The following post is an installment in our weekly The Nine series and pertains solely to the site’s namesake, the Tigers. The question it seeks to answer is who are the best Tigers hitters of the last decade. It doesn’t answer who the best players are, but simply their offense performance. Defense and baserunning are not considered and the minimum PA threshold has been set at 600 PA. This isn’t a counting list that you can conquer by playing 10 seasons reasonably well. As long as you have had at least one full season of plate appearances as a Tiger from 2004 to now, you are eligible. The list is based on the best single offensive catch all metric, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) and does not control for position, sorry Pudge.
9. Andy Dirks (705 PA, 113 wRC+)
It might not seem like it, but across several seasons, Dirks has gathered more than one full season of PA and has performed very well at the plate. It doesn’t stand out, but his .289/.339/.447 career line is solid and he makes up for the lower walk rate with a low strikeout rate. He doesn’t over swing and it yields good results. In just over a full season of PA, he has 19 HR, 105 R, 76 RBI, and 10 SB. Put that together and you have a very nice player by any measure.
8. Victor Martinez (761 PA, 114 wRC+)
Martinez’s numbers are slightly depressed off a slow start to 2013, but his 2011 season was very strong and his career .304/.356/.433 line as a Tiger is quite good. His strikeout rate is under 10% and he’s done a nice job of driving in the batters who get on base ahead of him.
7. Rondell White (898 PA, 114 wRC+)
Does that name ring a bell? White played two seasons in Detroit (04-05) and was actually a pretty decent hitter other than having a low walk rate. He hit .290/.342/.470 as a Tiger and hit 31 HR wearing the Old English D. He wasn’t much in the field or on the bases, but his performance at the plate wasn’t anything at which to sneeze.
6. Curtis Granderson (2896 PA, 115 wRC+)
Granderson spend time in Detroit from 2004-2009 and gave the Tigers some solid offense in addition to his once great defensive chops. His .272/.344/.484 line puts him 6th on this list and 4th among players with more than 1000 PA and his 102 HR ranks fourth among Tigers hitters since 2004.
5. Chris Shelton (899 PA, 117 wRC+)
Yup, that Chris Shelton. He crushed the first two months of 2006 to get himself on this list and he didn’t hang around too long after he started coming back to Earth, so he ended his Tigers tenure with a .281/.348/.477 line with 35 HR. His peak was short, but for six weeks in 2006, Big Red was the man.
4. Carlos Guillen (3384 PA, 120 wRC+)
Guillen was often underrated in his time and often injured in his time as well. When he was on the field, he was a very good offensive player, providing a .297/.366/.476 line from 2004-2011 that included 95 HR as a Tiger. He walked more than league average and struckout far less to go along with his high average and solid power. Man, if only he wasn’t made of a substance more fragile than glass. He played just two seasons of 150+ games in his 8 seasons.
3. Magglio Ordonez (3531 PA, 125 wRC+)
Ordonez’s injuries and dwindling power at the end belie his overall contribution to the Tigers when he was healthy during his stint with the Tigers from 2005-2011. His .312/.373/.476 line was excellent along with 107 HR and a very low strikeout rate (11.9%). He also provided that amazing near MVP season in 2007 in which he hit .363/.434/.595 line good for 170 wRC+. Plus, you know, the homerun in the 2006 ALCS.
2. Prince Fielder (873 PA, 152 wRC+)
Prince is the newest Tiger on this list having just joined the team at the beginning of last season, but his offensive mark has already been made. He’s hit .305/.410/.526 since joining the team and has been near the top of the league in most offensive categories including his 39 HR and walk rate over 13%.
1. Miguel Cabrera (3590 PA, 159 wRC+)
Well, yeah. As a Tiger Cabrera has hit .326/.403/.580 with 191 HR and a 11.3% walk rate. I’m not sure what needs to be said other than that it is entirely possible he is getting better and could pull away from the pack as the next couple of years go on. This will be his 6th season as a Tiger. Let’s break it down list this:
2008-2010: .314/.388/.567, 109 HR, 147 wRC+ in 2017 PA
2011-2013: .341/.423/.597, 82 HR, 173 wRC+ in 1573 PA
Good luck anyone trying to climb to the top of this list. And to AL pitchers.