4 Players You Wouldn't Believe Led the Tigers in WAR for a Full Season
The Detroit Tigers have had some terrible stretches in franchise history similar to the one now that has seen the team lose at least 98 games in each of the past three seasons. Losing seasons often mean players who aren't stars end up shining briefly and looking great because of the lack of talent around them. Let's look at several players from past Tigers teams who made themselves look great in a tough situation by finishing atop the WAR leaderboard for one season.
4. Bobby Higginson
Bobby Higginson spent his entire 11-year MLB career with the Tigers. He posted a respectable 23.1 WAR over his career, but his mark of 5.3 in 2000 led the team. He also tied for the lead with Omar Olivares in a terrible 1996 season for the Tigers. Higginson never made the postseason and retired one year before Detroit made it to the World Series in 2006. The outfielder was never a star, but did enough to keep getting paid for over a decade.
3. Tony Phillips
Tony Phillips had an 18-year MLB career, spending five seasons with the Tigers. He never did make an All-Star Game or take home any individual hardware, but still led the Tigers in WAR each season from 1992-1994. He beat out the likes of Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, David Wells, and Cecil Fielder during this span, and arguably deserved at least one All-Star Game appearance. However, he was not one of the national stars in town and that worked against him even after all his success on the field.
2. Placido Polanco
Placido Polanco was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2005 and only appeared in 86 games with the team. He posted a 4.3 WAR in Detroit that was plenty to lead the team, and also had a mark of 1.8 with the Philadelphia Phillies before being traded. This was not Polanco's best WAR in Detroit, but was the only time he led the team. The Tigers made the World Series in 2006 and had more talent on the roster with Polanco in town.
1. Dmitri Young
The Tigers were a mess in 2003. The team finished 43-119 to follow up a 106-loss season in 2002. One positive from the year was Dmitri Young, who made his first All-Star Game and led the team in WAR at 3.4. That is not a number that jumps off the page, but it was good enough in a rebuilding year for the franchise. That mark also ended up being Young's career-best in a good but never great 13-year career.