After a disappointing 94-loss campaign in 2012, the Indians made several offseason moves that made them a popular sleeper team this season. As a result, the fact that they remain in the wild-card race shouldn't surprise you. But how they got here might.
In 2012, Cleveland ranked 28th in baseball with -51 defensive runs saved -- Baseball Info Solutions' overall measure of player defense in terms of runs saved or cost for a team -- and they set out last winter to improve their defense, thinking that would, in turn, make their pitchers look better and allow them to improve on their 5.2 runs allowed per game.
They brought in a pair of center fielders in Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs, and added Nick Swisher, traditionally a right fielder, to provide both platoon and defensive flexibility at first base and outfield. They let Travis Hafner leave in free agency, which allowed Mark Reynolds to move to DH, where his poor defense would not be a liability. For many who picked the Indians as a sleeper in the preseason, improved defense was often cited as a reason.
And the thing is, the Indians' run prevention is much better this year, as they are giving up just 4.3 runs per contest. However, it's not because of the improved defense.