Thursday, November 21, 2019

All-Time Teams: Tigers

We're back to one of the "original" MLB franchises. Here's the All-Time Team for the Detroit Tigers:

Manager: Sparky Anderson
Home: Tiger Stadium

Leading off for the Tigers.. the Center Fielder.. Ty Cobb

Was there any doubt? Ty Cobb has the highest career batting average in major league history and his 4,189 career hits are second all-time. Cobb's career on-base % of .433 is ninth-highest in history, and his 897 stolen bases are fourth all-time. He's also the Tigers' career leader (and ninth in baseball history) with 1,944 RBI. Only Rickey Henderson has scored more runs than the "Georgia Peach", and if you're building an All-Time Team of all teams, one of them has to be your lead-off hitter.  

Batting second for Detroit.. the Left Fielder.. Harry Heilmann

Harry Heilmann won four batting titles and surpassed Cobb as the Tigers' best hitter in the early 1920s. The Hall of Fame right fielder batted .342 in his career - second to Cobb in Tigers history and 12th all-time. Heilmann ranks in the Tigers' all-time top ten in nearly every offensive category and his 72.2 career WAR ranks him just 0.2 behind Derek Jeter. Harry only played left field eight times in his career, but he has to make room for "Mr. Tiger" in this lineup.

Batting third.. the Designated Hitter.. Miguel Cabrera

At the start of this decade (and before Mike Trout burst onto the scene) Miguel Cabrera was widely regarded as the best hitter in baseball. Despite a steep decline in health and production, Cabrera's .315 lifetime average remains highest among active players. The 11-time all-star and four-time batting champion won the Triple Crown in 2012, earning him the first of back-to-back AL MVP awards. "Miggy" is closing in on 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs. His 150 OPS+ as a Tiger is third in team history.

Batting fourth.. the First Baseman.. Hank Greenberg

The Tigers have had several power-hitting first basemen in their history but none greater than Hank Greenberg. In just nine full seasons (thirteen overall) Greenberg built a Hall of Fame resume with five All-Star nods, two AL MVP awards, and a .313 career batting average. Hank led the league in home runs four times, including 58 in 1938. He drove in an astounding 184 runs the year prior, and totaled 1,274 for his career. No one in Tigers history comes close to Greenberg's career slugging average of .616.

Batting fifth.. the Second Baseman.. Charlie Gehringer

Charlie Gehringer ranks among the game's greatest second basemen in several categories. His 80.7 career WAR puts him just ahead of Lou Whitaker on the Tigers' career list and the all-time list at their position. Gehringer's career RBI total is fourth-best among Tigers and fourth-best among second sackers. Only two players in franchise history have amassed more hits than his 2,839 total. The "Mechanical Man" won the 1937 AL MVP award after leading the league with a .371 batting average.  

Batting sixth.. the Right Fielder.. Al Kaline

A model of consistency throughout his 22 years in the Motor City, Al Kaline won a batting title at age 20 in 1955, finishing second in AL MVP voting. He would go on to bat over .300 in eight more seasons, finishing at .297 for his career. The 16 time all-star won ten Gold Gloves in eleven seasons from 1957-1967 and collected 3,007 career hits. Kaline is the Tigers' all-time leader in home runs and games played.  

Batting seventh.. the Third Baseman.. George Kell

George Kell played for five teams in his 15-year career, including seven seasons with the Tigers. In that time, the Hall of Famer posted a slash line of .325/.391/.433, won a batting title in 1949 with a major league-leading .343 average, and twice led the league in doubles. Six of Kell's ten All-Star selections were awarded while he was a Tiger. I will defer to Dennis for more info on Kell's career.  

Batting eighth.. the Shortstop.. Alan Trammell

Alan Trammell's career numbers compare favorably to Barry Larkin, yet he had to wait fourteen years longer for the Hall's call. A six time all-star, Trammell won four Gold Gloves, three Silver Slugger awards, and the World Series MVP award in 1984. "Tram" was runner-up to Toronto's George Bell in AL MVP voting in 1987. He's fifth on the Tigers' all-time list in games played and WAR. 

Batting ninth.. the Catcher.. Bill Freehan

An above-average hitter and a superior defender, Bill Freehan caught more games than anyone in Tigers history. His career WAR of 44.8 is 17th all-time among catchers, just below Thurman Munson. The 11 time all-star and five time Gold Glove winner hit a career high 25 home runs for the eventual World Champions in 1968. His nice, round total of 200 home runs ranks tenth on the Tigers career list.

The Starting Pitcher for the Tigers.. Justin Verlander

This year's AL Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander is aging like a fine wine for the next team on our list. The 36 year-old ace posted a higher ERA+ in 2019 than his 172 total when he won the Cy Young and AL MVP in 2011. A Tiger for over twelve years, Verlander has the second-most strikeouts and the second-highest WAR in franchise history. "JV" was ROY in 2006, helping Detroit win the AL pennant. Verlander has made more starts than any active pitcher (now that CC Sabathia has officially retired) and has an outside chance at 300 wins.

Now let's take a look at the Tigers' bench and bullpen:

Catcher: Lance Parrish
1st Base: Norm Cash
Infield: Lou Whitaker
Outfield: Sam Crawford
Outfield: Willie Horton

Parrish won three Gold Gloves and a World Series with Detroit. Cash has 377 career home runs and a 52 WAR. Whitaker would start on a dozen other teams and has a real shot at joining his double-play partner Trammell in the HOF. Crawford is the all-time leader in triples. Bobby Veach may have had better numbers, but the Tigers would not have won the 1968 World Series without Willie.

#2 starter: Hal Newhouser
#3 starter: Jim Bunning
#4 starter: Mickey Lolich
#5 starter: Jack Morris

Newhouser won back-to-back AL MVP awards and a World Series with the Tigers. Bunning led the AL in strikeouts twice. Lolich once held the record for strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher. Morris won World Series rings with three different teams, including the 1984 Tigers. All but Lolich are Hall of Famers.

LH Reliever: Hank Aguirre
RH Reliever: Aurelio Lopez
RH Reliever: Mike Henneman
LH Reliever: John Hiller
LH Reliever: Willie Hernandez
RH Reliever: Todd Jones

Aguirre led the AL with a 2.21 ERA in 1962. Hiller is the Tigers' career leader in appearances and led the AL with 38 saves in 1973. Hernandez won the AL Cy Young and MVP in 1984. Jones is the Tigers' career leader in saves but I might go with Guillermo to pitch the ninth inning.

Stay tuned for our next All-Time Team, the Houston Astros.

Thanks for reading!



  1. That's another stacked lineup. When George Kell is batting in the 7th hole, then you're doing alright!

    1. I almost had him batting second, but then Heilmann would bat 6th and Kaline would bat 7th!

  2. There's nothing I can say about this list, except...OUTSTANDING JOB!

    1. Thanks John! I’m glad you enjoyed this post in particular.

  3. Al Kaline batting sixth? Jack Morris as the fifth starter? Yeah, pretty stacked roster all the way around. No weaknesses the way, say, the Reds had.

    I will say, though, that if I'm making my all time team, I want Aaron, Mays, and Ruth as my outfield (and Ted Williams as my DH if I have one). If that means Mays has to lead off, I'll take it.

    1. Good point, I was thinking strictly in terms of lead-off hitters. Williams would DH for sure, but I don’t see how Cobb starts over Mays in CF. Not sure Rickey would make the team at all. Pinch runner maybe?

  4. I will always hear it this way: "Batting thurrrd at DH the big man, Miguel Cabrera" because that is the way Jimmy Price always says it.

  5. Now that's a team! Makes you wonder what the Marlins are doing in the league.

    I've talked a lot about the Tigers lately on my blog and in my life, I think a little more of a fan now.

    1. The Marlins All-Time team is going to be..interesting.

  6. Another awesome edition in this series! I'm embarrassed to admit, I'd either never heard of or completely forgotten about Harry Heilmann. You're teaching me a lot through these posts.

    1. Don't be embarrassed, I've learned a lot about pre-war players myself, while putting these posts together.

  7. Although I can't argue against Gehringer, it makes me a little sad Whitaker and Trammel aren't the starting double play combo. They're forever linked, and hopefully Sweet Lou will get his call to Cooperstown.

  8. Lots of legends on this roster. And if anyone could manage them... it'd be Sparky.

    1. I didn't realize he managed the Tigers for so many more years than the Reds.

  9. I don't know why, but I was looking forward to Cleveland and Detroit the most, and neither disappointed :)

    1. I hope there are a few more ahead that you'll enjoy :)

  10. It's nice to see John Hiller on the roster

    1. Hiller was awesome! His career WAR is higher than some Hall of Famers ..and yes I know he's Canadian ;)

  11. My favorite in this series so far, naturally, and I also approve of your choices! Ok, maybe not Todd Jones, I couldn't stand him, but you put together a great roster. The card selection was excellent again, too.