In reviewing the history of the Detroit Tigers, I often think about the best seasons to be a Tigers fan. So, I am writing a series of posts listing the top 20 seasons in Tigers history. There is no specific formula for determining the best seasons, but there are some criteria which I consider carefully. Playoff appearances, especially those leading to world championships are, of course, important. Team dominance as measured by winning percentage and run differential also carries a lot of weight.
While most of the teams on the list did win a lot of games, this is
not simply a ranking of the best teams statistically. Sometimes, a
non-winning season stands out because of great individual achievements
or because the team was unique in some way. I wanted every decade to
be represented and since the Tigers have had a couple of poor decades,
this was a challenge. However, the Tigers have managed to put
together at least one campaign each decade which was memorable even if
it was not a great year in terms of wins and losses and some of those
seasons will also be included.
The entire list of 20 seasons can be found here.
I won't dwell on the 2011 season much because it is still fresh in our minds. The Tigers won their first division title in 24 years finishing 95-67, 15 games ahead of the second place Indians. They separated themselves from the pack with a twelve game winning streak in September, their longest since 1934.
Ace right hander Justin Verlander had one of the most outstanding seasons for a pitcher in team history leading the league in innings (251), ERA (2.51), wins (24) and strikeouts (250). He also pitched his second career no hitter in route to the MVP and Cy Young awards. Closer Jose Valverde was a perfect 49 for 49 in save situations which is an American League record.
First baseman Miguel Cabrera had another excellent season leading the league in batting average (.344), OBP (.448) and doubles 48 and finishing second in OPS (1.033). Catcher Alex Avila emerged as all star at age 24 batting .295 with a .895 OPS. Designated hitter-catcher Victor Martinez batted .330 with a .850 OPS.
The Tigers went on to defeat the Yankees three games to two in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, injuries to Avila, Martinez and Delmon Young put them at a disadvantage in the championship series and they lost to the Rangers four games to two.
Despite the loss to Texas, the Tigers still have a strong core and could very well add another team to the top twenty in the near future.
Some of data for this article were gathered from Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org