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.
In 1907, Hugh Jennings took over as Tigers manager and 20-year-old Tyrus Cobb emerged as the best hitter in the American League. The result was the Tigers first pennant in franchise history. It would also be the first of three consecutive pennants, an accomplishment which has not been seen again in Detroit.
The Tigers finished at 92-58, a game and a half ahead of Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. As has so often been the case in team history, they won primarily because of their dominant offense. They led the league with 695 runs scored behind the fearsome duo of Cobb and Sam Crawford. Cobb topped the circuit in batting average (.350), slugging (.468), total bases (283), OPS+ (167) and stolen bases (53). Crawford led the league with 106 runs and finished second with a .323 batting average, .460 slugging average and 160 OPS+.
The Tigers also had pretty strong pitching finishing third in the league with a 2.33 ERA. Big Ed Killian was second in the league with a 1.78 ERA in 314 innings. Their four primary starters - Killian, Bill Donovan, George Mullin and Ed Siever - each pitched over 270 innings and combined for 88 of the team's 98 victories.
Unfortunately, the Cubs completely stopped the Tigers offense in the World Series sweeping them in four games. Chicago outscored Detroit 16-3 and the Tigers batted just .216 with three extra base hits. Even Cobb (.538 OPS) and Crawford (.524 OPS) could not do anything.
They would have two more chances in 1908 and 1909, but came up short in those years as well. It would be a long time before their first world championship.
Some of data for this article were gathered from Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org