Last season was going just about as well for the Cleveland Indians as this season has gone so far. They were in first place in the AL Central right after the All-Star Break and looked like they were on the fast track to a playoff berth for the first time in a while.
Of course, they collapsed in the second half of the season and ended up losing the division to the Detroit Tigers. This season, they're up near the top again. Currently they sit three games behind the Chicago White Sox in second place, with the Tigers streaking, but still behind.
FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi wrote a column on Friday regarding teams that were in the title races but weren't expected to be this far into the year, including the Indians. He listed the key players that would need to get hot or stay hot in order to help the teams like the Pirates, Nationals and Orioles to stay in the title races and Cleveland's nominee was red-hot right fielder Shin-Soo Choo:
The Indians faded in the second half last year. Then again, those Indians didn’t have Choo at full strength.
Choo, at his best, can carry a team for a couple weeks at a time. He may need to do that for a Cleveland team that lacks a dominant starting rotation and only recently welcomed back Travis Hafner to the lineup.
Choo didn’t receive a spot on the All-Star team, even with a scalding .972 OPS over his final 50 games of the first half. But if he keeps that up, he will become an MVP candidate – and the Indians could contend well into September.
It may take a bit more than just Choo to help the Indians avoid yet another summer swoon, but having him stay at his blistering pace certainly wouldn't hurt as they try to hold off the Tigers and overtake the Sox to make the postseason.