All-Time Indians: Orel Hershiser

Name: Orel Leonard Hershiser     Position: Starting Pitcher
Nick Name: Bulldog               Number: 55  
Tribe Time: 1995-1997           DOB: 09/16/1958
Stats W L W% ERA G CG IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP K/9 BAA
Best Season (1995) 16 6 0.727 3.88 26 1 167.1 151 72 21 51 111 1.21 6.0 .231
Career 45 21 0.682 4.21 91 3 568.2 588 266 68 178 343 1.35 5.4 .256
Post Season Career 4 3 0.571 3.56 11 0 68.2 60 27 8 21 54 1.19 7.1 .227

Orel Hershiser was a short termed Indian who played the majority of his borderline Hall of Fame career prior to coming to Cleveland. Hershiser spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Dodgers where he was very successful, especially in 1988 when he won the NL Cy Young Award, NLCS MVP and World Series MVP. After 12 seasons and 134 wins, Hershiser and the Dodgers decided to part ways and in 1995 he joined the Cleveland Indians as a free agent with a three year, $6M contract.

After years of shedding veteran players for younger blood, the Indians were finally ready to compete in the mid-1990's and started bringing in more free agents, like Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez and finally, Orel Hershiser. All three players were long term veterans and had post-season experience, which was very important for a team headed to the play-offs for the first time since 1954. Despite being 36 years old, Hershiser still had great stuff for the Tribe in 1995 as he finished with ten more wins than losses and a 3.87 ERA in 26 starts. While starting pitching was never the strong suit for the Indians in the 1990's, Hershiser gave the Indians at least one day out of every five when the team didn't have to worry about getting behind early.

That season also marked Hershiser's last great post-season. He won four of his five starts that year in games against the Red Sox, Mariners and Braves. That year, he lead all Indians in wins, innings, strike outs and ERA during the post-season. Most impressively, despite throwing more innings that both of the other regular starters (Martinez and Charles Nagy), Hershiser allowed the least amount of runs of the three. While the Indians didn't win the World Series that year, it certainly had nothing to do with Hershiser and they looked prime for a long run.

However, his age started to catch up to him in 1996 and he had his worst healthy season of his career. For the first time in a full season, his ERA sat over 4.00, but he still won 15 games and threw more than 200 innings. The Indians also made it back to the post-season, winning the Central Division for the second year in a row, but this time there was a quick first round exit against Baltimore. Hershiser started just one game and allowed three runs in five innings, by far the worst series in his post-season career.

The following season was his final year under contract in Cleveland and coincidentally, the last time the Indians would make it to the World Series. Again, Hershier had the worst season of his career, posting a 4.47 ERA in 32 games. Dispite his struggles, he was still an above average starter, however, and won 14 games during the regular season. In the play-offs, he locked in again, winning both game four against the Yankees and game three against the Orioles. He had helped the Indians to the World Series again, just like he did in 1995 and with the Dodgers in 1988. The Indians hoped he would be able to repeat his World Series glory, but that was not the case.

Hershiser pitched game one of the series against the Marlins and was knocked out early, giving up seven runs in ust 4.1 innings, leading to the eventual loss to start the series. The Indians traded wins with the Marlins the next three games, going into Hershiser's next start, game five, with an even 2-2 record. In his last game as an Indian, things continued to sink for Hershiser as he allowed another six runs, this time in 5.2 innings. It was enough to earn the loss and eventually push the Indians to a game seven, which they would lose as well.

After leaving Cleveland, Hershiser played for three teams in three seasons before retiring after the 2000 season. Immediately after his retirement, he went on to announce for ESPN in the Little League World Series and he just recently left the company in 2014 to go back to Los Angeles to be an analyst for the Dodgers.

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona.

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