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Cleveland Indians: Whose Return to the Lineup Is More Important?

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 5: Travis Hafner #48 of the Cleveland Indians hits a solo home run during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field on July 5, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Rays 3-1. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Evan VogelContributor IIIJuly 11, 2012

This could be the strangest article that I have ever written. Two recently returned players for the Cleveland Indians, neither of whom have produced tremendously due either to their own inability to do so or to injuries, are the primary focus. Welcome back, Jack Hannahan and Travis Hafner.

Travis Hafner has been pretty solid in limited time this season. He missed 38 games due to a troublesome right knee, on which he had surgery at the end of May.

Outside of the time lost, Hafner has been somewhat productive, posting a .799 OPS, which has dropped significantly since he has hit .133/.235/.333 in four games since his return.

While he has struggled with an overall .231/.370/.429 line, the fact that he does possess some power and he has great on-base skills creates a lasting value to the aging slugger.

Jack Hannahan was fantastic in April, posting a .290/.375/.403 with 14 RBI in 62 at-bats. Since then, Hannahan is hitting just .215/.277/.323 with four doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 93 at-bats.

His defense, which is supposed to be top of the line, is 10th in MLB among third basemen, just below Toronto Blue Jays youngster Brett Lawrie, with a .949 fielding percentage.

Hannahan has done a great job against right-handed pitchers this season, posting a .288/.342/.413 line in 104 at-bats, but has hit just .157/.271/.235 in 51 at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

Both players present solid skills. Hafner was once a top-notch performer, but has struggled to stay healthy since 2007, missing a total of 237 games since the start of the 2008 season. Hannahan, a defensive specialist, has missed 88 games since September of 2008 due to injury. He may struggle to produce due to his inability to stay on the field, as well.

The Indians have to be excited to have both players back, as they provide solid, veteran presence, if nothing else. With the injury to Lonnie Chisenhall, the need to have Hannahan on the 25-man roster was very necessary, but you have to wonder if he could have been the odd man out when Hafner returned, had Chisenhall not suffered the broken bone near his wrist.

For my money, Hafner is the more important return for the Indians. I would have cut Hannahan when Hafner came off of the disabled list if Lonnie Chisenhall was healthy. Hannahan’s defensive skills are solid, but highly overrated when you factor in his hitting inefficiencies.

Hafner is not going to hit 42 home runs and drive in 117 runs ever again, like he did in 2007, but he has hit .265/.367/.443 with 22 doubles, one triple, 20 home runs and 81 RBI in 472 at-bats since the start of the 2011 season.

Even if Hannhan saves 20 runs per season, he can’t produce the number of runs that Hafner can.

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