A week ago, I'll admit, I was still dismissing the Indians' hot start.
I'm still not ready to believe, but I'm getting there -- and not just because their 19-8 record is the best in the majors.
Plenty of teams play well for the first 30 games of the season, only to fade. In fact, of the last 12 teams to start a season 19-8 or better, only seven made it to the playoffs. The 2006 Reds started 19-8, and didn't even manage to finish .500.
One scout who follows the American League Central said Monday, "The best thing the White Sox and Tigers have going for them is that they're chasing the Indians and Royals."
Still, there are reasons to believe, according to scouts who have followed the Indians:
1. Grady Sizemore looks like himself again. When I did the Indians camp report in February, I wrote that the most interesting question for the Indians was "whether the Grady Sizemore of 2007-08 will return."
"He's back," one scout said. "He's moving awfully well."
2. Michael Brantley looks like Grady Sizemore, too.
"He's another Sizemore," the scout said. "He takes good at-bats, he can throw, and he can run."
3. Justin Masterson is better than he was, Josh Tomlin is better than you think, and Alex White can be a difference-maker.
Masterson started 0-5 last year. He's 5-0 this year. Scouts say he could be even better if he would consistently use his sinker against left-handed hitters, who are still hitting .295 against him.
Tomlin is 4-0, and on the way to living up to one scout's spring training prediction that he would win more games than Fausto Carmona or Carlos Carrasco.
As for White, the 2009 No. 1 draft pick who debuted Saturday against the Tigers, one scout called him "the real deal." Told that the Indians actually think 2010 first-rounder Drew Pomeranz will be better than White, the scout said, "Well, then they'll have two top-of-the-rotation guys."
White only joined the rotation because both Mitch Talbot and Carrasco are hurt, but this scout predicted that there's no way the Indians can send him back to the minor leagues now.
"They'll just have to pay him," he said. "They ought to sign him to a long-term deal right now."
4. Tim Belcher's message is getting through.
Belcher worked in the Cleveland front office after retiring as a pitcher, then became the Indians' pitching coach last year. One scout gives him credit for the Indians' strong start, saying, "Belcher has them pitching to a game plan. The stuff isn't that electric, but they make it work."
5. The Orlando Cabrera effect. Cabrera moves from team to team, but as one scout said Monday, winning follows him. Since July 2004, when the Expos sent him to the Red Sox as part of the Nomar Garciaparra deal, Cabrera has changed teams seven times, but has made the playoffs every year but one.
"He's a menace," one scout said. "He's not great at second base, but he wins."
And so, for now, do the Indians.