Last Updated on June 13, 2023 by Matt Musico
Apparently, racking up enough playing time to be among the Detroit Tigers home run leaders for a career isn’t easy, folks. As we’ll see below, Miguel Cabrera is on the verge of sliding himself into second place all-time as long as he can collect just a few more homers.
But outside of him, there aren’t any other active Tigers in the top 30…or the top 60, for that matter. The closest active player is Nick Castellanos with 104 dingers as a member of the Tigers. He won’t be adding to his total any time soon since he signed a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to 2022.
But enough of that — let’s dive into who actually is on the list. We’ll first dive into the top five in detail before listing out the rest of the top 21. And once you’re done here, see how many also appear on the Tigers’ single-season home run leaderboard.
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Detroit Tigers Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Al Kaline: 399 Home Runs
Al Kaline doesn’t appear at all in the top-10 of the Tigers’ single-season leaderboard, and he’s probably one of the few dudes to not appear there but be among the team-specific all-time leaders. He had the benefit of being consistent over a long period of time to get to where he did for Detroit.
The 22-year MLB veteran and Hall of Famer debuted as an 18-year-old and played his final game as a 39-year-old. During that span, he appeared in 18 All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Gloves, slashed .297/.376/.480, and placed in the top-10 of AL MVP voting nine times. Interestingly enough, he never enjoyed a 30-homer campaign in the big leagues. He did hit 29 twice, though (in 1962 and 1966).
What Kaline did do was hit at least 10 homers in a season for 20 consecutive years from 1955-74 after hitting just five dingers in his first 168 MLB games. This streak included nine seasons of 20-plus homers.
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Norm Cash: 373 Home Runs
Norm Cash technically isn’t a career Tiger, but he might as well be since he spent all but 71 games of his 17-year career with Detroit. And with Miggy bearing down on him, his time being first in line behind Kaline won’t last much longer. Unlike Kaline, Cash racked up a similar number of homers over a shorter time because he eclipsed the 30-homer plateau on a few occasions.
After hitting 18 dingers in his first year with the club in 1960, he rattled off nine straight years with 20-plus homers, as well as completing the feat 11 times in 12 years. Five of those occasions included at least 30, with his most powerful stretch coming in 1961 and 1962 when he slugged 80 combined homers (41 and 39, respectively).
Cash was on another level in that ’61 campaign, slashing .361/.487/.662 with 41 homers, 132 RBI, and 119 runs scored, along with a league-leading 193 hits. His 1.148 OPS also led the league, and it was the only time he finished with one higher than .903 in a single season. To put a cherry on top of this performance, the first baseman also finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
Miguel Cabrera: 368 Home Runs (…And Counting)
What else is there to say about Miguel Cabrera? He’s one of the all-time great hitters of this generation, and with his 3,000th hit early in the 2022 season, he put himself on an exclusive home run list. We’ve also spent time looking at some of his milestone home runs, which was a fun activity.
Cabrera’s back-to-back MVP campaigns of 2012 and 2013 have been discussed here quite a bit, but it’s also worth noting how amazingly consistent he was to begin his Tigers career. In his first six years with the club after getting acquired via trade from the Florida Marlins, he never played fewer than 148 games. This span included 4,054 plate appearances, and Miggy hit .327/.408/.588 while averaging 38 home runs and 123 RBI. That’ll certainly endear you to a fanbase.
Hank Greenberg: 306 Home Runs
Hank Greenberg holds the Tigers’ single-season home run record and the franchise record for first basemen. Who knows how many he would’ve ended up with if he didn’t miss his age-31 to age-33 seasons because of World War II (and the majority of his age-30 season). He led the league in homers four times over 13 years, and he also led baseball in RBI four times during his career.
Greenberg played in 345 games across three years after returning from his time overseas and before calling it a career. In this time, he hit .275/.392/.548 and averaged 27 home runs with 87 RBI along the way. He was just the man between 1934 and 1940, though. The legendary slugger posted a 1.070 OPS through 4,089 plate appearances while averaging 42 (!) home runs and 163 (!!) RBI.
Willie Horton: 262 Home Runs
Willie Horton took a page out of Cash’s book from the perspective of consistency in the power department. He finished with double-digit home runs in 15 of his 18 years in the big leagues, and while he did surpass the 30-homer mark, it only happened once. It was in 1968 when he hit 36 while driving in 85 through 578 plate appearances.
Horton did have six other seasons of 20-plus homers — including four with at least 27 — but this one sticks out quite naturally. There was one month in 1968 that really made it possible. Over the first three months of the year, he hit more than four homers just once. It came in May when he collected 12 and slugged .719 in 27 games. Horton was more consistent over the final three months, hitting at least five in each, with eight in July being the high point during this subset of his season.
Detroit Tigers Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the rest of the Tigers’ top-21 career home run leaders looks like:
- Cecil Fielder: 245 home runs
- Lou Whitaker: 244
- Rudy York: 239
- Lance Parrish: 212
- Bill Freehan: 200
- Kirk Gibson: 195
- Dick McAuliffe: 192
- Bobby Higginson: 187
- Alan Trammell: 185
- Charlie Gehringer: 184
- Harry Heilmann: 164
- Tony Clark: 156
- Travis Fryman: 149
- Jim Northrup: 145
- Chet Lemon: 142
- Darrell Evans: 141
If you’re looking to see which sluggers are just on the outside of this list, check out the rest on FanGraphs.
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