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Greetings, fellow masochists. Today I present to you the five worst starts by a Tigers pitcher in 2016. This vomit-inducing list was compiled based on the Game Score statistic. This is a somewhat unique stat that quantifies how good or bad a start was by awarding points, both positive and negative for events that happen during a pitcher’s start. It was originally developed by the original sabermetric wizard himself, Bill James, who called it a “kind of garbage stat that .... is fun to play around with.” The folks at FanGraphs went back and dissected it, and found a way to elevate it to a useable metric for comparing the performance of pitchers for a single game.
Before we unveil the top five stink burgers, here are some dishonorable mentions. These were games that were truly bad but didn’t rank bad enough on the list to make the top five. I’ve also decided to select these games because they represent the worst game for each pitcher.
Date: September 25 | Game Score: 12 | Opponent: Kansas City Royals
This was the last start of the year Boyd would make and it was one to forget. He was bad right out of the gate, more so than any other pitcher on this list. Boyd was so bad, he would be pulled before recording a single out. He allowed a leadoff single, then a triple, a double, and a home run to put the Tigers in a quick 4-0 hole. A single to the next batter ended his day, and ultimately his season. Suffering his worst outing so late in the year after a solid season of action leads one to believe he simply ran out of gas at the end. The Tigers will hope that is the case as the young lefty figues to play a big part in their plans going forward.
Date: June 20 | Game Score: 17 | Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Surprisingly enough, this qualified as the worst start of the year for Mike Pelfrey. This ended up being a back-and-forth contest between the Tigers and the Mariners, thanks largely in part to Pelfrey’s poor effort. He managed to go five innings but not before giving up 12 hits, two home runs, six runs, and a walk. The bulk of the damage would come in the second inning, when Pelfrey turned a 2-0 Tigers lead into a 4-2 deficit. The Tigers would rally back to take a 5-4 lead in the fourth before Pelfrey would gave up a two-run homer to Adam Lind in the fifth. The back-and-forth contest continued into extra innings, when Justin Upton ultimately won the game with a walk-off homer.
Now, chug some Pepto Bismol because here are the Tigers’ five worst starts in 2016.
5. Jordan Zimmermann
Date: August 4, 2016 | Game Score: 4 | Opponent: Chicago White Sox
This was the first start Jordan Zimmermann made after coming off the disabled list for a neck injury. It marked the moment that the Tigers would be getting their rotation back to full strength and make their inactivity at the trade deadline a moot point. The Tigers were on an eight-game winning streak and looking to make it three series sweeps in a row.
Zimmermann took the hill and it was apparent almost immediately that something was wrong. He was struggling to locate his pitches, but managed to hold the White Sox to one run in the first inning. Unfortunately, the wheels came off in the second. Avisail Garcia greeted him with a lead-off home run, and after two singles and a walk, Jose Abreu delivered a two-run bomb to break the game open. A ground-rule double to the next batter would end Jordan’s day. A few days later he would be placed back on the DL and not start again till September 10th.
4. Justin Verlander
Date: June 26 | Game Score: 4 | Opponent: Cleveland Indians
The Tigers had just lost their eighth game in a row to the Indians on the year and were about to be swept again at home by the Tribe. However, they had a true ace up their sleeve. Justin Verlander would be taking the hill looking to stop this madness of embarrassing losses to Cleveland. Verlander was riding a nine-game streak of a dominance, looking every bit again the ace pitcher from several years ago. For the first three innings, we were glued to the latest episode of “Must See JV.” In the bottom of the third, the Tigers took a 1-0 lead on, of all things, a Mike Aviles home run.
In retrospect, that was really an omen. Verlander would struggle with command through the fourth, letting the tying run score on a wild pitch. He then gave up the lead on a ground ball single. The next inning it all fell apart. The first two batters would hit back-to-back solo home runs, and the Indians began teeing off on Justin. By the time it was all done, he would not survive the inning, having given up eight runs on four home runs. The Tigers would end up losing their ninth consecutive game to the Tribe.
3. Anibal Sanchez
Date: May 31 | Game Score: 2 | Opponent: Los Angeles Angels
West coast games are the worst. They are particularly bad when you have to watch the Tigers fall behind early in the game, which is exactly what happened when Anibal Sanchez took the hill for this one. Sanchez suffered from a bad case of ‘dingeritis’ that night, lasting just three innings. He gave up eight hits, three home runs, six total runs, and walked two with zero strikeouts.
Sanchez was replaced in the fourth inning by Warwick Saupold, who made things worse. The Aussie gave up three more runs, putting the Angels ahead 9-2. With the clock drawing close to midnight for most Tiger fans, they probably turned off the game and went to bed [Ed.: guilty as charged]. For the brave few that continued watching, they would witness the Tigers amazingly rally back in the late innings to tie the game in the top of the ninth at nine-all. Unfortunately, those brave souls would also see Mark Lowe take the hill in the bottom of the ninth. Two batters later, C.J. Cron would hit a two-run walk-off home run.
Again, west coast baseball is the worst.
2. Anibal Sanchez
Date: August 12 | Game Score: 0 | Opponent: Texas Rangers
How does one one-up themselves from a three home run dud? Why, they give up four home runs, of course! That is exactly what Sanchez did on this August night in Arlington. He would put the Tigers in an early 4-0 hole in the first inning thanks to three singles and a three-run homer by newly acquired catcher Johnathan Lucroy. Somehow, Sanchez would gut out four innings, but not before giving up three more solo shots along the way. This start was on the heels of four straight solid starts by Sanchez where he actually looks pretty solid in his return to the rotation from a month in the bullpen. However, this was his first chance against good competition and he failed spectacularly.
1. Jordan Zimmermann
Date: September 10 | Game Score: -4 | Opponent: Baltimore Orioles
Yes, that number is correct. Zimmermann, coming off the disabled list for the seconnd time of the year after a botched return in August, would end up pitching so badly it broke the Game Score statistic. This was a series where the Tigers had a chance to move past their biggest challengers for a wild card spot, but ultimately fell flat.
The only real positive thing about this game was that Zimmermann’s arm didn’t fall off his body. Adam Jones started the game with a lead-off home run. Jonathan Schoop lined out to Kinsler for the first out. After a walk to Manny Machado, Chris Davis took Zimmermann deep for a 3-0 lead. It didn’t get better in the second. Pedro Alvarez walked to start the inning, and then Matt Wieters took Zimmermann deep for the Orioles’ third homer of the game. A single and a walk later, and Zimmarman’s day was done. The final line wasn’t pretty: one inning, four hits, three home runs, six earned runs, three walks, no strikeouts. The Tigers would end up dropping the series to Baltimore, a big reason why they missed out on the playoffs by two games.
So that’s been your look back at the worst 5 starts in 2016. Now please go do something to feel better. Go get yourself some ice cream or get a puppy, or just get both.