LAKELAND, Fla. -- Word was spreading of the Indians' signing of Michael Bourn last week just as the Tigers were getting ready for their first official workout of the spring. And though this was a day reserved merely for some pitchers' fielding practices and bullpen sessions, the competitive instincts kicked in.
"They gotta do better than Michael Bourn," said a smiling Victor Martinez, before gesturing toward catcher Alex Avila. "We've got some policemen who give tickets to people who go from first to second!"
If the Tigers are confident about their ability to defend not only second base but also their American League Central title, they have every right to be. They return a robust rotation and a lineup bolstered by the return of Martinez and the addition of Torii Hunter. When the predictions for 2013 start rolling in en masse, they will once again be the consensus favorite to win the division crown, just as they were a year ago.
Want an early read on those predictions? Check out Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report, which gives the Tigers a 73.8-percent chance of winning the Central -- by far the highest such percentage of any team in the game. BP's forecast has the Tigers running away with the division by nine games. PECOTA's projection has them winning it by 12.
So ... nothing to see here?
Let's not be silly.