Detroit Tigers History

Detroit Tigers: Comparing this season to 2003

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SEATTLE - JULY 30: Manager Alan Trammell #3 of the Detroit Tigers substitutes pitcher Steve Sparks #37 in the first inning of the MLB game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 30, 2003 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won 13-3. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - JULY 30: Manager Alan Trammell #3 of the Detroit Tigers substitutes pitcher Steve Sparks #37 in the first inning of the MLB game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 30, 2003 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won 13-3. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers fans have been frustrated with the team’s performance, but rest assured things have not, and will not, get as bad as they did in 2003.

It’s pretty obvious for Detroit Tigers fans watching this team that it hasn’t been a good season. The team is in rebuilding mode, and most of their top-tier talent is at least a few years away from reaching the big leagues. As such, this team is left to flounder with the little talent it possesses, waiting for the prospects to develop and help bring the team back into playoff contention.

For those of you who are thinking ‘wow this sounds a lot like 2003’ let me reassure you that things aren’t that bad. For starters, the 2018 team is 52-75 through 127 games. In 2003, the team was 31-96.

The 2003 Tigers were historically inept, having set the American League record for losses in a season. They struggled on the mound, in the field, and at the plate. It was disgustingly hard to watch. The 2018 Tigers are certainly struggling, but they aren’t even the worst team in their division, never mind of all-time.

However, they do possess some similarities. And in the interest of making everyone sad on this throwback Thursday, here are some of them.

Hitting

Through 127 games, the 2003 Detroit Tigers were slashing .237/.297/.369. They had hit 114 home runs and scored 430 runs. In 2018, the Tigers aren’t doing a whole lot better. They are currently slashing .241/.300/.376 with 99 home runs and 488 runs scored. Both teams posted 83 OPS+ as a team, well below the league average mark of 100.

Detroit has struggled this season thanks to the early loss of Miguel Cabrera, who was hitting a tidy .299/.395/.448 with a 129 OPS+ before a back injury cost him the rest of 2018.

The 2003 squad only had three players (Dmitri Young, Carlos Pena and Eric Munson) post a OPS+ over 100. The 2018 squad only has one, Nicholas Castellanos (Miggy didn’t play enough).

Pitching

While the hitting numbers look relatively similar, the pitching is a big separator. The 2018 team has only scored 58 more runs than they did at this point in 2003, yet they have 21 more wins. That is primarily because of pitching. While nobody is going to call the 2018 Tigers staff elite, or even good, they are considerably better than the 2003 team was.

2003: 5.03 ERA, 4.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 147 HR, 81 ERA+

2018: 4.46 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 166 HR, 100 ERA+

This team has given up 556 earned runs through 127 games, whereas the 2003 team gave up 630. The 2003 team had six players make 10 or more starts, and the lowest ERA among them was Nate Cornejo, at 4.67. The next lowest was 5.45.

The 2018 Tigers have also had six pitchers make more than 10 starts, and all but one of them (Francisco Liriano) have an ERA lower than Cornejo’s 4.67 mark. That’s right, only one of Detroit’s six starters in 2003 had a better ERA than Detroit’s worst starter this season. Things could be a lot worse.

Of course, things could get worse down the stretch. Mike Fiers is gone and Blaine Hardy is on the DL, and they have been Detroit’s best two starters this season (yikes). Their replacements have been Jacob Turner and Ryan Carpenter, who look like they belong on the 2003 staff.

Next. Best September Call-Ups in Team History. dark

All-in-all, this team is bad but not as bad as the worst team in American League history. That should make you feel better. Sorta.

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