And yes - o ye rare and faithful reader of KruschkeLeaks - you will recognize the immediate irony in that declaration when you recall that on April 6th, I picked the Indians for 5th place in the AL Central and a measly 68 wins. Hmm.
That said, we have found out a LOT about the Indians in the first month of the season: namely that every possible question mark about them has turned up roses. Asdrubal Cabrera? Flashing his promising '09 form, with extra power to boot. Travis Hafner? Written off for dead for years now, thumping once again. Grady Sizemore? He didn't go 'til the 8th round of our fantasy draft, and I wanted nothing to do with him bc of the dreaded microfracture knee surgery. Naturally, he has returned to looking like the Grady of old (minus the stolen bases).
Carlos Santana? Putting all concerns about last year's horrific knee injury behind him (as the picture at left more than attests). Matt LaPorta? Showing power and finally starting to deliver on the promise that made him the key cog in the CC Sabathia trade with Milwaukee.
And the one position where they're most milking a player - third baseman Jack Hanahan? Polished prospect Lonnie Chisenhall waits in the wings, and likely will finish off the latter half of the season for the Tribe. He could have an impact like Danny Valencia did for the Twins last year.
Throw in their one rock in Shin Soo-Choo and our old guy O-Cab - all he does is win wherever he goes! - and this lineup easily looks like the division's best, right now.
If the Indians falter I do think it will be their pitching that lets them down, despite their 3rd place standing (3.48 team ERA) in the A.L. so far. Masterson, Carmona, and Carlos Carrasco (currently injured) are a decent-enough top 3, although there's no true ace among them. Their #4 and #5 starters and likewise candidates are mostly a bunch of thumbers who scream regression. Chris Perez is a solid option at the end of games, but the front office may have to make a move or two as the summer progresses.
As for the Royals, I have little doubt that they will return from whence they came - challenging for the cellar once again. KC has a lot of great young players on the way, true, but there will be a lot of turbulence as they integrate themselves to the big leagues over the next few years. Their climb probably won't begin until 2013 at the earliest.
So why the heck didn't I at least pick Cleveland to beat out the Royals this year? Great question, and while not satisfying to me now, I do at least have somewhat of an answer for you. Over the last two years, I have felt a tad "sleeperish" about the Tribe, only to see them show absolutely nothing and underachieve. I finally figured "I'm the one missing something, screw 'em" and now of course, it looks like they're shooting the sequel to Major League. Go figure.