(Note from Cleveland Sports Torture: This post has been edited to take down some of the ESPN Insider column that is behind an ESPN firewall and was originally quoted at length.)
In a classic case of "things can't be happening this way because I didn't predict them,", Keith Law, in an ESPN Insider article so nicely titled "Don't Start Believing," explains why the Indians, Royals, and Nationals will plummet back to earth, and the Red Sox, Braves, and Twins will certainly rise to the top of the heaps.
Personally, and I'm really going out on a limb here, I think the combination of a pesky lineup and apparently underrated pitching seems to be something that may have had the Indians more than a bit undervalued. How's that for careful parsing of words? The Indians, a team of streaks so far, put up their fourth straight win last night in extra innings in Kansas City. Nobody--especially my tortured self--is getting too excited on April 19th, but there is hope, if not outright joy, in Mudville these days. Despite the rain pouring down from Keith Law.
The flavor of the week right now is Cleveland, fresh off a sweep of last week's flavor, Baltimore. I had Cleveland finishing in fourth this year at 67-95, and I still think the Indians are a lot closer to that than they are to a 90-win season.
One reason is obvious -- the schedule, which can dramatically skew team records and even player stats in tiny samples. Among Cleveland's 11 wins are three-game sweeps of two of the league's worst teams, Seattle and Baltimore. The Indians lost series to preseason divisional favorites Chicago and the Angels, two games to one in each, but also mixed in a sweep of the Red Sox, who were widely picked (including by me) to win the World Series this year thanks to a strong run-prevention scheme and solid offense. The Red Sox pitched well in that series, but Cleveland limited Boston to five runs in three games.
I think you can make a case that Cleveland's offense, currently third in the AL in runs scored, will remain above-average over the long haul..as ...Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera come back to earth, Choo and Santana can pick up the slack, as could Grady Sizemore...
Where I doubt Cleveland most is on the run-prevention side of the ledger.... (edited)
The bullpen is headed for a similar regression. Closer Chris Perez has had career-long control issues, but in this year's tiny sample he hasn't missed bats. (remainder edited...)
I don't mean to pick on Cleveland specifically; I don't think the Royals are going to finish over .500, nor do I expect the Nationals to do the same...
(From CST: If you want the entire column and more from Keith Law, please visit ESPN Insider.)