Mike Hargrove used to say that you'd know about a team after the first 40 games. It takes a little longer for me. I like to do an inventory at the break. Here's some things I've learned about the Tribe so far.
· Jhonny Peralta's back. Before the start of the season the front office put the pressure on Jhonny to improve his defense and get his '05 hitting stroke back. He did both with a vengeance.
· Paul Byrd can pitch. I was hot to trade Byrd and his salary to any unsuspecting GM (hello Bill Bavasi) for a bag of balls and a tub of warm hot dogs before the season started. Man was I wrong. He's now indisputably our number three pitcher and, I think, a steadying hand in the clubhouse.
· Victor Martinez can play catcher, first base, and still rake. My neurotic obsession with runners stealing on Vic was misplaced. Plus he's still one of the best hitters in baseball. What a player.
· The Tribe can win with a league average DH. Pronk's struggles have been well documented, but you know what, we're still a playoff team even with Pronk not being Pronk. I don't know why, but I expect the real Pronk back after the break.
· You can construct an adequate bullpen from the flotsam and jetsam of the league. Shapiro used the well-worn strategy of bringing in as many relievers as you can and letting the bullpen sort itself out of the course of the season. So with some of our rookies filling in our BP is a vast improvement over last year.
· Gritty veterans may add great clubhouse presence but they still gotta be able to play. Two words; Trot Nixon. Enough said.
· This kid Carmona can really pitch. Thank the baseball gods for Fausto, without him filling in for Lee/Westbrook, the Tribe's a much poorer team.
· A leadoff hitter who leads the league in strikeouts is not necessarily a bad thing. Two strikes on Grady is damn-near an automatic strike out but he's still in the top five in runs scored. What else is a leadoff hitter supposed to do?
· Ryan Garko's performance last year wasn't a fluke. Surprising me, and I imagine just about everybody else on this site, Ryan's picked up where he left off last year, plus his defense is steadily improving. He's the Paul Sorrento of '07.
That's my list. I'm interested in what the rest of you guys think.