1910: Tigers Postmortem

At the beginning of the 1910 baseball season Detroit was the three-time reigning American League champion. True, Hughie Jennings’ Tigers had lost three consecutive World Series match ups, but still they were champion. In 1910 they finished third at 86-68, 18 games out of first.

The team finished second in batting, walks,  home runs, and slugging; first in runs and RBIs. Across the board they hit well. The big stars Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford had good years, Cobb leading the AL in slugging, runs scored, and winning (or losing) a disputed batting title to Nap LaJoie. Crawford led the league in RBIs and triples. Every starter except catcher Oscar Stanage hit above .250 and had double figure stolen bases. Except for Stanage and third outfielder Davy Jones, everyone had more than ten doubles.

As usual for the era, the bench wasn’t much. Only back up catcher Boss Schmidt hit .250, but of the six players appearing in 20 or more games, only one hit below .200. Both Schmidt and backup outfielder Matty McIntyre had over 20 RBIs. It seems as if almost no one in the era had much of a bench.

It was the pitching that created the fall off for Detroit. In some ways Tigers pitching had always been a reflection of the team’s hitting prowess. Although most of the pitchers who started more than 10 games had winning records (topped by George Mullin’s 21-12 record) all had high ERA’s for the Deadball age and had low walks to strikeout ratios (Mullin actually walked more men than he struck out). Each did pitch more innings than they allowed hits.  At 27, they were tied with a number of other teams for the second oldest staff in the league (behind Chicago).

And in some ways that’s part of the problem. The Tigers are aging. Four of their starting position players are already 30 or older, as is McIntyre the backup outfielder. Backup catcher Schmidt is 29 (but on the other hand, Cobb is only 23). To someone my age that doesn’t sound old, but for ball players in the 1910 era they are getting on in years. Without some good replacements available to spell or replace the aging players the team could be in trouble in the future. Looking at the bench, those replacements aren’t available.

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