This team was led by veteran players Al Kaline and Norm Cash, getting very good defensive seasons from Ed Brinkman, Aurelio Rodriguez and Mickey Stanley and the leadership of Willie Horton and Bill Freehan, even though both players were not having their best offensive seasons. Pitching wise, it was Lolich and the pitcher McLain was traded for, Joe Coleman, who were the top starters for the 1972 Tigers. And teams found it tough getting to the bullpen led by RHP Chuck Seelbach and LHP Fred Scherman, along with the return of LHP John Hiller. (Hiller's story and comeback will be a future Bases Empty Blog article.) However, it was two moves the Tigers made in early August of that season that were the determining factor in the Tigers edging out the Red Sox by a half game to win the AL East division that season.
On August 2, 1972, the Tigers purchased struggling left hand pitcher Woody Fryman from Philadelphia Phillies. Fryman was having a very difficult season, going 4-10 with 4.36 ERA. Remarkably, he would go 10-3, 2.06 with 6 complete games for the Tigers. Even with Lolich and Coleman, it was Fryman who was their best pitcher down the stretch.
Two days later, the Tigers added veteran catcher Duke Sims to the roster, purchasing him from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The power hiting catcher was not the same guy who hit as many as 23 HR for the Cleveland Indians. He was hitting just .192 with 2 HR in 51 games for the Dodgers when he joined the Tigers. Finishing off the season for the Tigers, Sims hit .316 with 4 HR in 38 games. In fact, Sims started 4 of the 5 games at catcher for the Tigers in the ALCS against the Athletics.
Sure the reason of adding the Fryman and Sims were not to win the World Series. In other words, the additions of the two of them were not intended to make a huge difference; they were to be role players- not impact players. They were both added to provide depth.
Remember, there was a strike during the 1972 season which cost the league 86 games lost. The Tigers would win the division by a half a game because they played one more game (156) than the Red Sox (155).