Last Updated on September 6, 2023 by Matt Musico
The Detroit Tigers have been in existence since 1901, yet fans have only seen 11 different seasons with 40-plus home runs happen in franchise history. Among Tigers single season home run leaders, just two went above the half-century mark and six of them happened before 1965.
Who graces Detroit’s single-season franchise leaderboard at the moment? We’re glad you asked. Scroll down and find out. Once you’re done, check out the Tigers’ all-time leaderboard, too.
Want to see the Tigers slug dingers in person? Grab tickets from our friends at Vivid Seats. And before you get to the stadium, make sure you’re decked out in the right gear. Get official Tigers merch from the MLB Shop or a ‘Big Dinger Energy’ shirt from our apparel store.
Tigers Single Season Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Hank Greenberg: 58 Home Runs in 1938
If we look at each MLB team’s single-season home run record, Hank Greenberg‘s 1938 performance is the second-oldest record (Jimmie Foxx’s 58 in 1932 for the Oakland A’s is the oldest). It’s also still among the most home runs in a season in MLB history. Greenberg played just 13 years in the big leagues and lost three in his early 30s to fight in World War II, but he made his limited time count. If we take out the 1936 season because he only played 12 games, his homer progression to this franchise record is essentially a straight line.
The first baseman went from hitting 12 in 1933 to 26 in 1934 and 36 in 1935. He came back in 1937 to hit 40 before reaching 58 the following season.
He was already having quite a powerful year heading into the 1938 All-Star break, as Greenberg slashed .294/.425/.620 with 22 home runs and 48 RBI in 314 plate appearances. But seriously, what he did in just 367 plate appearances following the break was unreal. He slashed .332/.449/.738 with 36 (!) homers and 99 (!!) RBI. Greenberg also added in 84 runs scored for good measure.
Cecil Fielder: 51 Home Runs in 1990
Cecil Fielder clearly found something in Japan when he played there for a year in 1989. Before heading to the Far East, his career-high for homers was 14 (although he never earned more than 197 plate appearances in a season). After hitting 38 dingers in Japan, he came back in 1990 and led the league with 51 dingers as a 26-year-old. And then he led the league again the following year with 44 homers. Fielder also led the league from 1990-92 in RBI.
At least in 1990, Fielder was definitely one of those guys who liked to play the field while they were hitting. Of his 673 total plate appearances, 62 came as a designated hitter, and the results were…not good. He slashed .179/.258/.375 with just three homers and six RBI. On the other hand, he hit .290/.390/.619 with 48 homers and 126 RBI as Detroit’s first baseman.
This was the start of seven straight seasons with at least 28 home runs, with six of those campaigns ending with 30-plus taters.
Rocky Colavito: 45 Home Runs in 1961
Rocky Colavito was in the middle of his power prime upon joining the Tigers in 1960. This 45-homer performance in ’61 was the third time he surpassed 40 in four years, and it was the fourth of five straight years he hit at least 30. His 1961 season is notable because it’s on this list, and the 45 homers and 140 RBI he collected both ended up being single-season career-high marks. This was also just a couple of years removed from him hitting 4 home runs in a game.
For whatever reason, the middle of the game (between the fourth and sixth innings) during the 1961 campaign was Colavito’s favorite. His 1.208 OPS was nearly 400 points better than what he did in innings 1-3 and 7-9. This period also contained his most homers (22) and RBI (60) on his way to setting the franchise homer record for left fielders.
Miguel Cabrera: 44 Home Runs in 2012 and 2013
Miguel Cabrera has put together a ton of great years throughout his MLB career, but none were better than what he did for the Tigers in 2012 and 2013. These were the only years he produced more than 7.0 fWAR in a season (he combined for 15.9 over this stretch). He also took home AL MVP honors two straight years and captured a Triple Crown in 2012 with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBI.
When looking at his homer production, it’s interesting to see Miggy arrive at the same number in two completely different ways. In 2012, he got to 44 by hitting them mostly at home (28 in Detroit, 16 everywhere else) and getting hot in the second half (18 homers pre-All-Star break, 26 post-All-Star break). It flipped in 2013, as he hit the majority of his homers on the road (27 as a visitor, 17 at home) and before the All-Star break (30 in the first half, 14 in the second half).
Hank Greenberg: 44 Home Runs in 1946
We had a tie here, but when I went to my tiebreaker of looking at wRC+ and fWAR between both performances, Greenberg (165 and 7.2) was the clear winner over Fielder (132 and 3.8).
This performance from Greenberg was truly his last hurrah of elite production, as it was his second-to-last season in professional baseball as a 35-year-old. He finished eighth in MVP voting but did take home the single-season home run (44) and RBI (127) crowns in the process. It was the fourth time he led the league in each category.
While Greenberg hit 29 of his 44 homers at home, it’s interesting to see his home OPS (1.039) be as close as it was to his road OPS (.917). The trick was that when he wasn’t hitting homers as a visiting player, he was hitting doubles. The veteran hit 29 doubles throughout the year, with 21 of them coming on the road. And, we can’t stop talking about this season from Greenberg without mentioning the month of September.
He finished with a flourish by posting a 1.316 OPS with 16 homers and 39 RBI. To provide some perspective here, in the three months prior (June through August), Greenberg hit 17 home runs with 60 RBI.
Tigers Single Season Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the rest of the top 22 Tigers single-season home run leaders look like at the moment:
- Cecil Fielder, 1991: 44 home runs
- Norm Cash, 1961: 41
- Hank Greenberg, 1940: 41
- Hank Greenberg, 1937: 40
- Darrell Evans, 1985: 40
- Norm Cash, 1962: 39
- Miguel Cabrera, 2010 and 2016: 38
- J.D. Martinez, 2015: 38
- Dean Palmer, 1999: 38
- Rocky Colavito, 1962: 37
- Miguel Cabrera, 2008: 37
- Hank Greenberg, 1935: 36
- Willie Horton, 1968: 36
- Cecil Fielder, 1992: 35
- Rocky Colavito, 1960: 35
If you’re looking for the rest, check out the full list on FanGraphs.
If you like what we’re doing here at MLB Daily Dingers, you can support us in several ways. You can check out our apparel shop, grab your official MLB gear at the MLB Shop, join the community by signing up for our email list, or follow us on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook).