At what point do you start to believe in the Cleveland Indians?
For most of the first two months of the season, fans and other observers have adhered to a wait-and-see attitude about the Indians, even as they won series and after series with an impressive combination of excellent starting pitching, terrific relief and timely hitting.
But it might now be time to think about investing in this team for the long haul. The Indians are 28-15. They're just beyond that 40-game mark that has long been the accepted rule of thumb when it comes to evaluating a team's progress and predicting what may come over the next four months.
Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are a combined 11-3, both with ERAs well under 3.00. The bullpen has been solid, if not spectacular. About the worst thing you can say about the Indians' relief pitching is that Chris Perez has had a couple of Bob Wickman-type rollercoaster saves.
Even with Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana struggling most of the first two months, the Indians are leading the American League in hitting and scoring. Previous Indians teams would not have been able to overcome Choo's hitting woes and Santana's sophomore slump.
That's what is most impressive about this team. The Indians have done all this while dealing with adversity off and on throughout the first few weeks of the season. Grady Sizemore began the season on the disabled list and is back there again. Travis Hafner sat out some games with injuries and now has joined Sizemore on the DL.
Starting pitchers Mitch Talbot and Alex White are on the DL and starter Carlos Carrasco recently was activated after a stint there.
It doesn't seem to matter what kind of adversity the game throws at the Indians right now. They've somehow been able to deal with it and keep winning.
You wouldn't have guessed that would be the case when the season began, because one thing the Indians' roster didn't seem to have was depth.
Maybe it's time for second-year manager Manny Acta to get some credit for the way this team has played. I wasn't sold on Acta when he was hired to replace the fired Eric Wedge. Acta had lost - a lot - as the manager of the Washington Nationals. Few expected that to change when he came to Cleveland, but he seems to have connected with the players in the Indians' clubhouse in a way Wedge - aside from the 2007 season - did not.
But even though the Indians appear to be for real, given that they have the best record in baseball with a quarter of the season in the books, the next few weeks appear critical.
After today's finale against Cincinnati, the Indians' next 23 games are against Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Minnesota, the New York Yankees and Detroit. Of that group, only the Twins began this weekend with a sub-.500 record.
If the Indians can play .500 ball over these next 24 games, that would make them 40-27 in mid-June.
Will that be enough for us to believe in this team?