Al Kaline, career Detroit Tiger and Hall of Fame outfielder, died on Monday, it has been announced. Kaline was 85.
Kaline never appeared in a minor league game, joining the Detroit Tigers immediately upon signing as an 18 year old in 1953. He saw limited playing time in 1953, then slashed .276/.305/.347 as a 19 year old in 1954, putting up a 1.2 bWAR as a right fielder. While the numbers are unimpressive, he did finish third in the A.L. Rookie of the Year balloting that year, and was 23rd in the A.L. MVP balloting.
Kaline broke out in 1955, leading in the majors in batting average and slashing .340/.421/.546, logging an 8.3 bWAR, being named to the All Star team and finishing second to Yogi Berra in the MVP voting. Kaline finished 3rd in the MVP balloting in 1956, and had 7 more top 10 finishes, including a 2nd place finish in 1963, as well 13 straight seasons being named to an A.L. All Star team and 10 Gold Gloves in an 11 year stretch. From 1955-67, he averaged 5.8 bWAR per season and totaled 75.0 bWAR, and was one of the best players in baseball over that decade-plus.
Kaline put up 5 more solid if unspectacular seasons from 1968-72, then entered a sharp decline in his final two years, ultimately hanging it up after the 1974 season, at the age of 39. Kaline registered 3007 career hits and 399 career home runs, slashing .297/.376/.480, and totaling 92.8 career bWAR, 7th highest all time among right fielders and 42nd all time among all players.
Kaline was a color commentator for the Tigers from 1975 through 2002, then was a special assistant to the president for the Tigers from the end of 2002 until his passing. Kaline was, by all reports, held in high regard by those around him, and considered one of the really good people in the game.