Here is what I know about Keith Law:
- He is a brain (Harvard, then MBA from Carnegie Mellon). Far smarter than myself.
- He has a better job than I do.
- He is more than well-versed in all things pertaining to and even vaguely tangential to baseball. I respect his opinion highly.
Here's what I know about myself:
- I maintain a healthy fear of numbers and math. Spreadsheets tend to induce a cold sweat, followed by irritable bowels.
- I am a non-essential employee who frequently takes food orders for others at my place of business.
- I have, at best, a child's understanding of the game of baseball. Sabermetrics? I LOVE SWORDS!
So, it goes without saying that when Keith Law scribbles a few words on my beloved Indians, I listen.
As is the fashion, baseball writers have taken to their blogs to address the Indians anomaly. SBNation's Rob Neyer sees some promise, especially with the Tribe's bats, and I have to admit, it felt nice to read.
Law, however, was less optimistic, sending every ignorant Clevelander with an ESPN insider account to verbally tar and feather ole "Klaw" for picking on their beloved Indians (I continue to maintain blog comment walls are the bathroom stall graffiti of the 21st century). And while I wasn't particularly thrilled with Keith's analysis, I think we should listen up.
In his post, Law makes a slew of good points, the best being that when a streak comes at the beginning of a season, with nothing to precede it, people are likely to see something that simply isn't there. If the Indians had started 4-15 and then put together a 13-6 stretch, we'd most likely dismiss it as "just a hot streak".
Then, of course, there is the strength of schedule argument. Prior to the season, Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projection put March/April as the Indians easiest month in the 2011 schedule at (.494). ZiPS has September as the Tribe's most trying month, with 19 divisional games against the White Sox, Tigers, and Twins.
Law also has issues with the strength of the rotation—a valid concern.
And yet, Indians fans are up in arms about Law's observations. They call him a numbers geek (which, he undoubtedly is) and accuse him and ESPN of hatin' on Cleveland as if it is some sort of twisted hobby.
I hate to break it to you, fellow Cleveland fans, but this Indians surge is the first time Cleveland has been relevant in sports conversation since "The Decision". The sports world isn't concerned with our sad story and is equally deaf to our derisive, uninformed blog comments. The hater logic is stupid. I suggest we stop with the defensive eighth grader routine and face the music.
Law is simply doing what he knows—following the numbers. Does this mean his word is Gospel? Hell, no. The man has been wrong before. Consider the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays....
JL: The Rays had a very eventful offseason; how much did this close the gap between the Rays and Boston/New York or even the Jays and 3rd or 4th place?
KL: I could see them finishing in third, but I think the odds are against it...[Toronto's] a good bet to win 85+; how likely is Tampa to get to that mark, given the thin nature of their pitching staff? It would require either outstanding pitcher health, or early arrivals from Price, Davis, etc. Possible, but not likely.
Keith really screwed the pooch on that one.
Personally, I'm inclined treat Law's comments as a caution— if only to temper my rapidly growing expectations for this team. Naturally, I will lean toward Neyer's analysis and hold out hope that the Indians are not a total fluke. As a fan, I don't have any other choice, and quite frankly, I just want it so bad.
There are signs we could be in luck. The AL Central could continue to be a hotbed for mediocre baseball, and it could be anyone's game. One of Law's chief concerns was "Cleveland's lack of pitching depth in the upper levels". but the Tribe's arms could shock the world. Like Law said before, possible, but not likely.
Here's to hoping he's wrong again.