Thursday, March 15, 2012

March Madness! Greatest Tiger of All Time Tournament

Welcome to March Madness, that magical time of the year where everyone and their brother is filling out NCAA college basketball brackets and talking like they’re Coach K, when many haven’t watched even one game all year. There’s just something fun that can’t be fully explained about picking all the winners. Vegas is open for a reason, I guess.

But it got me to thinking. What if I put together a 64-man tournament featuring the greatest 64 Tigers of all time? After seeding each player, I’d go through the tournament on a Player X vs. Player Y basis and narrow down the list to the single greatest man to ever wear the Old English D? Well yippie, that’s what I did. I sometimes have free time at work when I should be doing something dumb like actually working.

Top seeds were given to the eleven players that have their names printed on the walls in the outfield of Comerica Park. From there, I worked my way from the top to the bottom seeding guys where I thought they should go. Obviously, narrowing down a group of players from the thousands that have played in Detroit over the past 100+ years down to 64 is not an easy task and thus not everyone could make it. So I’m sure I left out some guys that many of you will be grumpy about. Deal with it, whiners.

Winners were chosen on a combination of stats, the Tigers record book, longevity in the D, contribution to the franchise, and their overall place in Tiger history. I don’t expect you to agree with all my choices, but I’m doing my best to be fair throughout. Otherwise, Bobby Higginson would win this thing and no one other than me would be amused with that.

The 64 players are broken down to four 16-man regions: the Hughie Jennings region, the Steve O’Neill region, the Mayo Smith region, and the Sparky Anderson region. I apologize for not having a full tournament bracket for you to view, but that’s beyond my caveman skills. Instead, I’ll go through the tournament region by region until we reach the Final Four and the eventual winner. I hope you enjoy it.



(1) Ty Cobb defeats (16) Gates Brown

Love ya Gates, but it’s going to take a miracle to knock off “The Georgia Peach”.

(9) Lance Parrish defeats (8) Denny McLain

McLain was amazing in 1968, but I don’t think most people realize that he put up an ERA+ of over 100 in only two other seasons. Meanwhile, Parrish is 15th all-time in Tiger history in WAR, had nine seasons in Detroit with double-digit homers, and is 8th all-time in total homers as a Tiger.

(5) Bobby Veach defeats (12) Jim Bunning

Over 12 years in the D, Veach had an OPS+ of 130, an amazing stretch. Bunning, while a great pitcher, would have his best years in Philadelphia.

(4) Norm Cash defeats (13) Joe Coleman

“Stormin’ Norman” is too much for Coleman, a dominant starter in the early 70’s for the Tigers.

(6) Jack Morris defeats (11) Aurilio Rodriguez

Jack’s too much for the original A-Rod, 28th all-time in hits for the Tigers and an amazing defensive player.

(3) George Mullin defeats (14) Carlos Guillen

Mullin is second all-time in wins in Tigers history, too much for our underrated, recently retired friend Carlos.

(7) Virgil Trucks defeats (10) Travis Fryman

Over 12 years, Trucks wasn’t outstanding, but very good, throwing two no-hitters in the same season in 1952. Fryman, believe it or not, is 17th all-time in WAR for the Tigers, but I gave the nod to Virgil here.

(2) Heinie Manush defeats (15) Frank Tanana

The Hall of Famer Manush gets the duke over Tanana, but remains an early upset candidate due to only playing five seasons in the D. Stay tuned.


(1) Cobb defeats (9) Parrish

Sorry, Lance. Your run ends here.

(4) Cash defeats (5) Veach

A close one, but Norm out-slugs Bobby here.

(6) Morris defeats (3) Mullin

Upset! Mullin had 11 more wins than Jack did, but his came in the early 1900’s. Jack’s amazing numbers came against tougher competiton, including having to actually face minorities. The Hall of Fame hasn’t given Jack the call yet, but I will here.

(2) Manush defeats (7) Trucks

Manush is still alive as he is the easy call here, I think.


(1) Cobb defeats (4) Cash

Sorry, Norm. Cobb’s outstanding all-around numbers trump your powerful stroke.

(6) Morris defeats (2) Manush

Jack Morris may be the Cinderella of the tournament! Heinie is an all-time great, but his limited time in Detroit gets him taken down by the legend of Jack Morris! Can he topple Cobb in the finals of the Hughie Jennings region?


(1) Cobb defeats (6) Morris.

Nope. Sorry, Cinderella, it’s midnight. Great run by Jack, though, one that I didn’t expect.



(1) Charlie Gehringer defeats (16) Mickey Tettleton

I love the Mick, but not many would stand a chance against Charlie.

(8) Cecil Fielder defeats (9) Billy Rogell

In 10 years in Detroit, Rogell had a WAR of 22.8 compared to Cecil’s 15.2. He also had an OPS+ of only 89 and 39 homers in those 10 years. Cecil had 51 jacks in 1990 alone and is 5th all time in homers as a Tiger. Cecil wins.

(5) Donie Bush defeats (12) Ron LeFlore

My apologies to LeFlore for not including him in my list of the ten best black Tigers of all time, as he did belong there. It was an oversight on my part. But Bush, with his excellent eye at the plate, ranks 12th all-time among Tigers in WAR and gets the win here.

(4) Alan Trammell defeats (13) Pete Fox

Tram’s too much for the underrated .300 hitter, Fox, of the 1930’s.

(11) Justin Verlander defeats (6) Harvey Kuenn

In 8 Tiger seasons, Kuenn had at least 190 hits five times and is 15th all-time in hits. But Justin Verlander, in just a few years, has captivated a city and is on his way to being the best Tiger pitcher of all-time. His 2011 run puts him over the top in this matchup.

(3) George Kell defeats (14) Darrell Evans

Kell’s masterful hitting trumps big Darrell’s power here in a closer matchup than the seed numbers would indicate.

(7) Tommy Bridges defeats (10) Bobby Higginson

Dammit. Bobby is 23rd in Tiger history in WAR, 16th in games played, 14th in runs, 16th in hits, 12th in homers, and 15th in RBI. I don’t think any of you jerks that run him down nowadays realize that and I really wanted to give him a run in this thing. But being as fair and honest as I am, I can’t give him the nod over Bridges who pitched for Detroit for 16 years, had an ERA+ over 110 in 14 of them, and twice led the league in strikeouts. Congrats, Tommy. Sniffle…

(2) Hal Newhouser defeats (15) Brandon Inge

Easy win for Hal. But for those of you that would say Inge doesn’t belong among the greats here, he ranks 25th in franchise history in hits, 21st in homers, and 20th in RBI. I don’t know how that’s possible, either.


(1) Gehringer defeats (8) Fielder

Sorry, “Big Daddy”. Charlie Gehringer was the man.

(4) Trammell defeats (5) Bush

Tram’s career WAR? 66.9. Bush? 36.7. Tram wins.

(3) Kell defeats (11) Verlander

Kell’s a Hall of Famer and a baseball legend. Verlander may be both one day, but not quite yet. We’ll revisit this one in ten years.

(2) Newhouser defeats (7) Bridges

The #1 Tiger pitcher in history based on WAR beats the #2 one.


(1) Gehringer defeats (4) Trammell

Breaks my heart, but few in history could hit the ball like “The Mechanical Man”.

(2) Newhouser defeats (3) Kell

George Kell’s voice taught me the game of baseball as a child. But this isn’t about that as Newhouser dominates here.


(1) Gehringer defeats (2) Newhouser

Sorry, Hal. Gehringer advances to the Final Four to face Cobb in a battle of the legends.



(1) Hank Greenberg defeats (16) Damion Easley


(9) Frank Lary defeats (8) Mickey Stanley

Lary’s dominance on the mound in the late 50’s/early 60’s is just enough to knock off the multiple Gold Glove winning, but light-hitting Stanley in a close one.

(5) Mickey Lolich defeats (12) Todd Jones

Jonesey’s the all-time saves leader for Detroit, but Lolich is easily one of the top five pitchers in team history.

(4) Lou Whitaker defeats (13) Schoolboy Rowe

The popular Rowe spent ten years in the D, but only four were particularly good. Meanwhile, Whitaker is 4th in Tiger history in WAR and probably the most underrated player in MLB history. Lou wins.

(11) Miguel Cabrera defeats (6) Bill Donovan

While “Wild Bill” had amazing numbers at the turn of the century, most pitchers did back then. In fact, his career ERA+ with Detroit was only 109. And I can’t justify a guy that was so close to league average over Miguel Cabrera, a man who dominates pitchers like few before him.

(3) Willie Horton defeats (14) Willie Hernandez

Horton’s an easy winner in the epic “Battle of the Willies”.

(10) Magglio Ordonez defeats (7) Dizzy Trout

Dizzy’s a famous name and won 161 games as a Tiger over 14 seasons. He also lost 153 and didn’t hit arguably the most famous home run in Tigers history. Also, those 2007 numbers are epic. Magglio wins.

(2) Sam Crawford defeats (15) Tony Phillips

Sorry I didn’t give you a better seed, Tony. Crawford wins easily.


(1) Greenberg defeats (9) Lary

Sorry, Frank. You’re no “Hammering” Hank.

(4) Whitaker defeats (5) Lolich

Mickey had some wonderful years in Detroit but his overall ERA+ was 105 and he even led the AL in losses twice. Meanwhile, I keep looking at Lou’s numbers and cannot believe that he got zero Hall of Fame consideration. Lou pulls this one off.

(3) Horton defeats (11) Cabrera

Much like Verlander earlier, I can’t justify sending Big Mig along any farther due to his lack of playing time. Like JV though, maybe in a decade, Cabby wins this whole thing.

(2) Crawford defeats (10) Ordonez

In 15 seasons in Detroit, Crawford’s OPS+ was an amazing 144. Even I can’t justify pushing Maggs past a number like that.


(4) Whitaker defeats (1) Greenberg

Calm down. Listen to me before you call me names. Lou beats Hank in WAR, 69.7 to 53.7. Lou beats Hank in runs, 1386 to 980. Lou beats Hank in hits, 2369 to 1528. Lou beats Hank in total bases, 3651 to 2950. Greenberg barely out-homered and out-RBI’d Whitaker, true. But taking all other numbers into account, Lou’s long career vs. Hank’s shortened one, and remembering Lou’s amazing defense against Hank’s average D…I give it to “Sweet” Lou. Sorry if that’s blasphemy to some of you.

(2) Crawford defeats (3) Horton

Love ya, Willie, but you’re not in “Wahoo” Sam’s league.


(2) Crawford defeats (4) Whitaker

I’d love to go all the way to the Final Four with Lou, but Crawford’s dominance in an era when pitching was so tough to hit puts him over the top. This has been the toughest call for me thus far.



(1) Al Kaline defeats (16) Curtis Granderson

Sorry, Grandy. Enjoy New York.

(8) Rudy York defeats (9) Earl Whitehill

Whitehill won 133 games for the Tigers in the 20’s and 30’s, but York’s big bat gets him a win here.

(5) Bill Freehan defeats (12) Dan Petry

Dan’s numbers are better than you may think, but Freehan’s an easy choice in this one.

(4) Hooks Dauss defeats (13) John Hiller

The only pitcher in Tigers history with more games pitched than Dauss? That would be Hiller. But Dauss is #1 in team history in wins, #2 in innings pitched, #8 in strikeouts, and #2 in compete games. It’s enough to get the win over Hiller, though John made it close and is probably the best reliever in Tigers history.

(6) Dick McAuliffe defeats (11) Chet Lemon

The infielder and biggest run scorer of the Tiger teams of the 60’s is good enough to top Lemon, one of my all-time favorites. Sorry, Chester.

(3) Mickey Cochrane defeats (14) Lu Blue

Mickey’s .320 career average is the highest ever for a catcher not named Joe Mauer. We’ll see if Joey Sideburns can keep it up, though.

(7) Kirk Gibson defeats (10) Jim Northrup

Gibby’s numbers as a Tiger are superior and 1984 wouldn’t have been the same without him.

(2) Harry Heilmann defeats (15) Mark Fidrych

Heilmann’s 2499 hits and 148 OPS+ in 15 Tiger seasons during a pitcher’s era will be tough to beat. And while “The Bird” was the word for one epic season, one year doesn’t take down a long, epic career like Harry's.


(1) Kaline defeats (8) York

Move along. Nothing to see here.

(5) Freehan defeats (4) Dauss

Freehan was one of the best hitting catchers ever and a key part of the famous ’68 team. I give him the narrow nod over Dauss. Every Tiger fan knows who Freehan is. No one remembers Dauss.

(3) Cochrane defeats (6) McAuliffe

McAuliffe played much longer as a Tiger, but Cochrane’s a legend.

(2) Heilmann defeats (7) Gibson

So many hits…can’t give it to my boyhood hero Gibson here.


(1) Kaline defeats (5) Freehan

Al takes care of his old teammate with little trouble here.

(2) Heilmann defeats (3) Cochrane

When Harry met Mickey…Harry won. Sorry…that was bad.


(1) Kaline defeats (2)Heilmann

And that gives us our Final Four.


(1) Cobb vs. (1) Gehringer

Charlie’s amazing, but Cobb was just the better player. Ty Cobb advances to the finals.

(2) Crawford vs. (1) Kaline

Like Gehringer, Crawford’s an all-time legend. But Al Kaline is “Mr. Tiger” for a reason and advances to the finals against Cobb.


Ty Cobb vs. Al Kaline

Let’s check the all-time leaderboard.

WAR: Cobb 153.7, Kaline 91.0. They are #1 and #2 in Tigers history there.

Offensive WAR: Cobb 150.4, Kaline 74.7

Defensive WAR: Kaline 16.3, Cobb 3.3

Batting Average: Cobb .368, Kaline .297

OPS: Cobb .950, Kaline .855

Games Played: Kaline 2834, Cobb 2806. Again, they are #1 and #2.

Runs: Cobb 2088, Kaline 1622

Hits: Cobb 3900, Kaline 3007

Home Runs: Kaline 399, Cobb 111

RBI: Cobb 1805, Kaline 1583

I could go on, but Cobb dominates in almost every category. As much as I’d love to make Kaline the winner due to his excellent play, his leadership even after his career, and numerous other reasons that have to deal with Cobb being an awful human being and Al being the classiest guy ever…I just can’t.
Ty Cobb is the greatest Tiger player of all time. In fact, he is arguably the greatest baseball player that ever lived. Congrats, you racist, horrible person, Mr. Cobb.

So, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this little experiment and hope you won’t be too angry in the comment section. I did my best.

As for basketball, I have Kentucky over Kansas in the finals of the bracket I filled out in 5 minutes right before tipoff today. I watched exactly zero college basketball this year…EXPERT!


kalinecountry said...

Rogo, this is Pure Awesome, you have a great knowledge of Tigers history.

Uncle Omar said...

My only real dispute is Sweet Lou over Hank Greenberg.  Lest we forget, Hank spent the prime of his career in the Army Air Force during WWII, flying supplies over the HImalayas in DC-3s to the Chinese who were what passed for a second front against the Japanese.  I believe that there are four players who will never get the respect they deserve because of their service in WWII, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, and Hank Greenberg.  Hank gets the shortest shrift of all among these guys, but flying planes at 20,000 plus feet on a regular basis for several years in the days before pressurized cabins had to have taken a tremendous physical toll on his body.

Josh said...

You just gotta expect Inge to make an Elite Eight run in this while everyone complains about his presence and wonder how he wasn't bounced years ago.

H2OPoloPunk said...

I loved this. You obviously put a lot of time and effort into this piece. Well done!

Phil Coke's Brain said...

Marques Thomey said...

Time well spent Rogo.  Beauty of a job, as usual.  Happy St. Patty's!  Hope the bars aren't too crazy for you tomorrow.

William Westbrook said...

It's Aurelio with an e -- notable for having all five vowels. The Tigers had two Aurelios on the roster in 1979. I think that was also the last year with two managers. RIP, Les Moss . . . hold on, he's still alive, at the age of 86, and I share a birthday with him. Well , that's not half as amazing as this Aurelio fact (like the birthday, lifted from Wikipedia): "There have been three players in major league history named Aurelio...and all three were killed in car accidents between the ages of 44 and 53."

Dpohl said...

I know three people who have come into contact with Al Kaline from his playing days to the present, and all said that he was rude and arrogant.  Example, my Mother sees him at DTW and asks for an autograph to show her grandchildren.  Kaline's response?  "Oh for God's sake!"

Dave Hogg said...

"But for those of you that would say Inge doesn’t belong among the greats here, he ranks 25th in franchise history in hits, 21st in homers, and 20th in RBI. I don’t know how that’s possible, either."

And first in strikeouts!

lone star kdl said...

No Rusty Staub?  He had such an epic all-star game!