Unlike the positional lists, starting pitchers are being broken down into two separate lists, essentially giving them a top 20 instead of a top ten. This is to make sure not to leave out any of the fantastic starting pitchers the Indians have had over the years and to balance out the numbers of position players compared to pitchers. This particular top ten list is of non-ace starting pitchers. These pitchers often go unnoticed, spending the majority of their careers behind the stars of the team, but definitely deserve some recognition of their own. This list includes a couple of numbers that have been retired by the Indians and a Hall of Famer. Forget about Bob Feller and Stan Coveleski for a minute, here is the rest of the rotation. For this top ten, we will not only be listing the years that the player was a starting pitcher in the rotation, but also the main reason they were not an ace during their career, namely, the player that was the ace.
10. Sonny Siebert – Years Starter: 1965-68 – Ace: Sam McDowell
Siebert wasn’t with the team very long and is the only pitcher on the list with less than 1,000 innings pitched, but he earns his spot as a throwback player, posting a career ERA of 2.76 despite playing in the modern age. In fact, he was the first Indians pitcher to hold a career ERA under 2.80 that ended his career after 1917 a feat only accomplished one more time since.
9. George Uhle – 1919, 1921-28 – Stan Coveleski & Joe Shaute
Like the next pitcher on this list, Uhle was a poor average pitcher who managed to stay around for a long time. In his later years, he was preempted as ace by Shaute, who was possibly the worst ace in team history. Uhle’s rate stats are the worst of any pitcher listed, but his 2,000 plus innings earned him enough respect to break the top ten.
8. Mel Harder – 1930-39, 1942-47 – Wes Ferrell, Bob Feller, Jim Bagby, Jr.
Harder is the only Indian to get his number retired without making it into the Hall of Fame with good reasons for both. As the longest tenured player in team history, he deserves respect, but his numbers need to be put into perspective as well. While his counting stats (wins, innings, etc) are among the best of all Indians pitchers in history, his rate stats are among the worst on the list, keeping him low among the top ten. Unlike most of the pitchers on this list who were kept back by one great pitcher (usually Feller, Coveleski, Joss or McDowell), Harder had plenty of chances to take over the rotation for himself, but always took second as a new pitcher became the ace.
7. Jim Bagby, Sr. – 1916-21 – Coveleski
Bagby was an early Indians pitcher and was an amazing innings eater. From 1916 through 1920, Bagby held an ERA under three while throwing more than 240 innings each season. He was undershadowed by the one of the greatest Indian aces ever, Stan Coveleski. In 1920, Bagby set the current Indians record for wins in a season with 31, a record that will never be broken.
6. Mike Garcia – 1950-57 – Feller & Herb Score
The Big Bear had two straight 20 win seasons and four straight with at least 17 wins, but was still pushed back in the rotation time after time, behind Bob Lemon and Early Wynn in addition to those mentioned above. In his career, he is one of very few pitchers to crack 2,000 innings and 1,000 strike outs.
5. Willie Mitchell – 1910-11, 1913-15 – Vean Gregg
Mitchell is another early pitcher who had amazing rate stats and a lot of innings pitched during his Indians career. Mitchell spent a long time with the Tribe and wasn’t a great pitcher until his last couple seasons. He spent time as a reliever in between his starting years, setting up his greatest years. He is one of a short list of pitchers who have finished their careers with the Indians with an ERA under 3.00 and a BAA under .230.
4. Earl Moore – 1901-05 – Addie Joss
It’s no surprise that half of the 1905 starting rotation is listed in the top ten (the third is in the top 15 and last is inelligible) as pitching was paramount for the early Cleveland teams. There was a large disparancy in talent, as less people played the sport in the early 1900’s. Even so, they deserve a lot of credit as they each threw over 1,000 innings and held an ERA under 3.00 for their careers. Moore himself won 82 games, an impressive number considering he only pitched in 161.
3. Bob Lemon – 1948-57 – Feller & Score
Lemon was the closest thing to an ace on this list as he took over for Feller during a two year transition to Score. Even so, he was second or third in the rotation during the majority of career. He ranks first among the non-aces in strike outs and is second to just Harder (who pitched in more than 120 more games than Lemon) in wins and innings pitched. His years at ace were the tie breaker that kept him behind the top two pitchers.
2. Bob Rhoads – 1905-09 – Joss
Rhoads was the best of the early non-ace starters winning 88 of his 185 games and holding the lowest ERA of all non-aces and the fourth best in Indians history. During Rhoads’ first four years as a starter, the Indians had an amazing starting rotation and put forth some of the best seasons in Indians history. From 1905 to 1908, the Indians won more than 55% of their games with Rhoads winning 71 games over that span.
1. Luis Tiant – 1964-69 – McDowell
Tiant had a very special year in 1968, setting an Indians record for best BAA and holding an ERA of 1.60. During his time with the Tribe he was incredible, throwing 1,200 innings and maintaining a career ERA under 2.00, something only one starting pitcher (Gaylord Perry) has done since.
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