Batting cleanup with no home runs

I was looking up something about Sandy Alomar Jr. last night when I noticed that in eight career games batting cleanup, he never homered.

While that’s obviously a very small number of games from his 1,377-game career, it seemed like a fairly large number to have not homered in. Presumably your cleanup hitter is one of your best power hitters, which means you aren’t going to have someone play much more than eight games in that slot if they aren’t hitting home runs.

So I looked up the most games by an Indian when batting cleanup without ever hitting a home run from that slot (data only goes back to 1919, so technically not a franchise record).

The distinction belongs to Lou Guisto, who played for the Tribe from 1916-17 and 1921-23 (presumably missed time due to WWI). In 35 games as their cleanup hitter (post 1919) he never homered, and actually never homered in 156 career games.

Over the past 50 seasons the record belongs to Lee Maye, who batted cleanup 22 times without homering for the Tribe between 1967-69.

And the most recent player with 10+ games batting 4th without a homer is, amazingly, a member of the 500 home run club: Eddie Murray. In 12 games as the Tribe’s cleanup hitter, Murray hit just .143 with no homers. Seven of those 12 games came in August, 1994 while filling in during Albert Belle‘s suspension for using a corked bat.

Tribe wins on squeeze

Thursday’s win over the Red Sox was all kinds of awesome. Not only do they send the Red Sox to their worst winless start since 1945, but they do so in 1-0 fashion on an Asdrubal Cabrera suicide squeeze. How can you beat that?!

Here are some fun notes on the day:

  • The Indians were the first team to successfully execute a squeeze in a 0-0 game in the 8th inning or later since Aug. 26, 2000, when Jerry Hairston of the Orioles laid down a squeeze to score former Indian Trinidad Hubbard from 3rd. They would go on to win 2-0 over the Devil Rays.
  • They’re also the first team to win 1-0 on a squeeze play in their last at-bat since the Seattle Mariners on May 19, 1983 against the Angels. Jamie Allen laid down a bunt, scoring Julio Cruz from 3rd. I did some searching on Google to verify that it was a squeeze and was able to find the AP story. Pretty cool stuff.
  • And here’s one you’re not going to believe. The last Indian to lay down a squeeze in a 0-0 game? Albert Belle. In the 1st inning on July 9, 1994 against the Twins, Belle laid down a squeeze to score Kenny Lofton. The Tribe would go on to win 4-3. Here’s the AP article on that game.

Albert Belle’s Return to Cleveland

As you might have heard, today is kind of a big day for Cleveland sports fan.

But the player who took his talents to South Beach wasn’t the first to betray us.

Following the 1996 season, Albert Belle took his talents to the Windy City under similar circumstances. He wasn’t exactly a hometown hero, but we respected him when the rest of baseball hated him. He was a jerk, but he was our jerk. And like Dan Gilbert with his former star, Indians Owner Dick Jacobs was willing to pay to keep Belle in Cleveland. So when he left for a marginally larger contract, it hurt.

And so his return to Cleveland, on June 3, 1997, was almost as anticipated as tonight’s game between the Cavs and Heat.

Chad Ogea took the mound for the Tribe that day, getting the first crack at Belle. Much to the fans dismay, Ogea didn’t plunk Belle with his first pitch, but did induce an inning-ending fly out in the 1st inning.

In the bottom of the 1st, as if remind fans that a new power hitter was hear to fill Belle’s shoes, Jim Thome homered off Danny Darwin, his first of two in the game.

But not to be outdone by Cleveland’s new hero, Belle responded with a three-run shot in the 5th, knocking Ogea out of the game.

Belle would double off Danny Graves in the 8th and again off Eric Plunk in the 9th, as his White Sox cruised to a 9-5 win.

As a player often fueled by anger, Belle’s successful return really should have come as no surprise. He thrived under those conditions, which contributed to our love for him for so many years in Cleveland. He was simply clutch.

But we got the last laugh with Belle. Over the next four seasons Belle’s team would go a combined 6-15 in Cleveland. Belle would hit just .241 as a visitor in Jacobs Field, with his only home run coming in his return to the The Jake.

Oh, and most importantly, he never won a damn thing without us 🙂

Squeeze play is back in Cleveland

On Monday night Jayson Nix executed a perfect squeeze play with Travis Hafner on 3rd to give the Indians a 2-1 lead, which they would hold to for the win. It was the second successful squeeze for the Indians this season.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine exactly when a squeeze has been executed by going through box scores, but on baseball-reference’s play index we can come pretty close. Using their “event finder” we can find sacrifice bunts with a runner on 3rd base. Technically, a squeeze play can result in a hit, if the bunt is placed in such a way that the official scorer rules that the runner would have been safe regardless of what the fielder did with the ball. However, that is certainly a rare occurrence.

Using what we can on baseball reference, the Indians two “RBI sacrifice bunts with a runner on 3rd” are their most in a single season since 1993. In fact, Luis Valbuena‘s earlier this season was the first since Omar Vizquel in 2003.

When compiling the list on the right, two things immediately jumped out at me:

1) Albert Belle bunted?! Sure enough, on July 9, 1994 in the Metrodome, Jim Deshaies walked Kenny Lofton who stole 2nd and then 3rd. After another walk was issued to Carlos Baerga, Belle laid down a sacrifice bunt, scoring Lofton from 3rd. It was the 4th and final sac bunt of Belle’s career.

2) Thomas Howard not only had three in one season, but two in ONE GAME! On June 16, 1992 at Cleveland Stadium, Howard officially went 0-3 with 2 RBI. In the 5th inning, following a Lofton triple, Howard laid down a squeeze to give the Indians a 3-2 lead over the Orioles. Then in the 7th inning, with the Tribe up 4-2, Howard laid down ANOTHER squeeze, this time scoring Mark Lewis.

Joey Belle 1990 Fleer

As an avid baseball card collector as a kid, I was always fascinated by errors on cards. One such error that I always enjoyed was on Albert Belle‘s 1990 Fleer card.

Belle, going by Joey at the time, played in just 62 games in 1989, so it would be understandable for someone to confuse him with the Tribe’s starting shortstop Jay Bell. And that’s exactly what happened on his card. Fleer included “Did You Know” facts on the back of cards that year, and Jay Bell’s fact was placed on Joey Belle’s card.

Needless to say, Joey never played shortstop. And surprisingly, it was Jay, not Joey, who homered on the first pitch he ever saw.

Branyan enters the record books

Russell Branyan made his 3,000th career plate appearance last night, qualifying him for baseball-reference’s list of all-time leaders for at-bats per home run. He checks in at 14th with a 14.9 mark, just behind Ted Williams. Of the 13 players in front of him, four are in the Hall of Fame (Ruth, Kiner, Killebrew and Williams). Eight of the other nine belong in the Hall of Fame (unless steroids connections keep them out). The only non-HOFer of the group is Adam Dunn.

As an Indian, Branyan has homered once every 15.9 at-bats – ranking him 4th in team history behind Jim Thome, Albert Belle, and Manny Ramirez.

Branyan hits 10th HR

Russell Branyan hit his 10th home run of the season, the first Indian to reach the double-digit mark this season in the team’s 69th game. That’s the longest its taken the Indians to get their first player to 10 home runs since 1991 when Albert Belle hit his 10th in their 72nd game of the season. Prior to 1991, you have to go back to Andre Thornton in 1983 to find the last time it took this long to reach 10 homers (71 games).

The cautionary tale of Mark Lewis

Through nine career games Carlos Santana is batting .393 with 2 HR, 8 RBI and a .514 OBP. On Sunday he went 3-4 with a HR, collecting his 4th career multi-hit game.

It’s an impressive start, to be sure, but he isn’t the first Tribe rookie to jump out to a hot start. Over the last 25 seasons, he’s the 8th Tribe rookie with at least four multi-hit games through his first nine career games. It’s an odd collection of names, and hopefully the top name on the list give us reason to temper our enthusiasm about Santana.

Here’s a quick history lesson on Mark Lewis, who was our early 90s version of Carlos Santana…

In late April 1991 the Tribe called up Lewis – Baseball America’s 9th-rated prospect entering the season. The former 2nd-overall pick filled in for Felix Fermin and got off to a torrid start, with five multi-hit performances in his first eight career games. By the end of May he was batting .363 and had shifted over to 2nd base, replacing veteran Jerry Browne.

Lewis looked like a future star, but unfortunately that first month was the highlight of his career. As the everyday shortstop in 1992 he hit just .264 and relinquished the job back to Fermin in 1993. After spending the majority of the ’93 season batting .284 in Tripe-A Charlotte, the Tribe essentially gave up on Lewis when they traded Fermin and Reggie Jefferson for Omar Vizquel. Lewis would start the 1994 season in a platoon with Jim Thome at third base, but was sent back down to Charlotte in May after batting .217 through the first two months of the season.

Lewis was traded to the Reds for Tim Costo in December 1994.

So while it’s fun to watch Carlos Santana and imagine him as the next Victor Martinez or Sandy Alomar Jr. Remember, at one time Mark Lewis was the future of our franchise as well.