May 02, 2011
After another week of amazing play from the Cleveland Indians, we're back at the same spot, asking the same question that circulated the past few Mondays: Is this team really for real?
Without booking hotel space in downtown during October, I will say this: Yes, this team is for real. While a playoff berth is far from locked up, it's hard for a below-average team to pretend they're something they're not for the entire first month of the season. By this point, the 2011 Indians — who are at six straight wins and counting — should have earned your trust when it comes to setting your Extra Innings rotation every night.
Over at FanGraphs, David Cameron agrees and writes that the Indians' impressive start goes past the record that puts them atop the AL Central:
It's not just wins and losses ... The Indians have the best run differential in baseball (+47) and they're second in the majors in team WAR (+10.5), trailing only the offensive juggernaut in St. Louis. The Indians aren't winning a bunch of nail-biters, but, instead, they're pounding their opponents into submission. At 5.41 runs scored per game, they're nearly keeping pace with the Yankees offense, and yet they're simultaneously holding opponents to just 3.67 runs per game. Only Oakland and Anaheim are preventing runs at a better rate.
So here's where we're at right now. The Indians own the best record in baseball at 19-8. While they're not going to play .700 baseball for the entire season or approach 100 victories, it's also going to be pretty hard for them — or at least take a long while — to fritter that hot start away (especially when the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are already operating 10 games behind them). Anyone who doubts that needs to take at the difficulties the Red Sox are going to face to regain the pace of a 90-plus victory squad.
Or let's put it another way: By going 11 games over .500 by May 2, the Indians have already awarded themselves the luxury of just over two extra losses per month if they still want to finish at .500.
Sure, an absolute stink bomb of a month can — heck, even a bad week — can wipe that cushion out. But in a division that can possibly be seized with only 86 or 87 wins, it's the best benefit the Indians can be holding as they head into the heart of May.