The Detroit Tigers Top Ten Bum List: #10 C.J. Nitkowski


Once in a while during a slow off-season, as a writer you have to look around for some inspiration. I was doing so one day last week, when I came across a top 10 bum list from one of Fansided’s other baseball sites, Lasorda’s Lair. I thought, that is a pretty good idea, and at least could be some fun for me anyway. So a big nod to them for the idea, and please check out their list as well.

My list of Tigers bums doesn’t go back too far in history. Approximately the past 30 years or so, and while I am sure that there is going to be some dispute about the list (hint: Jason Grili is not on it), I wanted to let you know what I was thinking before I start this list. Essentially, it’s about performance, or lack of it, coupled with the expectation that the player would perform. A player’s draft status, and/or who they were traded for played a role in deciding who was on this list. As well as what they have/had done the rest of their careers.

Without further delay, I give you the 10th biggest bum in the past 30 years or so…….

C.J. Nitkowski is just one of those guys that just never lived up to expectations. Drafted with the 9th pick overall by the Cincinnati Reds in 1994, he was traded to the Tigers in 1995 as the main piece of the deal for the Reds to acquire David Wells. That obviously didn’t work out for Detroit very well, but what makes C.J. Nitkowski all the more fun for Tigers fans was that he was a Detroit Tiger on 3 separate occasions, making his lack of success all the more frustrating for Tigers fans to watch. It’s like the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros were a couple experimenting for the first time (they swapped him twice), and poor C.J. Nitkowski was the most popular set of keys at a key party. Nitkowski spent 10 seasons in the majors, spending time with 8 different organizations. Tough to do when one of them (Tigers) acquire you 3 times.

I would like to say that Nitkowski did have some success in the majors, but that just isn’t true with the exception of one year. In 1998 with the Astros, Nitkowski did have an ERA of 3.77, which was the best of his career over the course of a full season. His career with the Tigers was a display of pyrotechnics and adding gas to flames that even Jason Grilli couldn’t fathom.

Nitkowski pitched in at least parts of 5 different seasons with the Detroit Tigers, finishing only once in 1999 with an ERA below 5.00 at 4.30. His other ERA’s with the Tigers? 7.09, 8.08, 5.25, and 5.56. Nitkowski’s career WHIP of 1.633 is indicative of the the type of problems he had with Detroit, and well, everywhere. He walked too many guys, averaging 4.9/9 over his career, and didn’t strike out enough, at just 6.5/9. On top of that, batters hit .279 against Nitkowski over his career, and hit over .300 against him twice while he was in a Tigers uniform. They hit .285, and .286 in two other years, making it 4 times above his normal average in a Tigers uniform.

We might think the Tigers lack some decent scouting now days, but man, did this organization take the cake during the Randy Smith era? David Wells only went on to finish 3rd in the Cy Young Award voting twice after the Tigers traded him, despite not really putting together statistical seasons like the one he was putting up with Detroit at the time of the trade.

The good thing about Nitkowski? At least he brought the Tigers Doug Brocail and Todd Jones to the Tigers in one of his deals with the Astros. Wait….is that really good news that he brought Todd Jones? Well, of course, even Todd Jones wasn’t as bad as Tigers bum #10.