Best Tiger Offensive Seasons

On Friday we took a look at the worst Tigers offensive seasons. Today we’ll take a look at some of the best.

I’ll use a similar methodology to the suckage index only this we’ll call the awesomeness index. What I did was look for the top OPS+ seasons where the player had a minimum of 450 plate appearances (I upped this from the 300 used in the suckage index. The calculation was simply:


It’s not at all scientific, and don’t mind the resulting values too much. This is was simply a way to rank the players combining success and playing time.

The top 10 awesomeness seasons follow:

The full spreadsheet is also available

Not surprisingly Ty Cobb dominates with 7 of the top 10 seasons and 12 of the top 21. Combined with Harry Heilman’s and Sam Crawford’s efforts, only 9 of the top 25 season came after 1930. And 4 of those 9 were Hammerin Hank Greenberg seasons which occurred from 1934-1940.

With the way things are balanced it makes Norm Cash’s 1961 all the more impressive – and out of the ordinary. That year Cash finished first in batting average, on base percentage, hits, walks, and second in slugging percentage. He also finished a rather distant 4th in the MVP voting (Maris was first and a very comparable Mantle season was 2nd). He drew 19 intentional walks and the rest of the team drew 20. But his season is probably best known for his admission of using a corked bat.

In the post-Kaline era only 2 seasons ranked in the top 50. Cecil Fielder’s 51 homer campaign in 1990 was good enough for 16th. Alan Trammell’s MVP-runner-up 1987 season placed 35th.

Fortunately, unlike the suckage list there were many repeat appearances on this list. Ty Cobb had 15 seasons ranking in the top 50 while Crawford and Greenberg each had 7. Heilmann followed with 6 and Kaline was next with 5.

The years with multiple players were 1907-09, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1921-22, 1925-26, and 1961. The 07-09 teams all finished first in the AL The 1961 team had Rocky Colavito who posted 45 homers and a OP+ of 157. Because they finished behind the Yankees it is easy to forget just how good that 101 win season was.

11 thoughts on “Best Tiger Offensive Seasons”

  1. One of the things I found interesting is that 3 players went back to back with one season being near the start of their career and the next towards the end.

    Cobb 1922&1907 ranked 20,21
    Kaline 1955&1967 ranked 22,23
    Crawford 1903&1913 ranked 40,41

  2. 14 out of 16 seasons Cobb was made the top 50.
    From 1907-1913, 1915-1919, 1921&22

    1907-1909 & 1911-1913 Both Cobb and Crawford made the top 50.


  3. Hey Billfer,

    Love the post, However is there a way to do something in the 50’s and up to last year, thats about as far back as anyone using the internet can remember.
    While its nice to know where Ty Cobb was, I never saw him play and its hard to relate to players that long ago. Now Ed Brinkman, I had on my Strat o Matic team one year and your right, he was Bogus.


  4. And, while we’re doing this, can we do something similar for pitchers, both good and bad? This is a great topic. I’m anxious for spring training to start.

  5. Steve –

    Here are the best seasons for 1950-2006 by OPS+. I didn’t calculate the awesome index for these, but it doesn’t really shuffle the results greatly.
    Best Offensive Tigers Seasons 50-06

    Greg – I’ll do the pitchers shortly. Once gets the pitcher data sortable in the same way I’ll tackle it.

  6. I haven’t committed the Collected Works of Bill James to memory yet, so I can’t offer a specific reference… but I believe he did a study that indicated a gradual decline in the difference between superstars and everyday players. If I can try to explain this simply, in the early days of baseball, a supremely gifted player had a huge edge over his more pedestrian counterparts. As coaching, training, diet and exercise have improved over the years, this “talent gap” has been shrinking. That would explain why Cobb so dominates this list — he towered over his contemporaries in a way that’s virtually impossible to do in today’s game. Yes, he’s a great player, but I think the “talent gap” skews this list in favor of the old-timers.

    Clear as mud? Thought so.

  7. Thanks for doing all of this research. It’s been interesting to look over the numbers. I agree with the guy who asked if you’d be doing something similar for pitchers. That would be interesting too.


  8. jvwalt — it was from his historical encyclopedia — there were lots of factors, including integration and the creation of minor league systems that “matured” the major leagues and made it more difficult for a player to have a season like Nap Lajoie’s .424 average in the first season of the AL.

    I’m paraphrasing, but his point was the truly eye-popping seasons usually occurred in marginal major leagues.

  9. Thanx for the research! Cobb was playin in the 1900s so if I had to pick the best season since I was alive, I would say Cecil’s year that he hit 51. It was only 51, but it felt like 90. And he had good bat speed then and I think he got a lot of RBIs.

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