Yesterday, we looked back at 113 years of Detroit Tigers history and found the best single season performances the team has ever had. It was an illustrious list composed of four Hall of Famers, three current stars, and a dizzying number of combined All-Star appearances. In fact, the list was so exclusive that Denny McLain's 31 win season and the entirety of Al Kaline's 22 year career were not even mentioned.
However, not all 113 years of the Tigers' history have been so rosy. There have been some lousy performances. The franchise has six 100-loss seasons to its name, and another 10 90-loss seasons. Prior to the recent renaissance, the team went through a 19 year playoff drought. They are currently 30 years removed from their last World Series title.
With those bad stretches have come some truly awful singular performances. How bad? Yesterday's team of 15 players -- nine fielders, five starters, and a designated hitter -- was worth a combined 121 WAR. Today's worst ever team? A whopping 23 wins below replacement.
Yesterday's parameters apply again today; a player can only be considered one time. Position players were required to have 350 plate appearances or more, while starting pitchers needed at least 100 innings. A position player needed to start at least 50 percent of his games played at the position he was considered for.
Comerica Park silhouette via Eephus League
Honestly, I'm surprised that we were able to field a team this bad. It takes a little bit of luck to stay in a major league lineup for 350+ plate appearances while playing at a below replacement level, and yet everyone on this list aside from catcher Oscar Stanage was at least a full negative win. Four players -- Chris Lindsay, Cesar Gutierrez, Jerry Morales, and Jesse Stovall -- were bad enough to manage two wins below replacement level.
To no one's surprise, four of the players on this list are from the awful period from 1988 to 2005 when the Tigers failed to earn a single postseason berth. If you include Dan Petry's abysmal 1987 performance -- in a season the Tigers won the division, no less -- three-fifths of the pitching staff have come since the team won the World Series in 1984. While Petry's -1.6 WAR for a 98 win team was especially pitiful, he was just one of five players on this list to play for a winning Tigers team. Bill Tuttle's feat is also dubious because he followed up his -1.3 WAR performance in 1956 with another -1.0 WAR campaign in 1957.
One of the most interesting things I found when researching this topic was the high number of players from the current era of Tigers baseball that challenged for the top (bottom?) honors. Within the top three in any particular category were Magglio Ordonez, Brennan Boesch, Craig Monroe, Gary Sheffield, and Nick Castellanos. Brad Penny and Jeremy Bonderman would have been a part of a second starting five had we gotten that low, and Ryan Raburn would have made the list for his 2012 performance if he had met the plate appearance requirement.
After looking at this list, there's only question to be answered: would this team even win a game?