The top of the Detroit Tigers lineup looks absolutely terrific with one of the best all around hitters of the game’s history. They follow their pair of lefties with a group of righties in the middle of the order that all provide a great mix of power and average. However, they’re possibly susceptible to another team with a dominant righty hurler. Nevertheless, the team features some of the best hitter in the game and shouldn’t have too much problem competing against others. There’s some great defensive players all over the field and the hitting ability of most of these guys is simply too much to handle.
1. Ty Cobb, CF (L)
2. Charlie Gehringer, 2B (L)
3. Al Kaline, RF (R)
4. Harry Heilmann, 1B (R)
5. Hank Greenberg, LF (R)
6. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
7. Alan Trammell, SS (R)
8. Willie Horton, DH (R)
9. Bill Freehan, C (R)
Hal Newhouser, P (L)
Manager: Sparky Anderson
1961, 63-76: 706 Runs, 200 HR, 758 RBI, 24 SB, .262 BA/.340 OBP/.412 SLG
While there’s a few other candidates for this spot, the combination of both hitting and defense give Bill Frrhan the edge here. In his 15 year career with the Tigers, Freehan brought great offensive numbers and won five straight Gold Gloves during his prime. During that span, he was also selected to 10 straight All Star Game appearances. However, the one skill Freehan lacked was his on base abilities. While not bad, it certainly won’t stack up to any of the other other hitters on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Rudy York, Lance Parrish
1914, 16-29: 1,291 Runs, 164 HR, 1,446 RBI, 111 SB, .342 BA/.410 OBP/.518 SLG
There’s a debate at who the first baseman should be for this Detroit ball club but ultimately, that distinction goes to harry Heilmann. His competitor, Sam Crawford, was a great speed threat that patrolled right field, but also first base in the middle and end of his career. He also leads the career books with 309 career triples but Heilman’s stats were simply a bit better. The first baseman led the league four times in batting average, had great plate discipline, and was an RBI machine for the Tigers. He hit triple digits in RBIs in 7 consecutive years and will fit nicely into the bottom half of the order.
Honorable Mentions: Norm Cash, George Kell
1924-42: 1,775 Runs, 184 HR, 1,427 RBI, 181 SB, .320 BA/.404 OBP/.480 SLG
Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer is the pick here at second base and by a wide margin. He was a consistent hitter during his entire career and hit below .306 only once during the years 1927 to 1940. He was a model of consistency for the Tigers and had a great eye at the plate. He manned second base for basically the entirety of his career and was great defensively at it. While we can’t expect great power numbers or steals from Gehringer, he’s a stable bat in the lineup that we can count on to get on base consistently and should be perfect hitting behind one of the best pure hitters in the history of the game.
Honorable Mentions: Lou Whitaker, Dick McAuliffe
1977-96: 1,231 Runs, 185 HR, 1,003 RBI, 236 SB, .285 BA/.352 OBP/.415 SLG
Yet another Hall of Famer on this list is shortstop, Alan Trammell. The Tigers shortstop was amazing during his 20 year career with the team both offensively and defensively. He put up great hitting himbers in both the #2 and #4 spots in the lineups during his career and skilled at both scoring and knocking in his teammates. On the defensive side, he won four Gold Gloves and has the highest defensive WAR among all Detroit players.
Honorable Mentions: Donie Bush, Billy Rogell
2009-19: 971 Runs, 336 HR, 1,161 RBI, 21 SB, .316 BA/.395 OBP/.545 SLG
The current first baseman for the Tigers and likely future Hall of Famer, Miguel Cabrera is the pick for third. While his defensive abilities will surely be tested at the hot corner, it isn’t a position he’s entirely unfamiliar with. When Prince Fielder joined the team in the trade that sent Ian Kinsler to the Rangers, Miggy was moved across the diamond where he actually had his best seasons. While his numbers may be down in recent years, he was once revered as the best bat in the entire league and won consecutive MVP titles in 2012 and 2013. In fact, he’s the last batter to win the Triple Crown award back in 2013.
Honorable Mentions: Travis Fryman, Tony Phillips
1930, 33-46: 975 Runs, 306 HR, 1,200 RBI, 58 SB, .319 BA/.412 OBP/.616 SLG
Hank Greenberg started and ended his career as a first baseman but left field is where we’ll play him in this lineup. He played three seasons at the position and provided good defense though it didn’t rank quite as highly as his defense at first base. The 2 time MVP and Hall of Famer was a consistent bat in the Detroit lineup and a great power source. He was having great home run seasons from 1937 to 1940 and that trend would’ve likely continued had it not been due to injury. Greenberg also had three years of military service that cut into the prime of his career and we would’ve likely seen even greater numbers had he not departed.
Honorable Mentions: Bobby Veach, Bobby Higginson, Jim Northrup
1905-26: 2,085 Runs, 111 HR, 1,811 RBI, 869 SB, .368 BA/.433 OBP/.512 SLG
Hall of Famer Ty Cobb is the best player in Detroit history though his legacy doesn’t come without controversy. He was one of the best players to ever live and could do anything a team asked. His desire to win made him literally do anything, especially his aggressive running along the basepaths. His hit tool was across all field which made him one of the best pure hitters around. There’s no denying his skill set though his personality and style of play sometimes rubbed the opposition the wrong way.
Honorable Mentions: Chet Lemon, Curtis Granderson
1995-04: 1,622 Runs, 399 HR, 1,582 RBI, 137 SB, .297 BA/.376 OBP/.480 SLG
Falling just short of the 400 home run club, Al Kaline is who we want patrolling right field for us. One of the most consistent hitters of his time, Kaline was a fixture in Detroit’s lineup for over 20 years. He was a player who could do everything and was rightfully awarded for his skill set. He amassed 10 Gold Gloves and 18 All Star appearances during his time in Detroit and was simply terrific during his entire career. He played a key role in their 1968 World Series run became one of the most consistent players in club history.
Honorable Mentions: Sam Crawford, Kirk Gibson
1963-77: 671 Runs, 262 HR, 886 RBI, 14 SB, .276 BA/.337 OBP/.472 SLG
The 4 time All Star, Willie Horton is the pick at designated hitter despite also being a corner outfielder for the majority of his career. He makes for yet another steady right handed bat in the lineup that already features six others. Horton had some promising seasons early in his career where he enjoyed a bunch of homers and RBI though that wouldn’t last for long. He routinely had some good seasons but was simply too inconsistent throughout his career. He would have seasons with a batting average of .231 one season and then jump to .316 the next.
1939-53: 200-148 Record, 3.07 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9
The Tigers had some interesting candidates at the starting pitcher spot including one pitcher who might win the AL Cy Young this year. However, Justin Verlander now plays for the Astros and no longer accumulates a legacy for the Tigers. For that reason, Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser will be the pitcher for Detroit after he enjoyed a marvelous career with the team. He led the league in wins for 3 straight seasons and was awarded the MVP trophy as a pitcher in consecutive years. There’s no doubting his incredible pedigree and it doesn’t get much better than Newhouser.
Honorable Mentions: Justin Verlander, Tommy Bridges, Jack Morris
While his managerial career didn’t start with Detroit, it’s in the Motor City where Anderson truly left his legacy. He accumulated 1,331 of his 2,194 career victories with the Tigers which currently places him 6th all time. The skipper quickly turned the Detroit squad into one of the best in the league and would go on to win a World Series in just him 6th season at the helm. However, that would be the only title win for Detroit under the Hall of Famer as the Tigers remained a good though not elite team. Following the 1988 season, Detroit began to go into a tumble and would go just 495-574 in his final 7 seasons as manager.
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