In 2012, Shin-Soo Choo hit lead-off for the Indians 98 times. He's gone now, of course, so someone new will get that job. Well, maybe not someone new, since Michael Brantley seems a likely candidate and he held that gig for most of 2010, but it won't be Choo. Recently, there's been some talk here about Kenny Lofton, but also about Brett Butler, another player who led off a lot of games for the Indians. The specific argument made by some, was that Butler was the "more exciting" lead-off man, which I realize is not the same as "better." Still, it got me thinking, who have the best lead-off hitters in Indians history been? I'm looking at only how a player performed during games in which he was the lead-off hitter, so Grady Sizemore (for example) gets no credit for the 187 games games in which he was somewhere else in the order. According to the Play Index at Baseball-Reference, since 1916, there have been 268 different players to start a game as the lead-off hitter for the Indians. Roger Maris and Joe Carter, each best known for home runs, both batted at the top of the order for the Indians fifteen times. Larry Doby and Al Rosen both started there four times. Alex and Joey Cora each hit lead-off three times, Casey Blake was there twice, and on June 14, 1975, big Boog Powell was given the lead-off spot for a night (he went 0-4, ending that experiment). Of those 268 players, 37 of them have been penciled into the top of the lineup enough times to collect at least 500 plate appearances there. I'm using that as the cut-off for these rankings (since they will be largely dependent on rate stats, it seems unfair to include players who were good, but in only a small sample of games). Beyond the 500 PA cut-off, my rankings attempt to balance the rate stats against the counting one. In other words, while an OPS of 850 is better than an OPS of 825, if the former came in 600 PA and the latter came in 2,000 PA, I'm probably going to favor the second player. I've attempted to make some adjustments for the run scoring environment of different eras and I'm also looking only at contributions on offense, which I think is reasonable.
Batting 1st for the Cleveland Indians
Let's Go Tribe | Jan 17