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Numbers show Guardians early success is no fluke | Jeff Schudel

Apr. 27—Maybe going 76 years without winning the World Series has groomed Indians/Guardians fans to expect disappointment. The sky hasn't fallen yet, but it's only April. Just give it time.

Whenever mention of this season's fast start is the topic, the response from the person across the usually begins with, "Yeah, but..." As in, "Yeah, but the only reason they have the best record in the American League is because they've beaten up bums for the first month of the season."

That conclusion is easy to reach because the Guardians won six of seven games against the Oakland A's and because they beat the hapless Chicago White Sox twice in three games earlier this month. The G-men won't play the A's again this season. They get to feast on the White Sox 10 more times.

A closer look at how the Guardians got to 18-7 before playing the Braves in Atlanta on April 26 shows something else.

The Guardians are 8-5 against teams better than .500. That is a winning percentage of .615. The Orioles (16-8) tied with the Yankees (17-9) for first in the AL East, are 9-6 against winning teams — a .600 winning percentage. The Yankees are 7-5 against teams above .500.

The Braves, leaders of the National League East, have the best record in all of baseball at 17-6, but they are only 5-4 against winning teams. The Dodgers, first in the NL West (16-11) are just 4-7 against winning teams. The Brewers, first in the NL Central at 16-8, are 12-7 against winning teams. Their .632 winning percentage is the only one better than that of the Guardians against teams north of .500.

"Once the guys arrive in the clubhouse before the game, you feel that good energy," Jose Ramirez said through an interpreter April 25. "We can compete with anybody. That's the attitude we need to have."

The A's are just 11-16, but they are 10-10 against everyone but the Guardians. The Red Sox must be happy they're done playing the Guards. They are 2-5 against Cleveland and 12-7 against their other opponents.

The Guardians have completed eight series here in the early portion of the schedule. They won seven of them. The exception was losing two of three to the Yankees at Progressive Field.

The formula for success has not been starting pitching. Their four primary starters — Tanner Bibee, Triston McKenzie, Logan Allen and Carlos Carrasco — are 8-4, but they have a 4.72 combined ERA. Ben Lively is 0-1 in two starts with a 2.38 ERA. Xzavion Curry pitched five shutout innings and had a no-decision in his only start. Shane Bieber was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA before being shelved to undergo Tommy John surgery.

The Guardians are being carried by the bullpen and, surprisingly, the offense. They are being more aggressive at the plate under first-year manager Stephen Vogt. They are also aggressive on the base paths. Creating chaos on the bases is a mantra for 2024.

"Everybody's got the green light until they don't," Vogt said April 25. "I trust our guys. They all do their homework. We want them to be themselves. That's how it's always been."

The Guardians, 29th in home runs at the end of 2023, are 19th at this point of the season with 25. They are eighth in stolen bases, also with 25, coincidentally. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Freeman, Andres Gimenez and Ramon Laureano have each swiped three bags.

The Guardians have maintained discipline at the plate despite the uptick in home runs. They have the four fewest strikeouts in the Majors with 184.

—FanGraphs has now pegged the Guardians as the team most likely to win the AL Central. Their odds of making the playoffs have improved from 33.4 percent to 46.4 percent.

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