You don't crown a prince until he becomes the King.
There is absolutely no question that the Detroit Tigers' acquisition of Prince Fielder makes them the early favorites to win the American League Central Division, but in no way does it cement it. Even though it is increasingly popular to claim championships in preseason (see: Miami Heat, Philadelphia Eagles), you can't. If you could, Las Vegas would be broke.
There isn't mention as to how the Detroit Tigers are on the verge of having one of the worse defensive teams in the history of baseball, but there is plenty of attention as to how many back to back home-runs will be hit between the three and four hitters. Major League Baseball gets overlooked as a sport that hinders on team successes because of the overwhelming adoration for individual statistics.
Having Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in your lineup brings an incredible advantage to your ball club, it gives the rest of the hitters the ability to see better pitches, deeper counts and protection. Regardless of these three perks there is still 27 outs to be had, and opportunity to obtain these outs.
Even with the same deep-rooted baseball ideologies at hand, this combination has spread fear in the hearts of Cleveland Indians fans that had hoped their window of opportunity opened up slightly more with the injury to Victor Martinez. Well, there was a draft coming in—the window was adjusted, but not closed.
The fans that had hoped so much for a strong, contending season of Cleveland Indians baseball need to keep the same mentality. The team has a strong bullpen, better defense, and when completely healthy a more competitive and complete 1-9 lineup.
For the Indians to commit to contending the method is rather simple: Counter.
There are more than enough intelligent baseball minds within the walls of Progressive Field to understand the statistical strategy a contending team like the Indians must make to address a signing like Prince Fielder.
Consider the projected stats of the 2012 season as per baseball statistician Bill James:
Victor Martinez: 17 HR's / 76 R's / 100 RBI's / .320 BABIP / .304 AVG / .371 OBP
Prince Fielder: 38 HR's / 93 R's / 117 RBI's / .300 BABIP / .285 AVG / .404 OBP
Briefly reviewing the projections, it is safe to assume that what Prince Fielder provides the Detroit Tigers offensively is a +15-30 run differential compared to what Victor Martinez would have provided. An improvement of roughly 3-5 wins.
In the AL Central that could mean a playoff birth or an early offseason. To avoid an early offseason the Indians must take away those 3-5 wins with countering the move statistically.
To avoid an early offseason, the Indians must commit to contending. The next three moves should be appropriate steps towards that commitment.