Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cleveland will take your team out back and smack them around

It's time for a pure baseball post. Enough of these stupid criminal stories, file away those green ogres, and let's take a brief time out from retiring. Let's examine what's really important. The Cleveland Indians.

I'm going to be a wee bit self indulgent and take a look at why Cleveland is the best team in baseball.

(Note: I realize that writing this will jinx the club into an awful tailspin, but hey, it's not often that Cleveland has anything to boast about. Time may be of the essence here, and as such, it's time for this post.)

Exhibit A.) Cleveland is in first place

Their 27-15 record puts them a half game a top the AL Central standings. While that may not seem like a significant lead, the Tigers in second have five more wins than any other second place team in the AL. They flirted with the now its here now its gone "best record in baseball" moniker for awhile before a lackluster west coast trip brought them a few percentage points behind Boston.

Exhibit B.) Jacobs Field belongs to The Tribe

Cleveland is 17-4 at home this season, convincingly the best record in baseball at their own park. The recent series versus Cincinnati set attendance records, showing that Cleveland fans are warming up to this team, something they have not done since Jacobs Field opened in the mid-90s. Should Cleveland make the playoffs and should they be able to secure any type of home field advantage for any series they should show who is boss at The Jake.

Exhibit C.) Cleveland is smacking around the AL Central

Versus the AL Central 9-2.
Versus the Chicago White Sox 4-2.
Versus the Minnesota Twins 5-0.
Cleveland opens up a series against the Royals tonight (only two teams have fewer wins in baseball) and then the big series comes this weekend against the Tigers. But, so far so good.

Exhibit D.) Fausto Carmona is the best pitcher on the staff

Normally a statement like that would scare the crap out of my team's chances, but this year not the case. With a 5-1 record, 2.55 ERA, and 1.14 WHIP Carmona easily leads Cleveland's rotation. He was supposed to be a fill-in starter when Cliff Lee began the season on the disabled list and now Carmona is securing himself a spot in the rotation now that Jake Westbrook is injured. The extra arm allows Cleveland to remove the struggling Jeremy Sowers and helps the higher ups avoid hitting the panic button while injured guys get better and into form.

Exhibit E.) The much improved bullpen is cruising

Last season, the much ado Indians failed miserably due in no small part to their bullpen being unable to hold any lead. This year, a new cast and crew have shut down the opponents. Aaron Fultz, Rafael Betancourt, and Tom Mastny all have ERA's 2.75 or lower and perhaps more importantly WHIP's below 1. And (biting my tongue until it bleeds) Joe Borowski has 14 saves.

Exhibit F.) The fearsome foursome are again fearsome

This team is built around offense, and specifically that refers to Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta. Last year, Peralta was miserable. He started this season slowly but has warmed up of late getting his batting average up to .281 while leading the team with 10 home runs. Travis Hafner's numbers are solid (8 HRs, 29 RBIs) but they are reduced if only because no one wants to pitch to him. He's averaging nearly a walk per game on his way to a team leading .439 on base percentage. Grady may be the best lead off man in baseball. He's fourth in the league in runs scored with 36 as well as contributing 7 homers and 15 steals. Sensational catcher Victor Martinez leads the team in runs batted in (32) and batting average (.324).

Exhibit G.) Andy Marte got injured

Ever since acquiring Andy Marte from the Braves to be the third baseman of the future, Cleveland fans have been waiting. We waiting through the dismal Aaron Boone years, and then we waited while Marte went through "rookie struggles." This year, though, patience was wearing thin and when he started the season with .179 average in 13 games, I personally had enough. He went injured allowing Casey Blake and Ryan Garko to find their way into the line-up with both making the most of their opportunity. Either one is a better option and now Marte sits as a back-up infielder.

Picture from The Segway Collection

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