Top 5 debut seasons in Guardians history

November 23rd, 2021

CLEVELAND -- There’s a certain level of excitement that comes when a highly regarded prospect breaks into the Major Leagues and has tremendous success, or when a newly acquired player helps bring a team the boost it had been looking for. Which players have done that for Cleveland?

Let’s take a look at the top five individual debut seasons by a Guardians player:

1. Andrew Miller, 2016
His debut season may only have been half of a season, as the lefty reliever was traded from the Yankees on July 31, but the impact Miller made on his new club was unmatched. Cleveland shocked the baseball world by parting with two top prospects (Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier), but what it got in return was a 1.55 ERA in 26 outings with 46 strikeouts, a 1.53 FIP, 0.55 WHIP and an ALCS MVP Award winner. In just 29 innings, Miller was able to accumulate a 1.1 WAR (Baseball Reference).

Miller was thrown into the middle of a pennant race and became a force out of the bullpen. His 11 2/3 scoreless frames through the Division and Championship Series led the Tribe to the World Series, and he went on to toss two more scoreless outings before he gave up one run in Game 4 and two in Game 7. Even if the criteria required a full season, Miller could take that title again, as he came back in his first full season in '17 with a 1.44 ERA in 62 2/3 innings with 95 strikeouts and a 0.83 WHIP before the rest of his time with the club was marred by injuries.

2. Gaylord Perry, 1972
Perry was already a 10-year veteran by the time he joined Cleveland. He spent the first 10 seasons of his 22-year career with the Giants, owning a 2.96 ERA with 1,606 strikeouts, 125 complete games and 21 shutouts. He made two All-Star appearances for San Francisco before the Giants traded him in exchange for Sam McDowell prior to the 1972 season. As soon as he came to Cleveland, Perry experienced arguably the best season of his career.

Perry went 24-16 in 41 games (40 starts) in '72 and pitched to a 1.92 ERA with 234 strikeouts in 342 2/3 innings. He led the league with 29 complete games and posted a career-best 0.978 WHIP that not only earned him another All-Star selection, but also his first Cy Young Award. Perry finished sixth in the MVP vote that season and owned a career-best 8.1 WAR, according to Fangraphs.

3. Herb Score, 1955
Of the Guardians’ four players to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Score is the only pitcher to take home the hardware. In his first big league season, Score pitched to a 2.85 ERA in 33 games (32 starts) with 11 complete games, two shutouts and 245 strikeouts in 227 1/3 innings. His 245 strikeouts and 9.7 strikeout-per-nine-innings ratio led all other pitchers in the Majors that season. According to Baseball Reference, Score’s 5.6 WAR from 1955 ranks him third among all rookie hurlers in club history, while his 245 strikeouts sit atop the leaderboard. His efforts also landed him his first of two career All-Star Game selections.

4. Hal Trosky, 1934
Trosky saw 11 games in 1933, but he didn’t see enough action to wipe away his rookie status. His first full season in the big leagues came in '34, when he slashed .330/.388/.598 with 35 homers and 142 RBIs in 154 games (the most games played in the Majors that season). His .987 OPS, 206 hits, 45 doubles, 142 RBIs and .598 slugging percentage are all highest among rookies who played in at least 90 games in franchise history. Trosky's efforts placed him seventh in the MVP vote and his 5.4 WAR (according to Fangraphs) ranked the highest in his career.

5. Al Rosen, 1950
Rosen exceeded his rookie limits during the 1950 season, though the third baseman played in a handful of games for Cleveland from 1947-49. But in his official rookie campaign, Rosen hit .287 with a .948 OPS, which ranks the second-highest of all rookies who played in at least 90 games in franchise history. He logged 23 doubles, four triples and led the league -- and all other rookies in club history -- with 37 homers. Rosen drew a career-high 100 walks and knocked in 116 runs. Though his first big league season earned him a few MVP votes, it wasn’t until 1953 that he would win the award.

Honorable mentions

Joe Charboneau, 1980: Charboneau played in parts of just three seasons in his big league career, but became one of the four members of Guardians to earn the Rookie of the Year Award. In 1980, he slashed .289/.358/.846 with a 129 OPS+, 23 homers and 87 RBIs to take home the honors.

Sandy Alomar Jr., 1990: After being part of the franchise-altering trade just prior to the 1990 season, Alomar gave fans a glimpse of what was to come in the ‘90s when he won the Rookie of the Year Award. He hit .290 with a .744 OPS, nine homers, 66 RBIs and 26 doubles in 132 games.

Chris Chambliss, 1971: Chambliss is the only other Guardians player to earn the Rookie of the Year hardware. In 1971, he hit .275 with a .749 OPS, 20 doubles and 48 RBIs.

Rocky Colavito, 1956: Though he was the Rookie of the Year runner-up, Colavito still had an impressive first full big league season in ’56, hitting .276 with a .903 OPS, 21 homers and 65 RBis in 101 games.