Detroit Tigers All-Time 26-Man Rosterby John Lepore January 19, 2022 2 comments
The Detroit Tigers have a long, storied franchise. Although they have won just four World Series titles, they have had some of the greatest players in the game come through their organization. Of note, although there is no announcer or manager category in these articles, Ernie Harwell and Sparky Anderson deserve a mention. It was extremely hard to narrow this down to 26 men, but let’s see what the All-Time Tigers roster looks like.
Make sure to check out all of our other All-Time Rosters.
Bill Freehan, C
Freehan spent his whole career as a Tiger. He was the premier catcher in the ’60s and into the ’70s. From 1964-1973, he made 10 consecutive All-Star appearances and won five Gold Gloves. Freehan also finished in the top 3 in MVP voting in back-to-back years (1967-1968). For his career, the big catcher hit 200 HRs, averaged nearly 4.0 WAR/600 PAs, had a .339 wOBA, and a 113 wRC+. Many believe Freehan deserved much more appreciation from Hall of Fame voters.
Hank Greenberg, 1B
To put it simply, Greenberg was one of the best right-handed hitters to ever play. Of all players with at least 6,000 PAs, the big first baseman is second (1.017) only to Jimmie Foxx (1.038) in OPS among righties. He is also tied with Foxx for the most AL HRs by a right-handed hitter (58). Despite just seven seasons over 130 games played, Greenberg led the league in HRs four times and RBIs four times. He also won two MVP awards (1935 & 1940). Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Gehringer is fifth among all second basemen WAR. From 1927-1940, he slashed .329/.411/.497 with 840 extra-base hits and 170 stolen bases. In those 14 years, Gehringer finished in the top 10 of MVP voting eight times, winning the award in 1937 while leading the AL in batting at .371. Amazingly during that time, Gehringer also had more HRs + SBs than Ks (349-298). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Although Miggy has played most of his games for the Tigers at first base, he was their starting third baseman the two years he won MVP awards (2012 and 2013). For Detroit, Cabrera has been an All-Star seven times and also finished in the top 5 of MVP voting three times aside from his two victories. While he has tailed off a bit in his later years, Cabrera was an absolute hitting machine from 2008-2016, racking up 308 HRs, 1,030 RBIs, and slashing .325/.404/.573. He needs just 13 more hits for 3,000. Miggy is a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Alan Trammell, SS
Trammell played his entire 20-year career with the Tigers. He was a light-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop for the first few years in the big leagues. That changed in 1983. For a six-year stretch from 1983-1988, Trammell belted 105 HRs, stole 116, and had an .833 OPS. In 1984, he led the Tigers to a World Series championship and took home WS MVP honors going 9-for-20 and driving in six runs in five games. In 1987, the shortstop finished second in MVP voting and should have won the award. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 2018 by the Veteran’s Committee.
Harry Heilmann, LF
Heilmann may not be a household name, but the man was one of the best hitters in the league during the ’20s. From 1921-1927, Detroit’s left fielder had a ridiculous .469 wOBA, 164 wRC+, and batted .380. He hit over .390 four times, leading the AL batting each of those years, and even topped .400 in 1923 (.403). Heilmann also finished in the top 5 of MVP voting four times while averaging 68 extra-base hits and 116 RBIs during that stretch. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1952.
Ty Cobb, CF
This one is a no-brainer. One of the greatest players to ever grace a baseball diamond, Cobb dominated the American League for most of his career. He won 12 batting titles in 13 years (he hit .370 in 1916 and finished second to Tris Speaker‘s .386). He is in the top 5 all-time in many offensive categories including average (.366), runs (2,245), doubles (724), triples (295), and stolen bases (897). Cobb was one of the original inductees into the Hall of Fame in 1936.
Al Kaline, RF
Mr. Tiger played his whole 22-year career with Detroit. Kaline was an 18-time All-Star, won 10 Gold Gloves, and had over 3,000 hits. In his prime from 1955-1967, he was in the top 10 of AL MVP voting nine times, finishing runner-up twice. He also came through in the 1968 World Series as he was 11-for-29 with eight RBIs in the seven-game series including a respectable 3-for-12 against Bob Gibson. Kaline was inducted on his first ballot in 1980.
Sam Crawford, DH
Crawford, aside from being the all-time leader in triples (309), was a dangerous hitter. After four years with Cincinnati, he played the next 15 years with the Tigers. His prime stretched from 1906-1915 when Crawford put up a slash of .316/.370/.460 while averaging 25 SBs and 97 RBIs. He led the AL in triples four times and RBIs three times while actually leading the AL in homers in 1908 with seven. Crawford also finished second in MVP voting in 1914. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1957 by the Veteran’s Committee.
Hal Newhouser, LHP
Newhouser came up young, had an incredible peak, and then flamed out and didn’t start 20 games in any season after his age-29 season. However, from 1942-1949, the left-hander was dominant. He had a 2.56 ERA, won 152 games, and averaged 261 innings a year. In that span, he led the league four times in wins, twice in ERA, and won back-to-back MVP awards in 1944 and 1945 while finishing runner-up in 1946. Newhouser was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 by the Veteran’s Committee.
Justin Verlander, RHP
Verlander’s career has been a bit up and down, but certainly better than most. His career in Detroit is definitely worthy of regard. He posted a 3.49 ERA and 2,373 strikeouts as a Tiger and won a CYA along with an MVP in 2011 while taking home the pitching triple crown. He finished in the top-3 of CYA voting three other times aside from his win. Verlander was also ROY in 2006. He will be in Cooperstown one day.
Mickey Lolich, LHP
Lolich pitched for 13 years with the Tigers and he was an absolute workhorse and playoff performer. In 1968, Lolich was the World Series MVP after pitching three complete games including outdueling the great Bob Gibson in Game 7. In 1971 he finished second in AL CYA voting. That year Lolich threw 376 innings and led the league with 308 strikeouts. He and Wilbur Wood are the only two pitchers since 1920 to toss 375+ innings in a season. Lolich followed that up with a third-place finish in 1972 while putting up a career-best 2.50 ERA. He is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,679) and games started (459).
Tommy Bridges, RHP
Bridges pitched his entire 16-year career with Detroit. While not a household name, the righty was a fixture in the Tigers rotation in the 1930s. He won 20 games three times and led the league in strikeouts in 1935 and 1936. In 1935, Bridges started, completed, and won two games in the World Series including the deciding Game 6 against the Chicago Cubs to bring the Tigers their first championship. Although a career 3.57 ERA doesn’t seem spectacular, Bridges pitched in a hitting environment as evidenced by a 126 ERA+.
Jack Morris, RHP
Just as Bridges helped bring the Tigers their first title, Morris did the same in 1984 bringing them their last. He completed both of his starts and allowed just four runs in 18 innings while striking out 13. Between 1979-1987 Morris finished in the top 10 of CYA voting five times and was a four-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts in 1983 and averaged 248 IP over that stretch. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018 by the Veteran’s Committee.
Todd Jones, RHP
Jones came to Detroit originally as a 29-year-old in 1997. He pitched for four and a half years for them at that point from 1997-2001, leading the league in saves in 2000 with 42. Jones would finish his career with three seasons with the Tigers from 2006-2008 where he saved 93 more games. He is the franchise leader in saves with 235 and received his lone All-Star nod with Detroit in 2000.
Mike Henneman, RHP
Henneman ranks second to Jones with 154 saves. He was more than just a closer though. Henneman threw over 90 innings out of the pen in each of his first four seasons with Detroit from 1987-1990. He won 57 games in relief and had a career 3.05 ERA in 491 appearances with the Tigers.
John Hiller, LHP
Speaking of long relievers, Hiller was priceless in the early ’70s. In a four-year span from 1973-1976, the southpaw was dominant, pitching to a 2.18 ERA, winning 41 games, and saving 78 while tossing 467 innings. In 1973, Hiller finished fourth in MVP and CYA voting. He posted a ridiculous 1.44 ERA in 125.1 innings while leading the league with 38 saves. He is one of only eight pitchers with 85+ wins, 125+ saves, and a sub-3.00 ERA since 1920.
Willie Hernandez, LHP
Hernandez had a great debut for the Tigers in 1984. Traded by the Phillies right before the season started, the lefty led the league in appearances with 80 and pitched to a 1.92 ERA in 140.1 innings. He won the CYA and the MVP that year helping the Tigers win their fourth title. He made the All-Star team twice more in the following seasons and finished with 120 saves and a 2.98 ERA with Detroit.
Jose Valverde, RHP
Valverde pitched for four years in Detroit. While his final year there lasted just 20 appearances, the big righty made his mark in the previous three. He led the league in 2011 with 75 appearances and had a whopping 49 saves, still a franchise record, earning him a fifth-place finish in CYA voting.
Aurelio Lopez, RHP
Lopez was the right-handed complement to Hernandez in 1984. That year saw Lopez throw 137.2 innings and go 10-1 out of the bullpen with a 2.94 ERA. Overall, the Mexican reliever averaged over two innings per appearance in his Tiger career, had a 3.41 ERA, and 85 saves.
Dizzy Trout, RHP
We are going to put Trout here as the spot starter and long reliever. The bulk of his success came during World War II and in 1944 he finished second in CYA voting to his teammate Newhouser. He put up an amazing 10.9 rWAR that season and even had a .745 OPS at the plate. In his 14 years with the Tigers, Trout put up a 3.20 ERA and won 160 games.
Parrish slots in as a backup catcher here and is a close second to Freehan. Parrish was a three-time Gold Glove winner and a six-time All-Star with Detroit. He hit 20+ home runs six times in the eight seasons he played over 90 games. He had a 3.9 rWAR/600 PA with the Tigers and blasted 212 homers in his career there.
Norm Cash, 1B
After 71 games with the White Sox, Cash came to Detroit in 1960. He went on to hit 373 HRs and put up an impressive .865 OPS with over 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBIs, and 1,000 walks. An underrated hitter, from 1961-1971, Cash had a .386 wOBA and 142 wRC+ with a 47.7 fWAR. He also showed up when the Tigers needed him. In the 1968 World Series, the lefty was 10-for-26 with a HR and five RBI in the seven-game series.
Lou Whitaker, 2B
If not for an all-time great like Gehringer, Whitaker would be paired with his long-time double-play partner Trammell. The second baseman was so consistently good for so long. During a 14-year span from 1982 until his retirement after the 1995 season, Whitaker slashed .279/.365/.447 while hitting 232 HRs and stealing 101 bases. He was a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His career 75.1 rWAR certainly screams snub from the Hall of Fame.
Bobby Veach, OF
Despite being overshadowed by Cobb and Heilmann, Veach was an excellent player in his own right. The left fielder led the league three times in RBIs, surpassing 100 five times in an eight-year span from 1915-1922. During that time he slashed .318/.375/.465 and swiped 135 bags. He was an adequate defender and logged a 40.8 rWAR in those eight seasons.
George Kell, 3B
Primarily a contact hitter, Kell was in his prime with the Tigers from 1946-1952. In that time he slashed an impressive .325/.391/.433 while striking out just 107 times. He was a six-time All-Star and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting three times. Kell led the AL in batting with a .343 average in 1949.
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