Sometimes it seems like baseball fans and writers get a little too stat obsessed and it happens here too. Today is a great day to look past numbers and enjoy the beauty of baseball with the top ten defensive plays made by the Indians in 2012 as rated by me. All season I keep track of every decent defensive play, giving them a rating of "Above Average", "Great" or "Amazing." This year there were 154 Above Average plays, 58 Great plays and 10 Amazing plays. We'll start off with five, not quite amazing plays, followed by the Cleveland Indians top ten defensive plays of the year.
The five that almost made it:
#10 Kipnasty Getting Dirty
Against the Royals' Chris Getz, Jason Kipnis made a full dive running to his left to stop a ball and make the throw to first. The play occurred with no one on and ended the 7th inning. It is the only representation on the countdown of what was a great season defensively from the Indians athletic second baseman.
#9 Willie Mays Style
Michael Brantley recorded the first out in the second inning on June 3rd with this tremendous catch on a Ryan Doumit fly ball. Brantley showed great awareness by extending his arm far ahead of himself on a dead sprint to make the play.
#8 Lilly's Vanishing Act
With the whole crowd dressed in yellow to celebrate Felix Hernandez's first start after his perfect game, Brent Lillibridge made this interesting catch. At the first look, he disappears behind the wall as he grabs the ball down the foul line. With the second look, you can see Lilly flip his glove around to make better use of the webbing. This is pretty impressive considering he was in mid-air at the time and he spends half his time playing the infield. The play occurred in the 8th inning against the Mariners Michael Saunders.
#7 A Damon Dive
The amazing part of this play was, believe it or not, not the Rick Manning live read for fireworks (although it is amazing listening to an artist at work). The incredible part of this play is that Johnny Damon still has the ability to get his entire body off the ground at once and that he is willing to do it sideways. Indians fans may want to forget that Damon was ever on the team, but don't try until you have seen this replay just one more time.
#6 Donald Takes It To The People
Jason Donald made this catch to end the fourth inning in a game against the Tigers while playing third base (one of the many positions he played for the Tribe this year). Donald showed no fear or regard for his own, or the fans safety as he came up with the ball, diving into the stands. Matt Underwood said it best when he said, "the glove comes out, ball still in there," while Rick Manning worried solely about the children.
#5 Brantley Robs Rios 3 Run Home Run
Everyone loves a wall climbing grab that steals a home run, especially one that keeps three runs off the board. This certainly wasn't the only time Brantley stopped runs from scoring on defense, but it was the most acrobatic. This particular three run saving catch came back in May, when the Indians were in first place, against the Chicago White Sox and Alex Rios. The Indians ended up losing this particular game by 7, but they could have lost by 10.
#4 To The Left: Full Extension Mid-Air Catch
This dive is much more impressive than Damon's, because Ezequiel Carrera was running at full speed (and his full speed is much faster than Damon's), he had to run further and reach higher as well. Carrera couldn't possibly have made this play without going all out. This play was for the second out in the fourth inning against Seattle. The fact that this is the third play on the list by an Indians left fielder and all three are by different players exhibits the Indians problems finding a productive outfielder. It also shows that their productivity problems were not on defense.
#3 Shifty Cabrera Catches Morales Bare Handed
Asdrubal Cabrera was playing second on this play because of the shift and Kendrys Morales hit the ball right where he would have been if he had been playing normally. This didn't phase Asdrubal as he ran across the infield, grabbed the ball barehanded and got Morales for the last out of the inning, stranding Angels rookie Mike Trout at third base.
#2 Asdrubal's Choice: Barehander To Second
This is the type of reaction play that makes Cabrera the most fun player to watch on the Indians. While he can have problems throwing on some of the more typical plays, he excels on do-or-die plays like this or the last one. Cabrera has some of the greatest baseball instincts I've ever seen falling somewhere short of the dream team of Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar in the late 1990's. With a few years of seasoning, Kipnis and Cabrera could be performing ballet on the infield. While neither of his plays this year would have beat his top three from 2011, they are still the top for 2012.
#1 High Flying Carrera
Ezequiel Carrera grabbed the top spot in this years countdown with this fantastic diving catch. In the past two years, Carrera has only played towards the end of the season and as a fourth outfielder, but has managed to find himself with three plays in each of the past two season's top 15 plays, more than any other player. This shows how exciting a player he can be. The best part is that his plays are not because he has limited range and has to dive for balls other players would easily handle, but because he is actually making plays most outfielders can't.
All video courtesy of MLB.com