Because the Tigers got off to a 35-5 start in 1984, won the division easily and cruised through the post-season, they were clearly the "team to beat" in everyone's books for 1985.
The same cast and crew was pretty much returning with just a few exceptions. Pitching coach Roger Craig, who was credited with teaching the split-fingered fastball to Jack Morris and Dan Petry, retired. In the winter, the Tigers traded 3B Howard Johnson to the New York Mets for pitcher Walt Terrell.
But other than those changes, the '85 Tigers were pretty much the same bunch that terrorized the American League in 1984.
And when the Tigers got off to a 6-0 start in '85, the bandwagon was overflowing.
But the 1985 Tigers would soon find out that not only was the magic of 1984 so last year, it was gone forever. After the 6-0 start, the Tigers played .500 baseball through mid-June, when they got hot and lifted themselves into the divisional race. The Toronto Blue Jays, who had spent the previous year doing their best to keep the Tigers in their sights, were the new toast of the division.
But a 12-16 July doomed the Tigers, as the Jays began to open up a big lead. By mid-August, it was obvious that the Tigers would not be successful at defending their divisional title.
Baseball observers and Tigers fans scratched their heads. How could a team be so good one year and slip so much the next?
Answer: hitting. The 1984 Tigers posted a team ERA of 3.49, while the '85 team came in at 3.78---pretty much the same. But the '84 Tigers hit at a .271 team clip, while the '85 group hit a collective .253---an 18-point drop.
One player who improved from 1984 was 1B Darrell Evans, the big free agent signee from the Giants who had, by his own definition, a disappointing 1984 campaign, hitting just 16 home runs. But in '85, after a slow start that saw the Tigers call up young Mike Laga, Evans caught fire, ending up with 40 home runs to lead the league at age 38, in just 505 at-bats.
Kirk Gibson had a good year (29-97-.287), but the Tigers didn't get nearly as much contribution from their bench and role guys as they did in '84.
Morris led the team with 16 wins, followed closely by Petry and Terrell (15 wins each). Coming over from Texas during the season was veteran lefty Frank Tanana, a Detroit kid who made good. Tanana started 20 games and won 10 with a fine 3.37 ERA. But Milt Wilcox was another story. Wilcox started eight games, struggled, and was shelved by early-June with arm trouble.
The Tigers finished a pedestrian 84-77, in third place, 15 games behind Toronto. It wasn't at all what they expected; they were 78-77 after their 6-0 start.By GregEno
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- Alan Trammell, Dan Petry, Darrell Evans, Detroit Tigers, Frank Tanana, Howard Johnson, Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Mike Laga, Roger Craig, Walt Terrell