Let’s debate the biggest question facing every fan of the Cleveland Indians; who is the greatest slugger in Tribe history?
The Cleveland Indians have had a lot of great power hitters in the history of the club. From Juan Gonzales to Francisco Lindor to Brian Giles and Richie Sexton. Yet, no one would debate who the four greatest sluggers of all time are; Jim Thome, Manny Rameriz, Albert Belle, and Travis Hafner.
Now, you’ll sit there and go “BUT, CHAD…WHAT ABOUT HAL TROSKY” and to that I say; shut up, nerd. Then I’d say this, modern pitching is definitively better than it was back in the ’30s and ’40s. Trying to argue what those players did then, against what players are doing now, is simply unsustainable. Conditioning, dieting, training, overall improvements to our day-to-day health are wildly different. Who knows what those old-era players could do against modern skillsets. They could be scrubs, or they could be hugely successful. It is impossible to know. So we’re not going to even bring them into this debate.
So let’s talk about how we’re deciding this debate. Firstly, simple math. Simple math that I double-checked with an engineer because I wanted to be right. Then let’s find that common denominator. What and who are we going to do use as our baseline? Well, we’re going to use Jim Thome’s career at-bats. Thome was the player of the four to play the longest, so we’re going to modify all stats against his career at-bats, which were 8,422.
Using that as our baseline, we can erase things like injuries, suspensions, and other unforeseen instances. Would Belle have hit more home runs than Thome? What would Hafner look better career-wise if he had never been hurt? We’ll be adjusting each player stats against the idea that each player had 8,422 at-bats. The only player who won’t have the adjusted stats will be Thome because he’s what we’re measuring everyone against.