How They Beat ‘Em: 1984 Detroit Tigers Starting Lineup

Tigers lineup

Here it is, the starting lineup for Game 1 of the 1984 season, Apr 3 at the Minnesota Twins.

1.2B Lou Whitaker

2.SS Alan Trammell

3.DH Darrell Evans

4.C Lance Parrish

5. RF Kirk Gibson

6.LF Larry Herndon

7.1B Dave Bergman

8.CF Chet Lemon

9. 3B Howard Johnson

This post will look at the evolution of the Tigers’ lineup throughout the championship season of ’84, how it went from the opening day lineup to the main lineup fans may remember.

So, let’s start with a few comments on the lineup on Opening Day.

The only minor surprise may be Howard Johnson getting the nod at third.  The Twins’ starting pitcher, Albert Williams, was a righty, so Sparky had a left-handed hitter at the hot corner in Johnson, who hit from both sides.

Rather than playing Evans at first and DH-ing the lefthanded Johnny Grubb, Sparky went with Bergie at first and Darrell at DH.

Well, Johnson knocked one into the uncut lumber section of the Home Depot the Twins played in at the time for a double, driving in Chet Lemon for the team’s first run of the season.

Evans sailed one most of the way over the garden and patio department for what fans hoped would be the first of many, many homers the veteran would hit on the year.  The Tigers won 8-1.

But observant Gen Xers and Boomers may know that the lineup most used by the Tigers that year was still a work in progress.

Like a lot of teams, the Tigers moved their lineup around just a bit.  But the skeleton was in place by late May and it stayed pretty consistent from then on.

Here’s the closest to what one may call the Tigers’ basic lineup from June ’84 on:

1.2B Lou Whitaker

2.SS Alan Trammell

3.RF Kirk Gibson

4.C Lance Parrish

5.LF Larry Herndon

6.1B Darrell Evans

7.DH Barbaro Garbey

8.CF Chet Lemon

9.3B Brookens/Castillo/Johnson

The major event in the evolution of the ’84 Tigers lineup was Gibson’s drift up to the third spot.  Whitaker-Trammell-Gibson would become the very heartbeat of the Tigers offense down the stretch and in the playoffs.  That combo was responsible for so many of the major runs scored in the big (and not-so-big) games that fans recall.

As you can see, Gibson hit 5th on opening day.  The next night, he found himself in the 8 hole.  However, Friday night in Chicago for Game 3, he actually hit cleanup, with Parrish hitting 3rd. Saturday, he was back in 8th.

On May 2nd at home against Boston, Kirk was slotted in the all-important 3 position.  The next night, that spot would go to Garbey, while Gibby hit 7th.  His batting average was .308 at the end of the night.  He was back at the 3rd spot the next night, getting a hit and scoring twice.

But Garbey, for whom Sparky had a particular twinkle in the eye, was scorching the ball to the tune of .444 at the end of April, after 36 AB.  He hit particularly well at night, and often hit 3rd in games under the lights. Garbey’s May average would be .274, Gibson’s .277, with 3 homers and 11 RBI.  With Evans hitting for a poor average, the third spot was up for grabs between Garbey and Gibby.  If you were going for a bit more power, you’d go with Gibson.

For reference, on May 24, the night Detroit hit the 35-5 mark, Gibson was at 3rd against the Mariners.  The next night, it was Garbey.  Barbaro was in the 3rd spot on June 1 for the important first showdown against Baltimore.  He grabbed a hit and drove in a run with a sac fly in the 14-2 drubbing.

Gibson’s production, often from the 3rd spot, was huge for the Tigers. Photo Otto Gruele, Jr./Getty Images

However, during the upcoming series of series against the O’s and the Jays, Gibson would get the nod at 3rd regularly, and he would basically stay there for the rest of the year.  Garbey’s batting average would dry up, and so would his At-bats.  Gibson would end up starting 93 of his 134 started games at the #3 slot, while Garbey would drift to the bottom 3.

The fifth and sixth spots in the lineup would be occupied night by night by Evans at first or DH, Herndon in left and sometimes DH, and occasionally Lemon.  Herndon’s scorching September, after a slump that lasted most of the season until then, cemented him in the 5th spot for the postseason.

Ruppert Jones, when in the lineup, would usually hit 5th or 6th, but did hit 2nd 12 times.  Johnson and Brookens and Castillo were almost exclusively 7-9 when penciled in for a night.  Kuntz would actually lead off occasionally, when Whitaker got a night’s rest.

Productivity Up and Down the Lineup

Not surprisingly, the crucial top 3 in the order was the powerhouse of productivity for the team.  113 of the team’s 829 runs were scored by the #3 hitter on the year.  The leadoff position supplied 112, and the #2, 101.  The 3rd slot also drove in 113 runs, leading the team by one over cleanup.

The later positions, fluidly stocked by Evans, Lemon, Garbey, and Bergman, supplied quite a bit of power.  In fact, the 8th slot in the lineup supplied 20 homeruns on the year, only one less than the 5 spot.  For the 6th and 7th slots, it was 19 and 18, respectively.  It wasn’t a team of punch-and-Judy hitters or spry base-stealers trying to get on by hook or by crook.

Incidentally, with all the talk of the short porch in right at Tiger Stadium– and the fabled overhang of the upper deck–the ’84 Tigers actually hit more home runs on the road than at Michigan and Trumbull, 102-85.  They scored more runs on the road, too.

All stats, lineups, and box score info via baseball-reference.com.

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