Ranking the Five Best All-Time Cleveland Indians Teams

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 17: Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) hits a base hit in the top of the 3rd inning during the regular season game between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins on April 17, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Choosing five teams to name the best is not easy. Many Cleveland Indians teams deserve a spot on the list, but the teams here were chosen based specifically on statistical analysis of each lineup. Here are the five best all-time Cleveland Indians teams.

Five Best All-Time Cleveland Indians Teams

1. 1948 Cleveland Indians (97-58)

  • Manager: Lou Boudreau (1,162-1,224)
  • Best Hitter: Lou Boudreau .355/.453/.534
  • Best Pitcher: Bob Lemon 20-14, .282 ERA, 147 K (Including two wins in the World Series)
  • Summary: World Series Champions
  • All-Stars: Lou Boudreau, Joe Gordon, Ken Keltner, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon
The 1948 Indians were the second and last Indians team to win the World Series. They featured lineup that was as scary on the field as it was on paper. The lineup included six Hall of Fame players and a rotation that could mow through a team. In 1948, Cleveland had two 20-game winners (Lemon and Gene Bearden), while Feller won 19 games. The Indians also made history when they called up legendary pitcher Satchel Paige from the Negro Leagues. Paige was the oldest rookie in Major League history, at 42, and became the first Negro Leagues pitcher to ever pitch in the World Series.
On top of the star rotation, the team also had three players that hit over .300 and two players that had 30+ home runs. The 1948 team had five All-Stars, including Boudreau. Boudreau was serving as the player/manager of the team at shortstop. Along with being named Associated Press Athlete of the Year, Boudreau became the first shortstop to win the MVP award, finishing right above Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Sporting News ranked the 1948 Indians as the ninth-best team of all-time.

2. 1954 Cleveland Indians (111-43)

Yes, you read that right, 111 wins. This year would be the last time the Indians would make it to the World Series until 1995. The 1954 Indians had the highest win percentage of any team in American League history, at .721. The team was led by center fielder Larry Doby. Doby crushed a team-high 32 home runs and 126 RBI, while managing a .272 batting average. Doby finished off the season second in MVP voting, right behind New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra. However, none of this can compare to the incredible season for Cleveland ace Early Wynn. Wynn won 23 games, held an ERA of .273, and struck out 155 batters. Lemon also had another massive season, matching Wynn’s total of 23 wins and striking out 110.
The ’54 Indians were also the only team for nearly 60 years to accrue two separate 11-game win streaks over the course of a season. 111 wins, sadly, did not cut it for this Indians team, as they reached the Fall Classic. In a very uneventful Series, the Indians were swept in four games by the New York Giants. The only positive note was that the Indians beat the Yankees in the postseason. Why is this important? Well, the Indians kept the Yankees from winning their sixth-straight World Series title. In fact, 1954 was the only World Series that did not feature the Yankees from 1949-1958.

3. 1995 Cleveland Indians (100-44)

The 1995 Indians are often looked at as the Golden Standard for the organization. This is mainly because while most Indians fans were not alive for the 1920’s, 40’s, or 50’s, they will never forget the ’95 Indians. This was a team that appeared to have no gaps. A favorite to win it all, the team fell just short at the end. They won 100 games without playing the full season due to the MLB strike. Including six All-Stars and two players that finished in the top five for MVP voting (Belle and Mesa), this team had it all. The team was headlined by pitchers Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser, and Martinez, who all pitched over 165 innings.

On the offensive side, the team had a whopping seven hitters with a batting averages above .300. They also had five batters hit over 20 home runs, led by Belle’s 50. An offensive powerhouse with the defense to back it up, it didn’t seem like anything who get in the way of this team. That was until the Atlanta Braves came along and won the World Series, putting the Indians behind them, 4-2. This did not put the Indians hopes down. A majority of the team stuck around and made runs in the following few years; they were young and the story had only just begun.

4. 1920 Cleveland Indians (98-56)

  • Manager: Tris Speaker (617-520)
  • Best Hitter: Tris Speaker .388/.483/.562
  • Best Pitcher: Jim Bagby 31-12, 2.89 ERA, 73 K
  • Summary: World Series Champions
  • All-Stars: N/A

The first Cleveland team to bring home the trophy is definitely worthy of a spot on this list. This was a tragic season with a happy ending. Unknown to many fans, there was a severe accident during the season. Starting shortstop Ray Chapman, who played in 111 games and was hitting .302, died after being hit by a pitch during a game. The team rallied around him, however, winning 98 games and eventually defeating the Brooklyn Robins in the World Series, 5-2. Six out of the eight fielders hit over .300, with Speaker leading the team at .388.

The pitching was the embodiment of perfection. Not only did three of the starting pitchers win 20+ games, Bagby won 31. That feat has only been replicated three times since 1920. In the 1920 World Series, history was made a handful of times. Bagby became the first pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series. Elmer Smith followed that up with the first grand slam in World Series history. It was a very memorable season that will live on in Cleveland forever.

5. 2016 Cleveland Indians (94-67)

The underdog team of the century, the 2016 Indians showed the baseball world that they were a force to be reckoned with. A team that was lead by one of the greatest baseball managers of this era, Francona, the Indians overcame all odds to end up in extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series.

Lets start at the beginning. Coming into the season, no one predicted them to make it as far as they did. They were seen as a young lineup and a pitching staff that would start out strong and finish weak. Halfway through the season, the Indians had the second-lowest attendance in the entire league. This was pathetic, considering the team was 52-36 with a six-and-a-half game lead in the AL Central.

Coming into the playoffs, the Indians were strong. They climbed back to steal home field advantage from the Boston Red Sox, but did it at the cost of losing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Things looked bleak, yet it did not hold them back. They swept the Red Sox and pushed past the Toronto Blue Jays. The Indians were underdogs in every series throughout the playoffs. They jumped into the World Series against the best team in baseball, and led 3-1. The whole baseball world knows what happened next. The Indians lost the lead and eventually lost the World Series in extra innings of Game 7. This team, like the ’95 Indians, is the start of something magical. This will not be the last World Series these Indians play in.

2017 Cleveland Indians?

The team may someday soon claim a spot on this list. This team, if they manage to stay healthy, is the 2016 Cleveland Indians on steroids (not literally). The Indians are stronger than last year, and are looking to bring home some rings. Lindor has looked better than ever and could be on track for some MVP votes. Andrew Miller will (hopefully) complete his first full season with the tribe, and newly -acquired Edwin Encarnacion is looking to impress his new home crowd. On paper, this team is scary. On the field, this team is scarier. Just wait for October; count this team to at least be in the hunt for a playoff spot, and maybe even more.

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