As I have said many times on this blog before, the MLB always has one surprise team that finds their way into postseason baseball. A team that nobody outside of the home city (and even most in the home city) could not have predicted. A team that none of the experts predict to have a prayer of still standing come October. Last year’s surprise team was none other than the Cincinnati Reds. I think we may know who this year’s “Surprise Team” is going to be.
The Indians are playing like its 2007 and appear to be no joke. Sports Illustrated picked a young Cleveland team to have their 3rd consecutive losing season and really be a team that had no impact on who would be left standing in the AL Central at the end of September. Well as it goes every year, Sports Illustrated and the experts are usually off when predicting the “Surprise Team” each year. There is no way to predict consistently who the “Surprise Team” will be. You would be better off just playing eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
Currently, Cleveland enters today with a 17 and 8 record, tied for best in the Major Leagues with the World Series favorite, Philadelphia. They have been winning games the best way to win. By playing sound fundamental baseball. Solid pitching and timely hitting win ball games. And Cleveland has mastered that concept, or so it seems. The Tribe have been absolutely mashing the ball. And though they are not among the League leaders in round-trippers, they do lead the American League in runs, RBIs, batting average, and on base percentage. They are averaging and astounding 5.52 runs per game. Put that type of hitting with a pitching staff that ranks 4th in the American League in ERA at 3.62, you better believe that they are going to keep winning games. Not to mention they are not too shabby from a fielding standpoint either, only committing 13 errors thus far this year, to rank 3rd in the American League in fielding percentage.
But the real crazy part about all of this. Who are they doing this with? For all my people out there who are not Indian’s fans, can you name 3 players on the roster? I know most would be very hard pressed too. I mean this team’s payroll this year is a meager 54.2 million. Want to know how that compares to the other teams currently leading their respective divisions?
New York Yankees: 202.3 million
Los Angeles Angels: 136 million
Texas Rangers: 95 million
Philadelphia Phillies: 164.6 million
St. Louis Cardinals: 109.4 million
Colorado Rockies: 90.1 million
Cleveland’s payroll is less than half of most of these teams and just within 35.9 million of the closest one. Crazy I know. I guess this could be a reason that the majority of America has never heard of the core group leading this Cleveland team. In a way, this story is somewhat reminsicent of the classic movie, “Major League.” Just in this story, the owner is not trying to sabotage the team.
There are a couple of guys on this roster that will probably ring a bell. Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Justin Masterson. All 3 of these players are having career years and are the real leaders for the Tribe. But do you know who Jack Hannahan, Michael Brantley, or Asdrubal Cabrera are? If not, I recommend you get to know them.
Do not expect this Cleveland team to flounder down the stretch. With a +45 run differential that leads the Majors, they aren’t just sneaking by, they are pounding teams. The Indians are young, talented, and exciting. Have no fear Cleveland, the Indians won’t abandon ship.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.