Mickey Cochrane has the highest winning percentage of any Tiger manager ever, at .582 (348-250). Mayo Smith is not far behind at .560 (363-285). Jim Leyland checked in at .540 (700-597). The great Sparky Anderson is a bit lower down the list, at .516 (1,331-1,248).
But what about the opposite end of the spectrum? In the long history of Tiger baseball, five managers have a winning percentage of less than .400 (all had at least one full season at the helm). Here they are:
Buddy Bell (.399)
An All-Star third baseman who spoke softly but carried a big stick, Bell had long been viewed as a player with managerial potential. In his three years as manager, the Tigers won a total of 184 games, while losing 277. His rookie season as skipper in 1996 was a 109-loss nightmare. It didn’t get any better after that. Having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball made it difficult for Bell. At the time of his firing in early September of 1998, the Tigers had lost 22 of their previous 28 games, and owned the worst record in the American League. Said club owner Mike Ilitch, “He’s had a very difficult job in terms of mixing very young players with veterans and being able to deal with it when it’s not going well.” Which, at Tiger Stadium, was just about all the time.
Fred Hutchinson (.397)
A fan favorite as a pitcher in Detroit, “Hutch” was a bulldog with a fiery temper on the mound. After some big years in the late 1940’s, he was named player-manager midway through the 1952 season. Detroit lost 94 games in 1953, a summer which saw the debut of Al Kaline. “The one thing (Hutchinson) demanded was a 100 percent effort,” Kaline remembered. But Hutchinson simply didn’t have the horses, and resigned following the 1954 season after the front office declined to give him a two-year contract. “Hutch” was only 155-235 in his years in Detroit, but he was actually a very good manager who went on to win a pennant with the Cincinnati Reds in 1961.
Frank Dwyer (.385)
Following a 12-year pitching career in which he’d won 177 games, Dwyer was named manager of the Tigers in 1902. In his only season, the team went 52-83, good for seventh place. After his retirement, Dwyer was the New York State boxing commissioner for seven years.
Alan Trammell (.383)
He may belong in the Hall of Fame as a player, but definitely not as a manager. The arrival of Trammell as skipper in 2003 was viewed as a good move; he was a hometown favorite who looked to have all the knowledge and instincts to be a fine skipper. Instead, Detroit lost 119 games, an American League record. Trammell’s tenure was marked by questionable strategic moves, and he at times seemed overwhelmed by the job at hand. The team averaged 100 losses in his three years.
Luis Pujols (.355)
The first minority manager ever for the Tigers, Pujols was hired to take over the team in April of 2002 following the firing of Phil Garner after a 0-6 start. Under Pujols, the Tigers limped to a 55-100 showing. Even Dave Dombrowski, the team’s general manager, conceded that Pujols had “walked into a difficult situation,” when he agreed to skipper the team. The native Dominican didn’t look like the right fit from the beginning. Pujols’s Golden Raspberry moment was when the team batted out of turn in a game in Anaheim on August 14. Pujols was let go after the season, to be followed by Trammell.