Cleveland Indians All-Time Team: The Bench

11 Jul 1998: Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians slides into second base during the game against the Minnesota Twins at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 12-2.
11 Jul 1998: Kenny Lofton #7 of the Cleveland Indians slides into second base during the game against the Minnesota Twins at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 12-2. /

We are celebrating the history of the Cleveland Indians by building an all-time roster. In this installment, we select our bench players.

I’m almost to the end of my Cleveland Indians All-Time Team series. This story is about my bench, then only the bullpen is left. MLB rosters consist of 25 men and mine will be no different. I have chosen 13 hitters and 12 pitchers for my list.

I already picked nine position players so my bench will include four men. Those four will consist of one catcher, one infielder, and two outfielders.

These choices may have been even more difficult than the starters because players I didn’t include as starters could still make the team, while players that don’t make the bench are left off completely. This led me to great consideration when making my picks for these last spots.

I really wanted to recognize certain players for not only their performance on the field but their contribution and impact on the organization as a whole. I’ll kick my picks off with my catcher.

Jim Hegan – Catcher

The only reason Hegan didn’t get the starting spot was his offense. I value defense over offense at this position, but his offense was so poor that he was just edged out.

That being said, there was no Indian in history better behind the plate than Hegan. If you read my previous stories in this series then you’ll recall a stat called Def (defensive value relative to league average).

Hegan is not only the Indians leading catcher in this category with a 79.6 Def in Cleveland, but he’s also 30 all-time in MLB history with a career Def of 87.7.

He broke into the Majors with the Indians in 1941 at age 21. He spent his initial seasons backing up incumbent Otto Denning before entering the War in 1943. He returned to the Tribe in 1946 and spent the next 11 season as the Indians primary option at the backstop.

In 1949 Hegan caught an amazing 152 games, which at the time was the second most in MLB history. Today, his 152 games has only been surpassed nine times.

He is most well known for his arm. Hegan three times led the AL in caught stealing percentage with a single season high of 69% in 1950. From 1941 to 1955 Hegan threw out more than 40% of-of attempted steelers every year.

While his offense may have lacked value, his defense should be considered among the best ever. He certainly deserves a spot on this roster for his endurance behind the plate and his rocket arm.

Joe Sewell – Infield

Sewell was an incredibly unique hitter. He holds the MLB record for lowest strikeout percentage at 1.4% (min 4000 PA) as well as the single-season record for least strikeouts in a season for a player with over 600 PA, a feat in which he accomplished twice with 4 strikeouts each in the 1925 and 1929 seasons.

Making his Major League debut in 1920 after the tragic death of then Indians shortstop Ray Chapman. He played in only 92 minor league games before his first taste of Major League actions.

He won the starting shortstop job the following season and spent the next 10 seasons manning the spot. In his 11 year Cleveland career Sewell hit .320/.391/.413 and struck out a total of 99 times in that span.

He was adept with the glove as well, racking up 85.5 Def over his 14-year career. He was elected into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1977.

Kenny Lofton – Outfield

Lofton holds two Cleveland Indians club records. His 452 stolen bases are not only the tops in Tribe history, but it is more than 170 steals better than second place. In that same vane, he is also the highest rated base runner.

By Fangraphs BsR (Base Runs), Lofton’s 47.5 is the most by any Cleveland hitter, and 12 points better than second place. He’s also the highest rated defensive outfielder in Indians history in terms of Def with a total of 115.1. Then next best is Jim Piersall with 50.3.

In his 10 years in a Cleveland uniform, Lofton slashed .300/.375/.426 in 5767 PA with 66 triples and 975 runs, which is the third highest total ever for an Indians.

Of course, Kenny will always be remembered for iconic moments like climbing the wall in center to rob B.J Surhoff of a home run, or scoring from second on a passed ball in game 6 of the 1995 ALCS, and these moments are what solidifies him on this list.

Lofton is truly an Indians all-time great, and though he didn’t receive much love in the MLB Hall of Fame voting, he was inducted into the team Hall of Fame in 2010.

Albert Belle – Outfield

I’m aware this is going to be a controversial pick, but this is an honest pick. I know that he is not popular with the fans and I’m well aware of his personal shortcomings, but at the plate, he was an absolute monster, of that there can be no debate.

Belle currently ranks 1st among Indians outfielders (and among all Indians hitters) with 242 home runs. He has a career .295/.369/.580 with the Indians and ranks 8th all-time with 225.9 Off.

His 145 wRC+ is the third highest of any Indians since 1947 and his .285 ISO is the highest of any Cleveland hitter ever.

He is certainly a polarizing figure in Cleveland sports. He is well known for his famous biceps point during the corked bat scandal, but he is also the first player in MLB history to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in one season.

He is also the first Indians (and one of only two) to hit 50 home runs in one season. That year Belle broke another MLB record (since broken by Mark McGwire) when he hit a whopping 36 home runs after the All-Star break.

He currently holds the MLB records for home runs in July (16) and September (17).

Next. Indians all-time team: DH. dark

Check out the next and final installment of my Cleveland Indians All-Time Team when I select my bullpen.