As the Major League Baseball season winds to a close, some of the most exciting pennant battles in years are being waged. In the NL Central, the Cubs have closed to within only half a game of the Astros. Meanwhile, the NL Wild Card features four teams within a slim margin of 2.5 games.
However, the race that looms largest in terms of baseball’s history involves the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are chasing all-time team marks just as the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners. Sort of.
Currently, the Tigers are on tenterhooks. They are 38-117 and only three losses away from tying the record of 120 losses set by the New York Mets in 1962. Unless they finish 3-4, the Tigers will hold the distinction as the worst team ever in the 133 years of professional baseball history.
Winning only three of seven would not be so difficult even for a poor team, but consider that the Tigers’ winning percentage is .245. Three of seven is a percentage of .429. So the equivalent of the Tigers winning at this clip would be the Yankees (.623) winning eight of seven, if that makes sense.
Sure, they may be 48.5 games out of first place, but the Tigers have played a huge role in deciding the AL Central race. The Twins have managed to essentially wrap up the division in part because of their domination of the Tigers. The Twins, currently 5.5 games ahead of the White Sox and Royals, are 14-1 against Detroit this year. Compare that to the recently overtaken White Sox, who only won 11 of 19 games against the Tigers.
The Tigers are awful under all circumstances, throughout the season. They went 3-20 in April, 11-18 in May, 5-22 in June, 9-17 in July, 6-23 in August, and 4-16 this month. May was a great month for the Tigers, but their best chance for a winning month was March when they lost their sole game 3-1 to the Twins.
Imagine managing a team that won only three games in a whole month. Alan Trammel should be Manager of the Year for not killing himself.
The time of the game or the field surface does not matter, either. Detroit is 11-43 in day games and 27-74 at night, 36-103 on grass and 2-13 on artificial turf. The Tigers will not have a winning record against any American League team, but they did split six games with Baltimore. The San Diego Padres will go down in history as the only team to drop a series to the 2003 Tigers.
The one area where the Tigers excel is close games. Detroit is actually 16-17 in one-run games, which is remarkable when you win as infrequently as they do. The Atlanta Braves have the best record in the National League at 97-59, but they are only 17-24 in these scenarios. Go figure. Maybe other teams just cannot handle the pressure of being in a tight game against the worst team ever. Hey, it would be tough to blow a game against a team that has made more errors (131) than your little league squad.
That said, the key to the Tigers failure is definitely their hitting. The team is batting .236 and slugging only .371. Imagine your team’s lineup composed of nine copies of Cesar Izturis.
The Tigers’ pitching is alright. Their team ERA is only 5.31, only .78 higher than the league average of 4.53 and actually .4 better than the Rangers’.
The Tigers are going to finish this season as the worst team ever, but they have some talent to work with in the future, too. Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth have combined for 40 losses, but could become legitimate pitchers. Carlos Pena is a highly regarded prospect at first base, and Brandon Inge could become a good catcher. The best part is that the Tigers will soon be able to unload Dean Palmer’s $8.5 million contract. Yup, I’m with you. I didn’t even know he still played baseball.
So maybe this team will be able to escape the ignominy of a 120+ loss season and maybe be good someday soon. Remember, the ’62 Mets transformed into World Series champions in 1969.