Detroit Tigers: The Power of 1986

The Detroit Tigers entire infield hit 20 home runs in 1986, a feat that has not been duplicated since as we continue our “criminally underrated” series.

We often in the blog atmosphere focus on the good times or memorable seasons. In this case, we continue our criminally underrated focus not a player but rather, a series of players that were part of the 1986 Detroit Tigers. On the surface, you look at how they finished. They finished 87-75, good for third place in the AL East and it was one of two seasons in a Detroit Tigers uniform that Jack Morris would win 20 games in a season.

But what may get glossed over is every player in the Detroit Tigers starting infield hit 20 home runs that season and they would lead the AL in home runs. Not one Tiger last season hit 20 home runs but in an era that was just starting to see home runs pick up a bit, it was a rare sight. So rare in fact that no Tigers team has done it since. Add Kirk Gibson’s 28 home runs and you had six positional players to hit 20 home runs or more.  Let’s look around the diamond at the five players who did this feat.

Catcher-Lance Parrish

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT, MI – Lance Parrish #13 of the Detroit Tigers.(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Finishing up a stretch of baseball that started in 1982 with five straight All-Star appearances and hitting 30 home runs twice in that time span, Parrish hit .257/.340/.483 with a walk rate of 10.2%. His fWAR was 3.4. He hit 22 home runs and drove in 62. Parrish along with Matt Nokes gave the Tigers a streak from 1982 until 1988 for Tigers catchers hitting 20 or home runs.


Third Base-Darnell Coles

Some fans may remember Darnell Coles as the former hitting instructor in Detroit for a short period of time in 2013 but older fans remember the one season and a half in as a Tiger after coming over from Seattle.  He was productive when he came over in 1986, hitting .273/.333/.453 with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. He did have a hard time getting the ball over to first and clashed with Sparky Anderson, which made his time in Detroit rather brief as they went through an endless parade of third baseman in the ’80s. While his walk rate was not as high as the others in this list (7.7%) his K rate was pretty good at 14.3% and his fWAR was 2.6

Shortstop-Alan Trammell

Hall of Famer Alan Trammell lead this ’86 squad in fWAR with 5.7 and put up a slash line of .277/.347/ .469 with 21 home runs and drove in 75.  Trammell too put up some impressive walk and strikeout rates, 9.0% BB and a K rate of 8.7%

Second Base-Lou Whitaker

This was Whitaker’s second straight season of 20 home runs and started to find his power stroke a bit. He, along with Lance Parrish, was named to the All-Star game that season. His slash line of .269/.338/.437 with 20 home runs and 73 RBIs. Outside of Frank White of Kansas City with 22, no one else in the AL hit more home runs that Lou Whitaker. Worth noting he too like the rest of the Tigers infielders on this list, had a good walk rate (9.7%) and a good K rate (10.8%)

First Base-Darrell Evans

Evans played some time at 3B in addition to his DH role in his time in Detroit but in 1986, he played 103 games at first, putting up a slash line of .241/.356/.442 with 29 home runs and drove in 85. What was most impressive was his walk rate, which is a signature for Evans. 15.1% BB with a K rate of 17.5%.

For all the power that has happened since this 1986 infield could get easily lost in the shuffle as Parrish would leave that off-season and Coles was traded the following August to Pittsburgh. But looking back, you wish this type of power would head to Comerica Park soon.