Thursday, January 28, 2010

PTWSW #42: The 1945 Detroit Tigers

Manager: Steve O'Neill
Record: 88-65
Ballpark: Briggs Stadium
Owner: Walter O. Briggs
GM: Jack Zeller
Coaches: Art Mills

Future Hall of Famers: Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser

All-Stars: Hank Greenberg, Eddie Mayo, Hal Newhouser

Team Leaders, Batting

BA:
Eddie Mayo, .285
OBP: Roy Cullenbine, .398
SLG: Roy Cullenbine, .451
OPS: Roy Cullenbine, .849
2B: Roy Cullenbine, 27
3B: Doc Cramer, 8
HR: Roy Cullenbine, Rudy York, 18
RBI: Roy Cullenbine, 93
BB: Roy Cullenbine, 102
SB: Skeeter Webb, 8

(Note: Hank Greenberg would've led in each of the slash stats had he had enough at-bats to qualify.)

Team Leaders, Pitching

W:
Hal Newhouser, 25 (AL leader)
SO: Hal Newhouser, 212 (AL leader)
ERA: Hal Newhouser, 1.81 (AL leader)
IP: Hal Newhouser, 313.1 (AL leader)
CG: Hal Newhouser, 29 (AL leader)
SHO: Hal Newhouser, 8 (AL leader)
K/BB: Hal Newhouser, 1.93
SV: Stubby Overmire, 4

Tidbits

Oldest Player: Chuck Hostetler (b. September 22, 1903)

Youngest Player: Art Houtteman (b. August 7, 1927)

First to Leave Us: George Caster (d. December 18, 1955)

Last Survivor: Milt Welch is the only one living as of May 21, 2017.

First in Majors: Doc Cramer (debut September 18, 1929)

Last in Majors: Billy Pierce (final game October 3, 1964)

First to Play For the Franchise: Tommy Bridges (August 13, 1930)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Virgil Trucks (September 9, 1956)

Pre-union Team: The 1935 Athletics with four: Al Benton, George Caster, Doc Cramer and Paul Richards.

Reunion Team: The 1948 Athletics (Skeeter Webb and Rudy York), 1952 Red Sox (Al Benton and Dizzy Trout), 1953-55 White Sox (Billy Pierce and Virgil Trucks), 1954-55 Indians (Art Houtteman and Hal Newhouser) and 1957 Orioles (Art Houtteman and Dizzy Trout) each had two. Perhaps not coincidentally, the White Sox and Orioles were managed by Paul Richards, who served as both catcher and interim manager for the 1945 Tigers.

Accomplishments

Hal Newhouser, AL MVP
Hal Newhouser, Pitching Triple Crown

Season Summary

By 1945 the war had depleted just about every roster in the Majors. Teams had to employ second-rate players and washed-up veterans just to get by. The Tigers were no exception: their middle infielders, Skeeter Webb and Eddie Mayo, were both 35 years old and center fielder Doc Cramer turned 40 during the season. Fortunately for Detroit, Mayo, known mainly as a glove man, put up a career-best 113 OPS+ and finished second in MVP voting. Hal Newhouser, the Bengals' ace of staff, finished first after an outstanding Triple Crown-winning performance.

The Tigers' only real team strength was pitching. Their 118 ERA+ and 588 strikeouts both led the league. They didn't have the best control, as their high wild pitch, walk and hit batsman totals can attest. Their offense scored the second-most runs per game, but their 94 OPS+ was only league-average thanks to the hitter's park they played in. Their DER was about average, though that may also have been attributable to the ballpark.

The pennant race was close all year long. The Tigers were never more than 2.5 games out of first, and once they finally got there themselves they never had a lead greater than five games. On July 1 the Tigers got a boost when Hank Greenberg returned from the war. He hit a home run in his first game back, and proved to be their best hitter in the half-season he played. After mid-August it was essentially a two-team race between Washington and Detroit. The Tigers held first place the entire time, but the Senators stayed hot on their trail. The Tigers went into the final game of the season (on the road in St. Louis) needing a win to clinch the pennant. A loss would force a playoff with the Senators. Like Greenberg before him, another star returned from the war to help out Detroit: Pitcher Virgil Trucks. Trucks started that final contest and allowed only one run in 5.1 innings before giving way to Newhouser. The Browns led 3-2 in the top of the ninth, but Greenberg, the veteran hero, came through with a grand slam which gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead and wrapped up the pennant.

The Tigers entered the World Series as underdogs (cats?) to the Chicago Cubs. Newhouser got shelled in Game 1, which the Cubs won 9-0 behind Hank Borowy. The Tigers won three of the next four to take a 3-2 Series lead, but they'd lose Game 6 in extras while Borowy held them scoreless the last four innings in relief. The Cubs started Borowy in Game 7 on only a day's rest, and the Tigers took advantage of his fatigue. Borowy lasted only three batters (who all singled) before being removed. Paul Derringer couldn't put out the fire, and the Tigers led 5-0 after the first half-inning. It was all they needed, as Detroit would win by a final score of 9-3.

Acknowledgements:

Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

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