scoped, but it didn't help. Hafner continued to struggle through the soreness and weaknes, and at times had to go on to the DL to rest it the shoulder.

Travis Hafner at 60-70% was still pretty good. He just wasn't a Scary Monster any more. He could be pitched to now, and although he'd work his walks, you could now get the ball by him in the strike zone. In 2009 he posted a 120 OPS+, in 2010 a 130 OPS+. But most of his home run power was gone.

It was obvious before 2012 even began that it was to be Hafner's final season with the Indians. The Indians held a 2013 option, but they wouldn't be picking it up. Although he still to continued to be a productive hitter, he wasn't able to stay in the lineup every day, and spent time on the DL. But he was healthy to end the season, and on October 3, 2012, the season finale, he said goodbye to the fans after 10 seasons with the team, the first Indian with that long a tenure since Omar Vizquel.

Travis Hafner is by far the franchise's best DH, though even that is understating his value. If not for the shoulder injury, he would have finished much higher in several franchise hitting categories, perhaps even taking over the franchise's top spot in home runs. Even with the injuries, his rate stats will rank among the best players in franchise history. For instance, his career OPS+ is 10th franchise history, ranking him just behind Larry Doby.

Hafner's career continued in 2013, as he signed with the New York Yankees after the Indians declined to pick up the 2013 option on his contract. The Yankees were the Indians' opponent in home opener at Progressive Field, and in a rare event, Tribe fans cheered the introduction of a player wearing a New York uniform.

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2003 26 CLE 91 324 74 19 3 14 22 81 .254 .327 .485 .812 115
2004 27 CLE 140 576 150 41 3 28 68 111 .311 .410 .583 .993 162
2005 28 CLE 137 578 148 42 0 33 79 123 .305 .408 .595 1.003 168
2006 29 CLE 129 564 140 31 1 42 100 111 .308 .439 .659 1.097 181
2007 30 CLE 152 661 145 25 2 24 102 115 .266 .385 .451 .837 120
2008 31 CLE 57 234 39 10 0 5 27 55 .197 .305 .323 .628 69
2009 32 CLE 94 383 92 19 0 16 41 67 .272 .355 .470 .826 120
2010 33 CLE 118 462 110 29 0 13 51 94 .278 .374 .449 .824 130
2011 34 CLE 94 368 91 16 0 13 36 78 .280 .361 .449 .811 128
2012 35 CLE 66 263 50 6 2 12 32 47 .228 .346 .438 .784 120
CLE (10 yrs) 1078 4413 1039 238 11 200 558 882 .278 .382 .509 .890 138
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/30/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL MVP: 5th, 2005; 8th, 2006; 24th, 2004
  • AL WAR: 6th, 2006-5.9; 10th, 2005-5.5
  • AL WAR Position Players: 4th, 2006-5.9; 7th, 2005-5.5; 9th, 2005-5..0
  • AL oWAR: 5th, 2006-5.8
  • AL Average: 9th, 2005-.305; 10th, 2004-.311
  • AL On Base Percentage: 2nd, 2006-.439; 3rd, 2004-.410; 3rd, 2005-.408
  • AL Slugging: 1st, 2006-.659; 3rd, 2005-.595; 4th, 2004-.583
  • AL OPS: 1st, 2006-1.097; 2nd, 2004-.993; 2nd, 2005-1.003
  • AL 2B: 5th, 2005-42; 6th, 2004-41
  • AL Home Runs: 3rd, 2006-42; 4th, 9th, 2005-33
  • AL RBI: 6th, 2006-117; 9th, 2004-109; 9th, 2005-108
  • AL Bases on Balls: 4th, 2006-100; 4th, 2007-102; 7th, 2005-79
  • AL OPS+: 1st, 2004-162; 1st, 2006-181; 2nd, 2005-168
  • AL RC: 3rd, 2006-136; 6th, 2005-123; 10th, 2004-119
  • AL Extra Base Hits: 5th, 2006-74; 7th, 2004-72; 8th, 2005-75
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 1st, 2004-17; 5th, 2010-12
  • AL Intentional Bases on Balls: 2nd, 2007-17; 4th, 2006-16; 8th, 2010-10
  • AL Win Probability Added: 3rd, 2005-5.1; 4th, 2006-4.6

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 22nd WAR Position Players (25.0)
  • 22nd oWAR (25.2)
  • t-19th On Base Percentage (.382)
  • 10th Slugging (.509)
  • 11th OPS (.890)
  • 24th Games Played (1078)
  • 26th At Bats (3734)
  • 25th Plate Appearances (4413)
  • 24th Runs Scored (582)
  • 31st Hits (1039)
  • 16th Total Bases (1899)
  • t-12th Doubles (238)
  • 8th Home Runs (200)
  • 14th Runs Batted In (688)
  • 13th Bases On Balls (558)
  • 2nd Strikeouts (882)
  • 43rd Singles (590)
  • 10th OPS+ (138)
  • 14th Runs Created (759)
  • 12th Extra Base Hits (449)
  • 1st Hit By Pitch (85)
  • t-29th Sacrifice Flies (29)
  • 2nd Intentional Bases On Balls (78)
  • 20th Double Plays Grounded Into (81)
  • 6th Win Probability Added (16.8)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-50th oWAR (5.8, 2006)
  • t-18th On Base Percentage (.439, 2006)
  • 6th Slugging (.659, 2006)
  • 21st Slugging (.595, 2005)
  • 27th Slugging (.583, 2004)
  • 5th OPS (1.097, 2006)
  • 23rd OPS (1.003, 2005)
  • 28th OPS (.993, 2004)
  • t-49th Total Bases (299, 2006)
  • t-36th Doubles (42, 2005)
  • t-45th Doubles (41, 2004)
  • t-8th Home Runs (42, 2006)
  • t-23rd Home Runs (33, 2005)
  • t-29th Runs Batted In (117, 2006)
  • t-48th Runs Batted In (109, 2004)
  • t-11th Bases On Balls (102, 2007)
  • t-16th Bases On Balls (100, 2006)
  • t-31st Strikeouts (123, 2005)
  • t-49th Strikeouts (115, 2007)
  • 11th OPS+ (181, 2006)
  • t-25th OPS+ (168, 2005)
  • t-32nd OPS+ (162, 2004)
  • t-22nd Runs Created (136, 2006)
  • t-42nd Runs Created (123, 2005)
  • t-22nd Extra Base Hits (75, 2005)
  • t-24th Extra Base Hits (74, 2006)
  • t-32nd Extra Base Hits (72, 2004)
  • t-3rd Hit By Pitch (17, 2004)
  • t-20th Hit By Pitch (12, 2010)
  • t-37th Hit By Pitch (10, 2003)
  • t-46th Hit By Pitch (9, 2005, 2012)
  • t-3rd Intentional Bases On Balls (17, 2007)
  • t-5th Intentional Bases On Balls (16, 2006)
  • t-27th Intentional Bases On Balls (10, 2010)
  • t-10th Win Probability Added (5.1, 2005)
  • 21st Win Probability Added (4.6, 2006)

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