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.
The Tigers 1909 season was similar to their 1907 and 1908 seasons covered earlier in the Top 20 series. For the third straight year, outfielders Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford dominated the American League, the Tigers won the pennant and then lost the World Series. The 1909 season ranks the highest of the three as that team had the most wins and put up more of a fight in the World Series.
The 1909 squad went 98-54, 3 1/2 games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics. For the third straight season, they led the league in runs scored with 666. Cobb won the triple crown batting .371 with nine homers (all inside the park) and 107 RBI. This overshadowed a another fantastic season by Crawford, who finished first in doubles (35) and second in slugging (.452) and RBI (97). Shortstop Donie Bush also had a fine season finishing in the top three in OBP (.380) and runs (114).
Right-hander George Mullin led the league with 29 wins and posted a 114 ERA+ in 304 innings pitched. The Tigers had a deep staff with starters Bill Donovan, Ed Killian, Ed Summers and Ed Willett all finishing with an ERA+ of 108 or better.
After winning just one game combined versus the Cubs in 1907 and 1908 World Series, the Bengals would face the Pirates in 1909. The Tigers managed to split the first six games of the series on the strength of two wins by Mullin and some strong hitting by second baseman Jim Delahanty (.326 BA and four doubles for the series). However, the Pirates won 8-0 in game seven when right hander Babe Adams notched his third victory of the series.
The three season-run of 1907-1909 has been the only one of its kind in Tigers history, but they would have to wait a quarter of a century before another World Series.
Some of data for this article were gathered from Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org