Team 99: The 1998 Tigers

Blake VandeBunteContributor INovember 6, 2009

26 Aug 1998:  Detroit Tigers manager Buddy Bell #25 takes his cap off during a game against the Texas Rangers at The BallPark in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers defeated the Tigers 8-6. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
  • Year: 1998
  • Record: 65-97
  • Win %: .401
  • Win % Change: -87
  • Run Differential: -141
  • Pythagorean Record: 68-94
  • AL Finish: 13th of 14
  • Manager: Buddy Bell and Larry Parrish
  • Best Transaction: In December, the Tigers signed Luis Gonzalez as a free agent to fill a hole in the corner outfield spots. This worked out just fine … for one season. Gonzalez slugged more than 20 homers but was out of town within a year. We all know how that worked out. This draft was decent too as the Tigers picked up Jeff Weaver and Brandon Inge.
  • Worst Transaction: Two choices this for one (Ladies and Gentleman, Randy Smith!!!). In the winter, Smith traded fan-favorite Travis Fryman to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a big pile of crap (Gabe Alvarez, Joe Randa, and Matt Drews). Two days later, Smith dealt future All-Star, Phil Nevin and Matt Walbeck to the Angels for some guy named Nick Skuse. That’s two All-Star third baseman dealt out of town in one week. You try and do that. Free agent moves that failed: Bip Roberts, Pete Incaviglia part II, Joe Oliver, and Billy Ripken.
  • Upper: Tony Clark had one of his best seasons as a Tiger, if not the best. Clark slugged 34 homers and drove in 103 runs. In addition to all of his slugging, Clark drew a team-high 63 walks, helping him post an OBP of .358, the best mark on the club. Clark, who would later struggle with injuries had no problems in 1998 and played in 157, tied for the team lead with Bobby Higginson. We also got to see a little bit of speed on the base paths. Brian Hunter led the Tigers with 42 steals, which is great when you ignore every other facet of his game.
  • Downer: In classic Tigers form, the pitching was a disaster. If I had to pick just one guy though I’d probably single out Scott Sanders.  This probably isn’t fair since poor Sanders only threw 9.2 innings, but he was just terrible. In his three appearances (two starts), Sanders posted a WHIP of 3.103. Seriously. He allowed 24 hits in less than 10 innings of work and coughed up 19 earned runs in the process. On April 14th, Sanders started and went four innings and gave up 11 earned runs. The amazing thing about that start is that he didn’t give up a single home run. He gave up all of those runs that fast, but not one homer was hit. Weird.
  • Summary: The 1997 Tigers were surprisingly good, winning 79 games after losing 100 games the year before. It’s safe to say that the 1998 Tigers entered the season with the potential to break the .500 mark. However, they fell flat on their faces. The Tigers went 5-18 in April and never stood a chance the rest of the season. They went 1-10 against the Baltimore Orioles and finished the season 21 games out of first place. Ugh. The Tigers got good years out of Bobby Higginson and Damion Easley. Easley gave the Tigers 27 HR and 100 RBI out of the 2B spot as he made the All-Star team. Justin Thompson and Brian Moehler gave us some hope in the pitching rotation as both of them were younger than 26 and they won a combined 25 games.

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