All Former Tigers Team: The Best of the Worst

The Tigers have been bad for the past three years. Really bad. By win percentage, the 2019 Tigers are the ninth worst Tigers team of all time. (Their Pythagorean win percentage suggests they should be even worse: only the 2002 and 2003 teams had worse run differentials.) The 2017 and 2018 Tigers weren't much better: their 0.395 win percentage is tied for 10th worst of all time.

All of which brings me to my question: could you build a good team using only players from teams that were WORSE than the 2019 Tigers? This is obviously a little different than the Fanpost Friday question posed by Ashley, but it's still an interesting exercise. The "eligible" teams include the 1902, 1952, 1953, 1975, 1989, 1996, 2002, and 2003 Tigers. I'll use Baseball Reference's WAR (bWAR) as a shorthand for determining which players on these teams had the best seasons.

So, who makes our "best of the worst" All Former Tigers Team?

The Infield:

C - 1989 Mike Heath (2.7 WAR)

1B - 2003 Dmitri Young (3.4 WAR)

2B - 1989 Lou Whitaker (5.3 WAR)

3B - 1996 Travis Fryman (2.6 WAR)

SS - 1989 Alan Trammell (3.7 WAR)

Analysis: Overall, that's a pretty solid infield. If you asked me, "who was the best catcher on one of the eight worst Tigers teams," I would not have guessed Mike Heath. (Seriously, when was the last time you thought about Mike Heath?) I probably would have guessed Bill Freehan or Mickey Tettleton. However, none of the rest of these names are surprising. Whitaker, Trammell, and Fryman were good players on some pretty bad teams, and of course Young had the only decent season on the worst Tigers team of all time. (Note: even if you prorated the 2019 Tigers out to a full season, no one would crack this list.)

The Outfield:

LF - 1996 Bobby Higginson (3.6 WAR)

CF - 1989 Gary Pettis (2.4 WAR)

RF - 1953 Ray Boone (4.6 WAR)

Analysis: Gary Pettis belongs in the Mike Heath "hey, I totally forgot about that guy!" category. Higginson is not remotely surprising to see here. Ray Boone is thirty years before my time, so I have literally nothing to say about him that couldn't be gleaned from B-Ref. Also, shout out to 1902 Jimmy Barrett (3.1 WAR) and 1952 Vic Wertz (2.2 WAR), who were both listed as generic outfielders rather than having a specific position. (Note: again, even if you prorated the 2019 Tigers out to a full season, no one would crack this list.)

The Starters:

SP - 1902 Win Mercer (5.8 WAR)

SP - 1902 Ed Siever (5.1 WAR)

SP - 1975 Mickey Lolich (4.0 WAR)

SP - 1996 Omar Oliveres (3.6 WAR)

SP - 1989 Frank Tanana (3.1 WAR)

Analysis: Man, early 20th century baseball was a totally different ballgame (literally). Mercer and Siever struck out a grand total of 1.3 and 1.9 K/9, respectively. No, those are not typos. Mercer walked twice that many hitters, and Siever only barely struck out more than he walked. It seems almost unfair to include these two, given how much the game has changed, so honorable mentions go out to 1996 Felipe Lira (2.9 WAR), 2002 Jeff Weaver (2.8 WAR), and 2002 Mark Redman (2.7 WAR). Lolich and Tanana aren't terribly surprising to see here, but Oliveres was another guy I totally forgot existed. If you prorate the 2019 Tigers out to a full season, both Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull would make the cut here, with roughly 7 WAR and 4 WAR respectively.


RP - 1975 John Hiller (3.0 WAR)

Analysis: Before my time, but not surprising to see Hiller here. A true relief ace of the old-school variety. For what it's worth, Shane Greene's 2019 season would be roughly 2.5 WAR over a full season, so he's not far from making this list.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.