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Are the Detroit Tigers the worst team in the American League?

The Tigers have completely tanked in the second half of the season, and have a lot of work to do in order to contend in the future.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers have a record of 27 wins and 39 losses since the 2015 All-Star break. Detroit has been outscored by more than 100 runs in those 10-plus weeks, and their -117 run differential is rock bottom in the American League. Since they traded away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Joakim Soria at the trade deadline at the end of July, the team has been the worst team in the league, by several measures.

The Oakland Athletics have a poorer record than Detroit in the second half of the season, but the A’s have scored more runs, allowed fewer runs, and have three teams in their division still competing for a playoff spot.  Oakland has a pythagorean winning percentage of .392 to the Tigers’ .363, at the time of writing.

Once again, at the heart of the Tigers’ issues is a pitching staff that has allowed 350 runs in 64 games, or almost 5.5 runs per game. In fact, they have allowed more runs than any team in either league. The Tigers' pitching staff has struggled all season, in both the rotation and the bullpen, but the second half performance has been particularly gruesome. Here is a comparison, entering Saturday's action.

First half
4.31 4.26 6.97 1.11 2.87 1.34
Second half
5.23 4.80 6.79 1.37 3.29 1.44

Pitching has not been the only issue. A Tigers’ offense that ranked near the top of the league in runs scored during the first half of the season has posted the second-lowest number of runs in the second half. The following chart shows the sharp drop off after the All-Star break.

2015 RpG wRC+ Avg OBP SLG OPS wOBA
First half 4.52 110 .281 .337 .434 .771 .333
Second half 3.97
94 .255 .312 .402 .714 .310

The Tigers’ offense, which led the league in the first half of the season in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS, has been mediocre since the All-Star break. Injuries have contributed to the Tigers' problems, but injuries are not the whole story, nor are just the trades that were made at the deadline.

We can not say with certainty that the Tigers would have continued plodding along at about .500 had they not traded some of their best players away at the trade deadline. They may even have picked up a good player or two to help them challenge for a playoff spot. But make no mistake: this team had serious issues with their pitching staff before they made any trades in July. They also have a lot of work to do in order to contend for a playoff spot in 2016.