One of the Indians greatest strengths this season was their defense. Not only by itself, but also as an asset to the pitchers by making plays that can't normally be expected. Every time I saw an out of the ordinary play this season I wrote it down and after evaluating the entire season I found 196 above average plays, 55 great plays and 15 amazing plays. Here are the top 10 plays in reverse order along with the 5 plays that just didn't make the cut.
The five that almost made it:
#10 Kosuke Fukudome's diving sacrifice fly:
On August 11th the Indians were facing the Tigers heavy into the Central Division race and looking for a sweep. With one out in the first Fukudome made this great diving catch to save an extra base hit. The run did score, marring this play and keeping it from being a little higher in the countdown. The Indians ended up losing the game by one run, then went on to lose the next 9 games against Detroit.
#9 Major League quality defense:
In his Major League debut, Cord Phelps proved that he was ready for the show by making this full extension diving catch from second base. The play came with a runner at second, so it possibly saved a run from scoring. The Indians ended up losing this one to the Twins by one run.
#8 Fukudome climbs the wall:
While it was not a home run saver, Fukudome helped out closer, Chris Perez, immensely by grabbing this ball off the right field wall in Minnesota to make the first out in the 9th. The catch was made all the more difficult by the overhang located above the fence. Perez managed to finish the rest of the inning safely and won the game for the Tribe.
#7 And now for something completely different:
Fukudome's third and final play on this countdown was a little different than the first two. This one was more of a conrolled fall as his momentum carried him through the air. The out was the final out in the 4th inning of a big win against the White Sox.
#6 Shin-Soo Choo's game ending catch:
Chris Perez was on again to try for a save with runners on second and third and two outs in the 9th. Shin-Soo Choo made this amazing forward diving catch to end the game and save it for Perez.
#5 Zeke goes deep:
Ezequiel Carrera had a pretty good defensive season after a stumbling start and, like Fukudome, had three plays up for the top ten. However, this was the only one that was good enough to make the cut. This diving catch came in a loss to the Rangers and was a full speed, back to the infield catch to save Vinnie Pestano at least a double.
#4 Asdrubal Cabrera flings one to first:
If Asdrubal Cabrera gets any talk about being a Gold Glover this season, the fact that this is only the 4th best defensive play this season could be a reason. One thing that makes any play amazing is the fact that a regular person couldn't do it ever. This play is so ridiculous that there are probably only a handful of Major Leaguers who are capable of pulling it off.
#3 Asdrubal shows off:
The non necessity of the behind the back throw on this play makes it great. Three days before the #4 play, Asdrubal made this stunning combination of a line drive out and behind the back flip to catch Brannen Boesch off second base. If you think this is good, just wait to see what #13 has coming up.
#2 The slowest triple play ever:
Carlos Santana made the second best play of the season in just the third game. In the fourth inning the White Sox and Ozzie Guillen were trying to get something started with runners on first and second and no one out. Trying for a little small ball, Alexei Ramirez popped up a sacrifice bunt that Santana made an all out diving catch on. This catch was made more impressive by the fact that it was his first regular season game at first base. Because the runners were off with the pitch, Santana was able to take his time throwing to Orlando Cabrera at first, who then noticed the runner who was supposed to be on second was off hanging out somewhere else. Asdrubal Cabrera caught the ball to complete the triple play, because he has to be a part of every great defensive play the Indians make. This play and a strong offense lead to the first Indians win of 2011.
#1 The 1-6-4-3 Double Play AKA: Something you may never see again:
Joe Smith should get all the credit for this play, because if he didn't tip this ball, it would have been a tailor made double play. Asdrubal Cabrera's amazing instincts to shift momentum, grab the ball barehanded and throw it hard to second are second to none. This is undoubtedly the best play in Asdrubal's young career and the best play by any Indian this season.
Do you agree? Disagree? Have a play you think got left out? Don't be afraid to leave a comment on the bottom of the page or to sent one via twitter to @BRBBlog
All video courtesy of MLB.com