Cleveland Guardians are for real, and they're spectacular

Oakland Athletics v Cleveland Guardians
Oakland Athletics v Cleveland Guardians / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Attempting to determine how 2024 will play out for the Cleveland Guardians was not an easy task before the season started. There were plenty who were skeptical of their chances, considering they were coming off a down year, hired a first-time manager in Stephen Vogt, and their lack of notable additions this past offseason. But with winning six out of their first seven series to begin the season, even the biggest skeptics have to hold some belief in this team's ability to contend.

The Guardians have a 16-6 record and a +52 run differential at the moment, both currently being the best in all of baseball. The 72 runs allowed by their pitching staff is the second-fewest so far, only two behind the surprising Kansas City Royals. While some may be quick to point out that six of their wins came against the Athletics, it must be pointed out that Oakland is actually one game below .500 in games when they do not play against the Guardians (7-8). Even though there is a decent chance that this is just a misleading record early in the season for Oakland, it is definitely worth mentioning how many people are ready to discount Cleveland's wins early on in the season. 

It would be one thing if the Guardians were only winning games by the skin of their teeth, with barely any runs scored. The reality is that their 124 runs scored rank third behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (131) and Atlanta Braves (125). Being able to come out of the gate and just behind two very potent offenses is a very encouraging sign for the Guardians moving forward.Especially since they have managed to actually hit the ball over the fence this year. Cleveland has 22 home runs so far, which puts them in a tie for 13th and 10 behind the MLB-leading Baltimore Orioles (33). Obviously, it is early, and there is still work to be done in this area, but the fact they are not at or near the bottom is a positive sign.

If there is one area to be concerned with, it is their starting rotation. Losing Shane Bieber for the year is going to hurt big time, and there is also the uncertainty involving Triston McKenzie at the moment. Sure, McKenzie was able to bounce back in his last outing with just one run allowed on three hits in 5 innings, but walks and inability to consistently pitch deep into a game is going to have an impact sooner rather than later. Hopefully, the addition of Gavin Williams should help the starting rotation stabilize a bit, while Carlos Carrasco, Ben Lively, and Xzavion Curry could be guys to lean on later in the season. 

The Guardians have come out of the gate firing on all cylinders, and it is becoming impossible to ignore. This is a team that looks vastly improved over last year's squad, even with very few changes being made in terms of who is on the field. This says a lot about how prepared this team was entering this season and how they are ready to prove that 2022 was a more accurate representation of their skill level, with 2023 being an outlier. They have been able to do that so far, and it appears like it is going to continue.