THE 1926 TIGERS
Win Percentage: .513
Win Percentage Change: -13
Run Differential: -37
Pythagorean Record: 74-80
AL Finish: sixth of eight
Manager: Ty Cobb
Best Transaction: The Tigers signed two Hall of Famers prior to the 1926 season: Carl Hubbell and Rick Ferrell. Neither player made any sort of dent with the Tigers, but it’s pretty cool that the organization spotted both players in the same off-season.
Worst Transaction: Getting rid of Ty Cobb which allowed him to play on a team other than the Tigers. In the Tigers defense, they didn’t have much of a choice in this matter.
Cobb was in the middle of a gambling investigation and baseball was only a few years removed from the Black Sox scandal. The league was showing that they would take such issues seriously so Cobb was made a free agent and was allowed to sign with any team as long as that team wasn’t the Tigers. Bummer.
Upper: Harry Heilmann and Heinie Manush. Manush and Heilmann both put together season OPS+ marks of over 150, so they were quite the dynamic duo. Manush was only 24 years old at the time and led the club with 14 homers. In addition to his power, Manush hit a team best .378 and drove in over 80 runs. Heilmann, then 31, led the team with 103 RBI and hit a robust .367.
Downer: The pitching staff. This is getting old. Almost every team 72-109 had bad pitching. The 1926 team ranked sixth of the eight AL teams in ERA, seventh in home runs allowed, and no team in the league allowed more hits than the Tigers staff. The group was led by Earl Whitehill, winner of 16 games. However, guys like Lil Stoner (seriously) and Ed Wells were well below league average and could not keep the Tigers in the pennant race.
Summary: This was Cobb’s last season as player and as manager in Detroit. As a player in 1926, Cobb appeared in only 79 games at the age of 39. Somehow, the aging Cobb still hit .339 in his limited role. In his six years as manager, the Tigers never finished in better than second place and had a winning percentage of .519.
While Cobb was on his way out, a new group was on their way in. Charlie Gehringer, only 23 at the time, hit only .277 as he grew used to big league pitching. Manush thrived at only 24 and there was at least some hope in the future for the Tigers. However, Cobb was the main story in 1926 and it was truly an end of an era, one that began way back in 1905.