Detroit Tigers all-time team: Cobb, Kaline and Greenberg highlight lineup; Verlander leads rotation

In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We’ve created a 30-day series making an all-time team for each MLB club. We’re breaking down one team each day throughout April, and that journey continues today in the Motor City.

As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I’m making a Baseball Stars team for each. That’s right, the old-school Nintendo video game “Baseball Stars,” which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squad.

Let’s get to Detroit Tigers and their storied history.


They’ve had some good ones. Mickey Cochrane’s career was cut short after he was hit in the head. Ivan Rodriguez had a productive stint for 4 1/2 years. Mickey Tettleton could play. This one comes down to two who seem neck and neck on the surface in Bill Freehan and Lance Parrish. Tigers careers only, let’s look. 

BF: .262/.340/.412, 112 OPS+, 1591 H, 241 2B, 35 3B, 200 HR, 758 RBI, 706 R, 44.7 WAR, 1774 G
LP: .263/.317/.469, 114 OPS+, 1123 H, 201 2B, 23 3B, 212 HR, 700 RBI, 577 R, 30.1 WAR, 1146 G

Razor thin, but I’ll go with Parrish

First base

Apologies to Norm Cash, Rudy York, Prince Fielder, Cecil Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, but this one goes to Hank Greenberg, the all-time great slugger who missed nearly four seasons due to military service in World War II. From 1937-40, Greenberg hit .327/.432/.662 while averaging 41 doubles, 43 homers and 148 RBI per season. 

Second base

I generally avoid pre-integration players unless they are all-time greats and Charlie Gehringer is one, albeit a lesser-known great than, say, our center field pick here. By one measure, he’s the fifth-greatest second baseman ever. Did you know, however, that Lou Whitaker is 13th by that same measure and sits fourth in Tigers position player WAR, one spot and just 8.7 WAR back of Gehringer? I’m going with Sweet Lou. As a bonus, he’s familiar with his double-play partner. 


Alan Trammell, without question. 

Third base

I didn’t need to apologize to Miggy after all. George Kell, Travis Fryman and Tony Phillips get the apologies here, but it’s Miguel Cabrera. We’re loading up the offense. 

Left field

I’ll choose between Rocky Colavito and Kirk Gibson (who moved around, but the other two spots aren’t up for debate). Colavito was only there four years, but was a much better player on a rate basis. Rocky it is. 

Center field

Ty Cobb

Right field

Al Kaline in an easy pick. Sam Crawford and Harry Heilman from the pre-integration era deserve mention. 

The baseball world lost Kaline at age 85 on April 6. But Kaline was always the pick. Mr. Tiger is an all-time great.

Designated hitter

We’ve got Victor Martinez, Darrell Evans, Curtis Granderson, J.D. Martinez, Chet Lemon and every other player mentioned above to choose from. Who is the best hitter left on the board? I’ll go with Cecil Fielder since Prince was only there for two years. 

Starting pitchers

Two easy picks at the top with Justin Verlander and Hal Newhouser (he won two MVPs and had a seven-year stretch with a 2.43 ERA/155 ERA+). Two-time Cy Young winner and MVP Denny McLain had a short run that was amazing and he’s still the franchise leader in WHIP. Let’s focus on 1968-69. McLain was 55-15 with a 2.37 ERA, 142 ERA+, 51 complete games and 15 shutouts in 82 starts. That gets him a spot.

Now we’re left with just one spot and there’s Mickey Lolich, Jack Morris, Jim Bunning, Max Scherzer and a host of others. Of those four listed, Scherzer was the best at run suppression (adjusted for era), keeping guys off base and striking batters out. He’s the pick. 


Todd Jones is the franchise leader in saves by a mile (235, with Mike Henneman second at 154), but he had a 4.07 ERA, 113 ERA+ and 7.0 K/9. We can do better. Henneman, Jose Valverde, Aurelio Lopez (Señor Smoke!), Fernando Rodney and Shane Greene were considerations, but I’m going with Willie Hernandez. The Tigers acquired him before the 1984 season. He went 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA, 204 ERA+, 0.94 WHIP, 112 strikeouts, 28 unintentional walks and 32 saves in 140 1/3 innings. He won the Cy Young and MVP (in a dubious vote, but he still won). They also won the World Series with him posting a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings that postseason. His six-year run with the Tigers are very great, but 1984 was special and that’s the separation point. 

The Lineup

Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup. 

  1. Ty, CF
  2. Kaline, RF
  3. Hank, 1B
  4. Miggy, 3B
  5. Cecil, DH
  6. Rocky, LF
  7. Lance, C
  8. Alan, SS
  9. Lou, 2B

I love Trammell and Whitaker below Parrish as table-setters for the stacked top of the order. Cobb is gonna have a helluva lot more RBI than most leadoff men. 

SP: Justin, Hal, Denny, Max
RP: Willie

For the bench, let’s go with (Darrell) Evans, Norm (Cash), Gibby (Kirk Gibson) and Bill (Freehan). 

Now that’s a damn good team. As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with your own team (@MattSnyderCBS).

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