Team 102: The 1920 Tigers

Blake VandeBunteContributor INovember 3, 2009

27 Sep 1999:  A view of the Tiger Stadium with Tyrus Raymond Cobb plaque taken during the last game played at the Tiger Stadium against the Kansas City Royals in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Royals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw  /Allsport
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Year: 1920

Record: 61-93

Win Percentage: .396

Win Percentage Change: -.175 from season before

Run Differential: -181

Pythagorean Record: 60-94

AL Finish: Seventh of eight

Manager: Hughie Jennings

Best Transaction

There weren't many transactions back in the day. As a matter of fact, the Tigers made three transactions before, during, and directly after the 1920 season.

The best move they made was trading Babe Ellison (never appeared in the major leagues again) for Bert Cole. Cole was a league-average pitcher at best, and his best season came in 1923 when he went 13-5 as a starter and relief pitcher.

Worst Transaction

There were no moves to put a negative spin on. Sorry.

Upper

Bobby Veach did it all for this disappointing Tigers club. Veach led the Tigers in home runs, RBI, slugging, hits, and runs. Ty Cobb missed a good chunk of the season, and Veach stepped up his game and put up some monster numbers. Veach ranked seventh in home runs, seventh in doubles, ninth in hits, and seventh in RBI.

Veach spent 12 seasons in Detroit and played second fiddle to Cobb for most of the time. Without Veach’s contributions in 1920, who knows how bad this team would have been?

Downer

The Tigers pitching staff was a mess in 1920, with Dutch Leonard leading the way. The Tigers starter went 10-17 and had an ERA+ of 86. This was especially disappointing since Leonard had such a good career. He set many career worsts in 1920, and he’s the sort of guy that the Tigers were depending upon to win ball games that season.

It’s unfair to lay all the blame on Leonard, though. Five Tigers pitchers lost at least 13 games in 1920, with Hooks Dauss leading the way with 21.

Summary

The 1920 Tigers are the first team on this list to slide down for reasons other than their record. Their .396 winning percentage is better than many teams that have yet to appear on the list. However, this club gets bumped down for how far they fell from the previous season.

In 1919, Detroit went 80-60, one of the better records in the American League. They returned most of the players from that team and had guys like Cobb and Veach in their prime. They just fell flat.

The Tigers got out of the gate slow, going 24-50 in the first half of the season. Detroit especially struggled against the Chicago White Sox (a team still featuring the eight players that threw the 1919 World Series), as they went only 3-19 against Joe Jackson and the Sox. This was the worst big-league team that Ty Cobb ever played for.

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