Team 95: The 1951 Tigers

Blake VandeBunteContributor INovember 10, 2009

27 Sep 1999:  A close-up view of a seat in the stadium 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: 1951
  • Record: 73-81
  • Win %: .474
  • Win % Change: -143 one of the five worst in team history
  • Run Differential: -56
  • Pythagorean Record: 71-83
  • AL Finish: fifth of eight
  • Manager: Red Rolfe
  • Best Transaction: Signed Frank Bolling as a free agent. Since this was in the days before the amateur draft, young guys were allowed to essentially sign with the team of their choice. Bolling signed with the Tigers in the winter before the 1951 season. He didn’t play for the Tigers until 1954, but he was good once he was ready to play.  Bolling played second base for the Tigers from 1954-1960, getting MVP votes twice and winning a Gold Glove. Bolling was roughly league-average at the plate, but he was a very good defensive player. He was dealt to Milwaukee later in his career in a deal that brought the Tigers some decent players.
  • Worst Transaction: Traded Saul Rogovin to the White Sox for Bob Cain. Cain put together one good season for the Tigers and Rogovin really wasn’t special, but I had to get something down here. Rogovin would win the AL ERA title in 1951 after making only five starts with the Tigers. In 1952, Saul won 14 games, so the Tigers essentially gave up on a guy two years too early here. Not sure it would have made much of a difference, but still.
  • Upper: Vic Wertz was an absolute beast in 1951. The 26-year-old outfielder posted an OPS+ of 140, one of the better marks in the American League. Wertz led the Tigers in homers (27) and RBI (94) even though he missed a couple of weeks of play due to injury.  Wertz made his second career All-Star game in 1951 and who knows where the Tigers offense would have been without him.
  • Downer: The downer here is how much worse the Tigers were in 1951 than in 1950. Just a year earlier the Tigers were the second best team in the American League, going 95-59 and finishing only three games out of first place. This club just didn’t get off on the right foot, going 3-5 in April and 14-15 in May. By the time summer rolled around, this team was already out of the race. That’s brutal when you consider how great the 1950 team was. This team was slightly below average in almost all aspects of the game. They also suffered from some players realizing their age and injuries. Two-time MVP Hal Newhouser was only able to start 14 games after starting 30 games in 1950. Virgil Trucks had a tough time out of the bullpen and the lineup had some serious holes.
  • Summary: This team was bad, but it featured several great players, reminding me of the 2008 Tigers in that respect. Even though this team failed to live up to expectations it was a historic team to see on the field. The pitching staff included Hal Newhouser, Dizzy Trout, and Virgil Trucks while the lineup boasted George Kell and Vic Wertz.  That’s a lot of All Star games and a couple of Hall-of-Fame plaques represented in that group. This would end up being Red Rolfe’s final full-season as manager and the same was true of All-Stars Kell and Wertz. This was a team that had some good runs in the mid-late 1940s and 1950. It was time to reshape the team and start from scratch.