Last week, as the Tigers honored the 1968 World Series team, I took a look at the The Nine Best Tigers Teams Ever. Today, I’ll do the opposite and will give you the worst Tigers teams ever. The methodology is the same. I’m ranking the teams by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), not because that’s the best way, but because it’s easy to take a look at win totals and this requires a little more legwork. WAR is a good choice for a list like this because it compares the team to its environment, which is good because the level of competition varies and we’d like to control for context when making a list like this.
Also of note, which you can see in the original post, is the WAR and Wins correlate extremely well over samples of this size.
9. 1994 Tigers (18.0 WAR, 53 Wins)
8. 1918 Tigers (17.7 WAR, 55 Wins)
7. 1904 Tigers (15.4 WAR, 62 Wins)
6. 1989 Tigers (14.2 WAR, 59 Wins)
5. 1975 Tigers (13.8 WAR, 57 Wins)
4. 2002 Tigers (12 WAR, 55 Wins)
3. 1995 Tigers (9.9 WAR, 60 Wins)
2. 1996 Tigers (2.2 WAR, 53 Wins)
1. 2003 Tigers (1.7 WAR, 43 Wins)
A few things are worth noting about this list that I think are interesting and/or important. First, the 1994 Tigers are somewhat unfairly listed here because that was a strike shortened season. If you’re curious the 2001 Tigers are the first team out at 18.2 WAR and 66 Wins. Additionally, the 2003 Tigers are not just the worst Tigers team ever, but likely one of the worst teams ever, period. By this same measure, they are the 4th worst team ever, trailing only the ’54 Athletics, ’63 Mets, and ’79 Athletics (also the ’13 Marlins and Astros, but they will presumably add a couple more WAR before the end of the season). I wrote about the 2003 Tigers more extensively here.
What’s also pretty fun is that the 2013 Tigers were not excluded from consideration and are already better than 15 Tigers teams just 52 games into the season. That’s got to be a good sign.
Helping the cause, the worst Tigers seasons ever by a qualifying player and pitcher belong to Jerry Morales in 1979 (-2.5 WAR) and John Hiller in 1979 (-1.6 WAR). Surprisingly, the 1979 Tigers won 84 games and are only the 46th worst Tigers team in history.