Damn, these Indians are fun to watch

(Jim Mone/AP Photo)
This is fun.

The Cleveland Indians are finally winning the baseball games they should be, and it only took them until August to do it. You'll have to bear with my small sample size here, because we all know that when you only use one pane, instead of the whole window, that can be trouble, but screw sense and sensibilities here. Your damn Cleveland Indians have finally shown up here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

The past week has been an eye-opener, small sample-size be damned.

Their center fielder is hitting .357 during that stretch, playing great defense, and sparking the team, only his name is Abraham Almonte, not Michael Bourn. Their first baseman is hitting .429 this past week, with three doubles and some athletic play at first base, only his name is Chris Johnson, not Nick Swisher. Their second baseman has been stellar leading off, and is hitting .343 over the past week, only his name is Jose Ramirez, not Jason Kipnis. Their right fielder is hitting .455 this past week, and may be playing the best defense the position has seen all year, only his name is Lonnie Chisenhall, and not David Murphy or Brandon Moss.

Yeah, I know, it's a small sample size, and no, this isn't a knock on the Indians prior to their pre- and post-deadline deals. That paragraph could also just as easily be a cautionary tale, since it's likely that all of those players that are raking are likely to regress, in one form or another. That's just the way baseball works.

But try not to think too hard. Think back to what these Indians were supposed to be. They were supposed to be a team dominated by their starting rotation. They were supposed to be a team that could score some runs with their smart hitting, even though they lacked an abundance of home run power.

The were supposed to be better.

Yan Gomes was supposed to take the next step in his development to being a MLB superstar behind the plate, before injuries took away the first half of his season. While he played, it was easy to see that his knee injury was going to take some time to heal, and the rust was going to take some time to buff out. Over the past week, Gomes is hitting .346, and his last month, his statistics have reverted back to their norms of pre-2015 both offensively and defensively. It feels like his season is just getting started.

Michael Brantley was entering a big year after finishing third in the MVP voting last year, until an ailing back hindered him for much of the first half of the season. In August, Brantley has been raking, hitting .425 (with a 1.028 OPS), with five doubles, and coming up with key hit after key hit. I don't want to talk about the metaphysics here, but he really looks different, and I don't really mean just like the player he was last year. It's dangerous territory to mention leaders in a world that tries to measure everything, but perhaps that mantle is something that he's beginning to take on, and more than just by example.

Giovanny Urshela may have had the best play at third base in the major leagues this week. Hell, it might have been the best play of the year, although other plays will get the nod over him because he plays in Cleveland and nobody outside of us Indians die-harders had ever heard of him before this past June. His defense is spectacular, and I'm telling you, that swing is going to be special as he starts to learn the MLB ropes. He has good bat speed that can overcome holes in his swing, and he just learns. I hate to use the "he's a sponge" cliche, but I just did, and he is.

The real fun has been this rotation. Since David Murphy was traded on July 28th, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber have been electric. They've made ten starts during that stretch, and given up 14 earned runs in 80 total innings pitched. While win totals are meaningless (I get it, but still love them), they are 6-1 over that stretch of baseball, with a 1.58 ERA, while striking out 68, and walking only 13.

In other words, they are finally getting the run support that they've been lacking all season, while still going deep into ballgames. These three are special, and if I'm to be honest, Bauer's last start excludes him from my inclusion. I've been reading a lot of laughable garbage about Bauer-concerns on the Twittah.

He'll be fine...just shush.

He's just not Salazar, Carrasco or Kluber just yet.

But here's where the real fun begins. Some of you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the shortstop position as of yet. It's because I'm all about cliche's today: I've saved the best for last.

Francisco Lindor.

During the Yankees series, baseball fans were treated to two of the best young shortstops in baseball, in New York's Didi Gregorius and the Indians' Lindor. Gregorius was spectacular, flashing around the position like a whirling dervish. Some highly respected twitterer (can't remember who, and the term makes me laugh) said, "He's the best shortstop I've seen in awhile."

I hope you are picturing my face right now, with a perplexing, pissed off look on it.

While not knocking the pure athleticism of Gregorius, Lindor's is a much more cerebral defender, with better instincts, and athleticism to boot. He's also four years younger than Didi, and just better (it's at this point that I would pull out some UZR or defensive runs saved or range factor, but you have eyes).

There are two areas, though, that I feel people have been missing the boat on Lindor, and for a couple of different reasons. Offensively, Lindor has been destroying big league pitching in August. Over the past week, he's hitting .500. Since August 1st, he's been hitting .375. Since the All-Star break, he's been hitting .355, with three homers, 15 RBI, five doubles and 19 runs scored in 26 ball games. His OBP during that stretch has been .386, and while many knocked his placement into the #2 hole, you can make a solid case that Francona made the right move there.

While Lindor's bat was the weaker part of his game heading into the big leagues, the Indians were lock-sure that it was a "weak" part. While he had growing to do, internally, he's always been considered a high average, high OBP candidate in the bigs, with a likely power growth as he began working filling in, since he doesn't turn 22 until November. While Twitter was ready to compare him to the light-hitting Alcides Escobar early on, Chris Antonetti and his analytics crew knew they had more, and more importantly, knew that he was ready, even if the Twitter-front office didn't think the offense was there.

On top of that was the immeasurable leadership, that many want to mock because it lacks tangible proof, as well as algorithms to support it. I get it, and agree to a point. With Lindor, I've always said, "You just have to watch him to understand," and I think when you see him on the field, you can understand what I mean. Yes, he's awesome defensively. Yes, he's better than we thought offensively (other than Joey Twitter, who will claim to have nailed everything from grandmama's basement), but he leads that clubhouse in many ways.

No, I don't think he supersedes Jason Kipnis or Brantley in the pecking order. No, I don't think he has the baseball knowledge that a Corey Kluber or Yan Gomes has. But there's an energy that he brings to the team that they didn't have before, and perhaps some of that was squelched by guys like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, and even a David Murphy, simply because of their "standing" or "Bro-hio-ness." This isn't a knock on those players either (I loved Swisher), but just a statement of fact. This club had a void to fill, and it's clear that Francisco Lindor has filled some of that void.

In talking with Scout.Com's Indians' beat reporter, Hayden Grove, it was clear that the locker room changed in complexity when Lindor and Urshela entered it, and that it was more because of Lindor, than anything else. He brings a gravitas to the locker room that I'm not sure was there before, and while I think Kipnis and Brantley have ascended into leadership roles of their own, we're seeing the first inkling that this team may just be Lindor's going forward.

Perhaps all of this is based solely on the fact that this team was damn near dreadful to watch prior to August, and perhaps even prior to August 7th. Perhaps they'll end up just as dreadful, if Almonte and Johnson and Chisenhall and others regress, the way many suspect.

Who cares.

Right now, this team is damn fun to watch again, and fleeting or not, this was the team we were supposed to get at the start. Will it continue?

Who knows, but at least this team is interesting enough to make it matter again.
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