Top Detroit Tigers of All Time by OPS+

For those of you that aren’t into sabermetrics , OPS+ might not mean much to you. And while not a huge “saber nerd” myself, OPS+ is one of my favorite stats to look at for players. Obviously, the higher the number, the better.

Now, OPS represents a player’s on base percentage plus their slugging percentage. You add that little plus on to the end, though, and the stat is defined as OPS adjusted for the park and the league in which the player played, but not for fielding position. An OPS+ of 100 is defined to be the league average. An OPS+ of 150 or more is excellent and 125 very good, while an OPS+ of 75 or below is poor.

For example, coming into today’s game, Miguel Cabrera’s OPS+ so far this year is 180. He’s awesome. Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez are currently at 156, 138, and 136. Sweet. Brennan Boesch is close to average at 95. Ryan Raburn’s OPS+ of 56 is dreadful. Simple, right?

Through 2010, baseball’s all time leader in OPS+ is Babe Ruth at 206. Ted Williams is next at 190. The rest of the top ten is Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols, Dan Brouthers, Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, and Jimmie Foxx. The all fall between 181 and 163.

The point of all this, is that I thought I’d dig around and compile the best lifetime OPS+ of players during their seasons in a Tiger uniform. I put the limit at guys with at least 500 games played in the D to eliminate any possible one or two year wonders. Otherwise, Champ Summers would be #6 on this list at 143 (no disrespect to Champ). Mainly, I kinda wanted to see how top players from the years I’ve watched baseball like Trammell, Fielder, and Cabrera would stack up to the legends we hear about all the time like Cobb, Greenberg, and Kaline.

So, here’s the Top 50 (or so) in order.



1. Ty Cobb (1905-1926): 171
2. Hank Greenberg (1930-1946): 161
3. Miguel Cabrera (2008-present): 153

Note: #3 all time, people. Appreciate what you’re watching.

4. Harry Heilmann (1914-1929): 148
5. Sam Crawford (1903-1917): 144
6. Norm Cash (1960-1974): 139
7. Roy Cullenbine (1938-1947): 134
8. Al Kaline (1953-1974): 134
9. Mickey Tettleton (1991-1994): 134

Note: Really? #9? Tied with Al Kaline for 7th best ever? I adored Mickey as a kid, but I didn’t expect to see him this high on the list. Guess all those walked paid off.

10. Dick Wakefield (1941-1949): 131
11. Ray Boone (1953-1958): 130
12. Rocky Colavito (1960-1963): 130
13. Bobby Veach (1912-1923): 130
14. Rudy York (1934-1945): 128
15. Willie Horton (1963-1977): 127
16. Cecil Fielder (1990-1996): 126
17. Kirk Gibson (1979-1995): 125 (2 stints w/Tigers)
18. Steve Kemp (1977-1981): 125
19. Magglio Ordonez (2005-present): 125

Note: Being how I worship both Gibby and Maggs, it was fun to find that they have identical OPS+ numbers for their Tiger careers.

20. Vic Wertz (1947-1963): 125
21. Charlie Gehringer (1924-1942): 124
22. Bob Fothergill (1922-1930): 122
23. Carlos Guillen (2004-present): 122
24. Tony Clark (1995-2001): 121

Note: I didn’t expect to see Carlos and Tony this high. Especially, Tony.

25. Darrell Evans (1984-1988): 121
26. Heinie Manush (1923-1927: 120
27. Charlie Maxwell (1955-1962): 120
28. George Kell (1946-1952): 119
29. Tony Phillips (1990-1994): 119

Note: Phillips, on the other hand, I thought would be higher. Guy was always on base.

30. Jimmy Barrett (1901-1905): 117
31. Chet Lemon (1982-1990): 117

Note: Glad to see Chester so high. I think he’s one of the most underrated MLB players of all time.

32. Rusty Staub (1976-1979): 117
33. Lou Whitaker (1977-1995): 116
34. John Wockenfuss (1974-1983): 116
35. Pat Mullin (1940-1953): 115
36. Jim Northrup (1964-1974): 115
37. Curtis Granderson (2004-2009): 114
38. Bobby Higginson (1995-2005): 113

Note: Bobby’s still #1 in my heart, though. (sniffle)

39. Lance Parrish (1977-1986): 113
40. Jason Thompson (1976-1980): 113
41. Hoot Evers (1941-1954): 112
42. Bill Freehan (1961-1976): 112
43. Harvey Kuenn (1952-1959): 112
44. Matty McIntyre (1904-1910): 112
45. Goose Goslin (1934-1937): 111
46. Dick McAuliffe (1960-1973): 111
47. Lu Blue (1921-1927): 110
48. Gates Brown (1963-1975): 110
49. Larry Herndon (1982-1988): 110

Note:  Another surprise to me.  I liked Larry, but I didn't expect him to make the list.  My bad, Mr. Herndon.

50. Barney McCosky (1939-1946): 110
51. John Stone (1928-1933): 110
52. Alan Trammell (1977-1996): 110

Note: Tram was hurt a lot during his career. This is why he’s not getting into the HOF unless the Veteran’s Committee someday puts him and Whitaker in.

Other Notable Players w/over 500 games as a Tiger

Travis Fryman (1990-1997): 106
Placido Polanco (2005-2009): 102
Ivan Rodriguez (2004-2008): 102
Damian Easley (1996-2002): 101
Dave Bergman (1984-1992): 99
Craig Monroe (2002-2007): 97
Mickey Stanley (1964-1978): 90
Brandon Inge (2001-present): 85
Tom Brookens (1979-1988): 82
Ramon Santiago (2002-2011): 78 (2 stints w/Tigers)
Deivi Cruz (1997-2001): 77
Aurelio Rodriguez (1971-1979): 76

And finally, though he’s only been in 179 painful Tiger games, Jim Leyland’s favorite player Don Kelly’s Tiger OPS+ is 76. Keep batting him in the top three of the lineup, Jim. You twit.

As always, baseball-reference.com is awesome.