Adding a Middle Reliever to the Indians All-Time Team
With yet another installment of the Cleveland Indians All-Time team, we continue through the Tribe bullpen. Every good pen needs that left-handed specialist. During one of the greatest runs in franchise history, the Indians had one of the best in the league. With solid numbers, and legendary post season performances, we move on to the next relief arm on this All-Time roster.
Middle Relief: Paul Assenmacher
Paul Assenmacher won 19 games in his five seasons in Cleveland with a 3.83 ERA. The inflated ERA comes from his poor season in 1999, his last in the Majors. In his first four seasons with the Indians, his ERA never exceeded 3.26. He appeared in more games for the Indians than any of his four previous teams and recorded 8 saves in those 309 games. He recorded an impressive 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and a very solid 2.7 strikeout to walk ratio.
Assenmacher bounced around a bit, as relievers tend to do, before landing with the Cleveland Indians. He came up with the Braves in 1986, and then spent some time with the Cubs. He had brief stops with the Yankees and the White Sox, before signing with the Indians in 1995.
In 1995, Assenmacher took his role as the left-handed relief specialist in the Indians bullpen. He pitched to a record of 6-2 and a 2.82 ERA. He struck out 40 batters in just 38.2 innings pitched. His biggest moments of the season came in the playoffs of that year. He made three appearances in the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox. In game one Assenmacher came on to face Mo Vaughn in the eighth inning of a tie game and the tying run on base. Assenmacher struck Vaughn out and the Indians went on to win game one. In game two he came into the game in the eighth inning to face Vaughn again. With two outs and one runner on in 2-0 game, Assenmacher struck Vaughn out on four pitches to preserve the game into the ninth inning and another Cleveland win. He pitched a perfect ninth inning in game three as the Indians swept the Red Sox.
Assenmacher’s most famous moment came in the American League Championship Series of 1995. The Indians were 2-2 series tie at home against the Seattle Mariners. In the top of the seventh, the Indians were winning 3-2, but Seattle had two runners on with one out and the hard hitting due of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jay Buhner up. The Tribe skipper Mike Hargrove brought in Assenmacher to face this fearsome twosome; Griffey hit 40+home runs seven times from 1993-2000, and Buhner had hit 40 home runs that season. Assenmacher struck them both out swinging and the Indians went on to take game five 3-2. They would win game six and reach their first World Series in 41 years.
In 1996, Assenmacher put up solid numbers again; another winning record at 4-2 with a solid 3.09 ERA while striking out about a batter per inning. The Indians would win another Division Title, and Assenmacher pitched perfectly in the Division Series, not allowing a run or a hit in three appearances.
The next season in 1997, statistically, may have been his best season. He posted an undefeated 5-0 record and a 2.94 ERA. He struck out 53 batters in only 49 innings and his four saves would be the most he would record in one season for the Indians. Once again, his best pitching may have been done in the playoffs. In the World Series in 1997, Assenmacher made five appearances without allowing a run. He struck out six men in four innings of work.
Assenmacher pitched well again in 1998 with a 3.26 ERA in 69 games. He made six appearances total in the Division Series and American League Championship Series without allowing a run.
His final season, 1999 was a disappointing season, as the 38-year old’s arm showed its age. Assenmacher still finished with a winning record (2-1) and struck out 29 batters in 33 innings pitched, but this would be the last year in his 14 year career.
Assenmacher pitched well against some of the biggest names in baseball in his career. Ken Griffey, Jr., who hit .284 for his career, managed to hit just.235 against him. Former Yankee and Mariner slugger Tino Martinez batted a mere .211 against Assenmacher with zero home runs. Longtime Yankee right fielder Paul O’Neill batted just .250 against him. Rusty Greer, who boasts a career .305 average, hit a paltry .154. His main job was to shutdown left-handed hitters, and in that position, Assenmacher excelled.
Paul Assenmacher spent five years in Cleveland pitching in the late innings and shutting down left-handed hitters. He was great at what he did and his post season performances will be remembered by Indians fans forever. This is why he earned a spot on my Cleveland Indians All-Time Team.